Odisha: Sundargarh villagers see red over land title sanction under Forest Rights Act
However, if the claims of the villagers are true then irregularities or negligence must have happened at multiple layers.
ROURKELA: Implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in the tribal-dominated Sundargarh district seems mired in controversy with tribal villagers of Subdega block alleging usurping of forest land titles by the land mafia and some government employees.
Aggrieved villagers convened meetings on March 14 and 19 before submitting a complaint to the Subdega tehsildar on March 20. In the memo, the group of villagers of Kainsjor under Gangpurgarh mouza of Kukuridihi gram panchayat (GP) in Subdega tehsil demanded action against those involved in wrongful action.
Manoj Tirkey, Manindra Kujur, Habil Toppo, Shata Munda, Rama Topno, Phagu Ekka and Gendra Kujur, natives of Kainsjor claimed that since ages the forest areas contiguous to their revenue land are in their occupation for livelihood purposes. Titles for about 50 acres of forest land under their possessions were illegally and clandestinely given to 12 individuals including some government employees, they alleged.
The government employees, the villagers said, included one in the rank of block development officer, a couple of ex-servicemen and others without demarcation of the said land parcels. After they came across the notification for final title disbursement on March 11, the villagers were shocked and confronted some of the beneficiaries.
Subdega tehsildar Suman Minz said the tehsil office has no role for FRA land rights claim and the complaint was forwarded to the project administrator of Sundargarh Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), the nodal officer for FRA, and Sundargarh sub-collector, the chairman of the sub-division level committee (SDLC) on FRA.
Sources in the Subdega tehsil office reasoned, in May 2022, the office of the Sundargarh sub-collector had sent a letter instructing disbursement of FRA land titles to 12 individuals and updation of records. Accordingly, related land records and Bhulekh portal were updated.
Sources privy to FRA implementation said there is no clarity in the Scheduled Tribes & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 barring government employees from getting FRA benefits. However, if the claims of the villagers are true then irregularities or negligence must have happened at multiple layers.
Sundargarh ADM (revenue) Abhimanyu Behera said since the DLC finalised the FRA titles, the aggrieved parties should ideally appeal before the State Level Committee.