CHENNAI: Without following due procedures, the State government has rejected 10,656 FRA claims filed by traditional forest dwellers and Scheduled Tribes. A total of 32,000 claims were filed.
The numbers were revealed by the government during a review meeting with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs on June 18, when all States made a presentation on how they have implemented the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, popularly known as Forest Rights Act (FRA).
FRA recognises the land rights of traditional forest dwellers and forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes whose rights have not been recorded. “Due procedure was not followed in rejected cases. Hence, the review process is under progress, to provide claimants an opportunity to file an appeal,” the government said in its presentation, as per the minutes of the meeting.
In February, the Supreme Court ordered eviction of people whose claims have been rejected. However, the order was stayed later as the Ministry of Tribal Affairs informed it that due procedure was not followed by some States in the process. Now, it turns out Tamil Nadu is among those.
The ministry had said that it was necessary to find out the rejections “which had attained finality’. If the claims are rejected at the Gram Sabha and Sub-Divisional Level Committee (SDLC) level, there is a provision for the claimant to petition a higher authority. Under the FRA, the government has to ensure that no petition is disposed without giving aggrieved persons a chance to be heard.
As per data, Tamil Nadu has received lowest number of claims among big States, and it was equally poor in granting titles. The State has distributed 6,387 titles, for a total of 8,607.26 acres. In contrast, Chattisgarh has received 8,87,665 claims, and distributed 4,16,359 titles covering 26.73 lakh acres.
Even a smaller state like Kerala is doing better, with 24,599 titles been distributed. Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, has 33 per cent rejection rate. Jaideep Singh Kochher, Economic Adviser to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, said the States have to follow the procedure as laid down in the FRA Act.
“The States should make their position clear regarding the number of claimants whose claims have been approved and other whose claims are finally rejected.” In the review meeting, concerns were raised by Forest Survey of India (FSI), which was asked by Supreme Court to make a satellite survey on encroachments.
Minakshi Joshi, joint director, FSI said there was lack of response/insufficient information from many States/UTs in response to their letters sent in connection with compliance of directions to FSI given by the SC. Joshi said: “FSI has written to all forest department heads to send shape files of geo-referenced boundaries of those land parcels on which claims of STs and other traditional forest dwellers have been rejected. Currently, data from only three States - Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Maharastra - has been received.”