PALAKKAD: A year has passed since the tribals of Kerala’s Attappadi sent in applications for the Record of Rights (ROR) for the land under their possession in the second phase. Stipulated to be conferred under the Forest Rights Act passed in 2006, the process remains in its infancy. The reason: Forest Department personnel were pre-occupied with other duties. Therefore, joint verification of the claims with the Revenue Department has not been done.
While 25,643 persons received ROR for their landholdings in the state after the Act was passed, in Attappadi, only 282 tribals were allotted the ROR. The numbers speak of the tardy progress. These claim applications are related to land already under the tribals’ possession, for which they do not have documents. “Of the 362 claimants in the first phase, from 2009 to 2015, only 282 gained ROR for their 320.349 hectares (791.262 acres),” said KA Ramu of ‘Thampu’, which works for Attappadi tribals’ welfare.
Attappadi in numbers
ST colonies: 192
Total Population: 32,956
Forest Rights Committees (FRC) constituted: 108
Settlements covered in FRCs (forest villages): 122
ROR (Record of Rights) issued to claimants in the first phase: 282 (2009-15)
Individual applications received till date: 4,382
Rejected claims: 1,831
ROR pending for action: 2,269 relating to individual rights
“The remaining 80 claims, mostly in Sholayur and Pudur panchayats, were withheld by the Forest Department citing various reasons,” Ramu said, adding that from 2009 to early 2016, more than 4,382 applications were received from tribals.“Of those, 1,831 were rejected after scrutiny. Finally, 2,269 applications were accepted after the constitution of the Forest Rights Committees (FRC) and 2,167 applications have been pending before various panels,” he said.
Despite numerous reminders by the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) in Agali to the district administration, the examination of the land in possession of the tribals — needing joint verification by the Revenue and Forest departments — have not taken place.
“After joint verification, the recommendations will be forwarded to the Sub Divisional Level Committee (SLDC) headed by Ottappalam Sub-Collector and has representatives from the departments of Forest, Scheduled Tribes Development and Revenue,” said C Herald John, assistant project officer of ITDP.
“ITDP is the nodal agency. The range officer, tribal extension officer and Revenue divisional officer representing the various departments take the decision on the claims,” he said.
In the first phase, there were only 56 FRCs for 58 oorus or tribal hamlets. The SDLC had accepted only 545 claims from the 2,215 applications received. A total of 362 applications were passed while 183 were rejected. Finally, 282 claims were given ROR based on the possession certificates. In the first phase, though the District level committee had passed 80 claims, they have been withheld by the Forest Department. In some cases, on the ruse that many tribals have left the area .
Twenty-two other claims were pending before the SLDC. Of these, 14 related to Thekke Chavadiyoor in Sholayur panchayat and eight claims were from Pudur panchayat. The authorities said the land formed part of the sandalwood re-generation area, said Ramu.