CHENNAI: Concerned over the high rate of rejection of claims under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in the Left-wing Extremism (LWE) areas, the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs has reviewed its implementation and has asked the states to take proactive steps to mobilise maximum number of claims so that the forest dwellers get ownership of forest land in the 117 affected districts.
In a letter to all Principal Secretaries, the ministry mentioned that Community Forest Rights (CFR) titles have been awarded to Joint Forest Management Committees in the LWE states, which is not in accordance with the FRA procedure and not permissible under the FRA.
Earlier, the matter was also raised by the Cabinet Secretariat,which had asked the ministry to look into it. A brief study was commissioned under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) - UNDP Project to study the reasons of the high rate of rejections in the LWE areas. “It was found that the appropriate procedure for filing was not followed due to lack of awareness at the Gram Sabha- level. Documentary evidences were not available with the claimants and joint verification process has often not been appropriate, due to lack of coordination between the Revenue and Forest Departments,” the letter sent in September said, adding, the duplicate claims led to inflated number of claims received and number of rejections.
The ministry has now directed the states and District Collectors to take proactive steps to mobilise maximum number of claims from the LWE affected states and issue directives and guidelines to frontline staff to address the local issues and challenges for better implementation of the FRA on the ground.It said that the process should not simply end with the recognition of rights, that the record of rights (ROR) need to be created in the revenue code of law as well. Besides, the reasons for rejection of claims must be communicated to the claimant in writing and the claimant should be given a chance of appeal.The states have been asked to send data to the MoTA, clearly mentioning the district-wise status on rejection along with the reasons for monitoring and review, as this will help in reviewing the wrongly rejected claims.