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Ensure rights of tribals on forest produce: Union Ministry to State

Published: 30th June 2012 12:12 PM  |   Last Updated: 30th June 2012 12:12 PM   |  A+A-

The Tribal Affairs Ministry has asked the State Government to ensure that tribal villagers get access to bamboo plantation areas to earn their livelihood.

The issue of harassment of tribals by Forest Department officials was raised in a letter reported to have been written by Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandradeo. He has said Forest Department officials are denying transit rights to tribals in Kalahandi district and not allowing them to sell the bamboo harvest.

“Kindly issue necessary instructions to the authorities concerned to allow unfettered rights of transit for sale of bamboo by gram panchayat to local buyers which is a right given to them under the Forest Rights Act (FRA),” Deo wrote in the letter.

The letter explains that tribal villagers of Jamguda in Kalahandi district are heavily dependent on Forest and Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) for their subsistence and as a source of cash income.

“The villagers have direct dependence on bamboo for a variety of uses. The villagers while collecting bamboos have to face a lot of harassment by forest officials,” Deo said.

Referring to the apathetic attitude of the Forest Department officials, the Tribal Affairs Minister said due to this community participation in the entire process (of conserving forest) has been restricted. He has also given details of the bamboo bushes in the areas which have witnessed large-scale flowering recently.

The villagers have identified 170 bamboo bushes for harvesting and the approximate market value of these bamboos is more than ` 1 lakh. Local buyers have shown interest to purchase bamboo from gram sabha at market price which comes to ` 30 per pole, he said.

The minister has also mentioned the role of FRA in this context, which ensures that tribals should not be deprived of their basic right of utilising forest produce and making a livelihood out of it.

In an earlier letter to the chief ministers, the Tribal Affairs Minister had said the record of implementation of FRA has been far from satisfactory. The minister had called on the chief ministers to send a clear signal to the implementing authorities that all rights of forest dwellers must be adhered to and that the democratic process of the law must be respected.

The list of suggested actions by the minister calls on states to constitute gram sabhas at the level of habitations or villages, instead of doing so at the panchayat level. It has also recommended videographing gram sabha meetings, especially those that deal with forest diversions and other important matters. It has asked state governments to take action against officials who are involved in illegal eviction of tribal and forest dwellers.



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