Parties Ride Piggyback on FRA to Woo Tribals
In a bid to woo tribal people and members of Other Backward Classes, various political parties on Tuesday voiced their concern over the poor implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and vowed to include tribal issues in their election manifestos.
Speaking at the national level consultation over the implementation of the FRA, CPM politburo member Brinda Karat highlighted the role of forest, land and minerals mafia in trying to thwart the FRA, which recognises the rights of indigenous people over the forest land, since its very inception in 2006.
She recommended that the onus of proving an applicant as not entitled to land should be on the authorities rather than the applicants.
Besides, she also suggested to provide rights over minerals in the forest area to indigenous people along with water, forest and land.
Nearly 1,000 tribal and non-tribal members of the Forest Rights Committees (FRCs) from Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh were here to voice their concerns, issues, experiences and challenges over the implementation of the FRA.
Members of the FRCs were of the uniform view to have the FRA implemented in letter and spirit, challenging the dysfunctional institutional mechanism for implementation of the Act and to further build the campaign on forest rights.
BJP leader Fagan Singh Kulaste, a Rajya Sabha member and president of Schedule Tribe Morcha, suggested that in order to be an effective instrument, the FRCs should be statutorily recognised as that would empower the tribal village and community.
Congress leader Girdhar Gomango recommended that PESA (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act and Panchayat Act should be enforced in tandem; else forests and land would continue to remain in the clutches of the Forest Department and vested interests.
Members of the FRCs said that the implementation of the FRA has been very shoddy, even as the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) claimed that over 85 per cent claims over forest area have been disposed of under the FRA.
Rajan Khosla, Director PACS (Poorest Areas Civil Society) highlighted the poor implementation of the FRA in five states.
“A total of 36.5 lakh applications have been filed for land entitlement and ownership by tribal and forest dweller communities of these states. Of these 24.2 lakh applications have been accepted; the rest rejected on various grounds,” he said.
Bihar has the worst record of rejecting over 80 per cent applications.
Several members also raised the issue that large tracts of lands are being converted into wildlife protection zones and they are being told that the FRA is not implemented in protected areas.