BHUBANESWAR: The State Government claimed to have taken the lead in the country in implementing Forest Rights Act (FRA) by settling maximum land rights claims in forest areas.
“The State Government has so far settled 3,44,581 individual claims over 5,46,386 acres of forest land and 5,000 community claims over 1,79,663 acres,” Director, Scheduled Tribes Welfare R Raghuprasad said.
The district level committees have sanctioned 3,70,110 individual claims and 6,211 community claims.
However, civil society organisations working in the field of tribal development said that in most of the cases, Individual Forest Rights (IFR) titles have been recognised without demarcation of the occupied forest land leading to serious conflicts.
In some cases, IFR titles have been issued over non-forest land and such discrepancies are galore in districts like Kandhamal, Keonjhar, Nabarangpur, Gajapati, Malkangiri, Koraput and Mayurbhanj.
While up to 10 acres of forest land can be recognised under FRA, the State Government has been limiting the average forest land to 1.58 acres only since 2009.
Despite provision under FRA and guidelines issued by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs on November 8, 2013 for the identification of habitations, Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers for conversion into revenue villages, the State Government has not given the revenue village status to even a single forest village so far, sources said.
The issue was discussed at the state level monitoring committee meeting under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary GC Pati here recently.
The meeting informed that over 2.26 lakh FRA beneficiaries have been covered under welfare schemes like IAY, Mo Kudia, Mo Pokhari, land development in MGNREGA, National Horticulture Mission and National Bamboo Mission.
The Chief Secretary asked the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes Development department to bring up the FRA beneficiaries above poverty line through convergence of various poverty alleviation programmes implemented through different departments.
He also directed to design a special drive for settlement of community rights under FRA. The district collectors have been advised to hold district level meetings on FRA regularly and prevent any fraudulent practice of occupying the reserve forest.