Meet on Forest Act a sham, say rights groups
Even as the Ministry of Tribal Affairs-sponsored regional consultation on implementation of Forest Rights Act, 2006 is set to kick off in the City from Monday, forest rights groups have slammed the exercise as a sham.
This leg of the regional meet is being hosted by SC and ST Development Department of the State Government which was recently in the centre of a controversy over FRA violations in Niyamgiri. The meeting is part of the series of regional consultations that started in September last year.
Main objectives of consultations are to give government officials involved in FRA implementation including State Forest Department officer, a clear view about the Act. Representatives of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Gujarat, Lakshadweep and Odisha are participating in the meet.
Spokesperson of the Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha which has been fighting for the Forest Rights Act, 2006 said the series of meetings in the past have had no impact on bureaucrats, specifically, the Forest officials who are supposed to help the forest dwellers.
“It is the Forest Department which has emerged as the main hurdle in the way of recognising the community forest rights and right over community forest resources in Odisha,” said a spokesperson.
Besides, there has been no correction in the faulty community forest right titles despite a number of representations as the Sub-Divisional Level and District Level Committees continue to make the same mistakes as before, the CSD said adding that it is the trend across States. There has been no initiative from the government side to convert hundreds of forest villages into revenue villages and there has been no change in the NTFP policies either, it said.