BENGALURU: With the Supreme Court directing 17 states to file fresh affidavits on ‘review of rejected claims’ under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 by July 24, the state is seeking more time to review 1.76 lakh claims that were rejected in 30 districts.
In Karnataka, claims made under FRA by other traditional forest dwellers (OTFD) category was more – 2.27 lakh – while under the ST category, it was only 48,432. However, the state rejected 35,521 ST claims and 1.41 lakh OTFD claims.
According to sources, the state feels it will need at least 18 months to review the 1.76 lakh claims. Further, as per the interim report received from various districts, there are many cases where it was rejected – not adhering to norms. Meanwhile, concerned officials have opined that each case of rejection has to be reviewed properly and the reasons for rejection provided to the claimant. Since rejections run up to almost two lakhs, DC’s have sought time for scrutiny.
Under FRA, Shivamogga district has seen the maximum claims. Further, maximum forest land conversion has taken place here, as a whopping 85,518 claims were filed under FRA. Out this, only 4,634 STs made claims while 79,435 non-tribals filed under FRA. Till date, more than 2,000 title deeds have been distributed in Shivamogga district to STs, 563 for OTFDs, and four under community claims. According to forest officials, large areas of forest were cleared even after the cutoff date of December, 13, 2005, as it happened in Shivamogga district. It created a record of sorts in the country by denotifying 2228.9 hectares of forest land during 2015-17, said an activist.
He added, “In this district, the then-revenue minister during Siddaramaiah’s tenure forcibly pressurised officials to grant thousands of hectares of forest land to ineligibles under FRA. In fact, Sagar, the home turf of Kagodu Thimmappa, has seen denotification of 350 hectares of forest land.”
Praveen Bhargav of Wildlife First said, “This indicates there is a flood of bogus claims. In fact, this is backed by satellite image analysis from various institutions and Ministry of Tribal Affairs’s Saxena Committee. The gram sabhas themselves have rejected claims, and so the SC has been focusing on this. Three SC orders have consistently focused on rejected claims.”
SC issues directive
With SC taking cognizance of the FRA issue, a hard-hitting directive was issued on Feb 13 - the eviction of 11.91 lakh claimants from encroached forest lands in 17 states. The court kept this direction ‘on hold’ after the Centre’s intervention. Further, on Feb 28, the SC issued directions to all states for filing fresh affidavits with complete ‘review of rejected claims’ by July 24.