BHUBANESWAR: The Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) has taken strong exception to violation of Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 by the State Government in formation of district and sub-divisional level committees for implementation of the Act.
Two of the decisions taken at the State level monitoring committee (SLMC) are in violation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 and Forest Rights Rules, Secretary, MoTA Arun Jha said in a letter to Chief Secretary GC Pati.
The SLMC had decided that those Vana Suraksha Samitis (VSSs), where there are no conflicts with the Gram Sabhas in sustainable management of forest resources, should be identified to entrust community forest rights (CFR) under FRA.
Besides, the committee had also decided that Superintendents of Police or Additional Superintendents of Police will be co-opted as district level committee (DLC) members while sub-divisional police officers will be taken in the sub-divisional level committee (SDLC) as special invitees.
The MoTA has, however, maintained that CFR can only be conferred on the Gram Sabha and not on VSS as per the Forest Rights Rule. There are no statutes that vest any authority with the VSS for CFR Rights, it said and added that it is for the Gram Sabha to constitute committee for protection of wildlife, forest and bio-diversity as per the FRA.
Besides, the Ministry said there is no provision in the FRA to co-opt additional members as the Act clearly spells out the composition of the DLC and SDLC. The Ministry has asked the State Government to withdraw these decisions taken at the SLMC meeting as these may undo the good work done by the State so far for the implementation of FRA.