A startling fact — land mafia is paying to the tribals for grabbing land in name of forest rights — tells a different picture of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.Many such facts were highlighted in a survey conducted by the National Rainfed Area Authority, under the Planning Commission. The survey was done in 10 states on the lives and livelihood of tribal and forest dwellers in country.
The law was framed to undo the historic injustice to the poorest — the tribals — by providing them land for livelihood sustainability.
The results shared with senior forest officers from across, including Additional Director General Forest BS Kishwan and wildlife experts at a seminar this week, however, projected a picture of misuse of law.
"No cut off date for claims submissions is encouraging people to encroach more and more land in the hope of extension of the cut off date (13.12.2005)," said VK Bahuguna, a member with the authority in-charge of forests. The authority is mandated to improve irrigation and not welfare of tribals.
The survey found over 11,000 hectares of forestland has been encroached in Andhra Pradesh since the law was enforced.
"Encroachers are using women as arm shields, who are lodging false complaints of sexual harassment against government officials," Bahuguna said, while making a presentation on the survey done by an NGO Grameen Vikas Trust. It also said false cases under scheduled caste and scheduled tribe laws have been lodged against the officials.
Instances of land mafia paying for land grabbing were unearthed in Jalgaon in Maharashtra and Sonbhadra in UP.
The encroachers are coming from other states, the survey said, while giving example of Guthikoya Tribe in Chhattisgarh migrating to Andhra Pradesh to claim land. “Similar situation was observed in Koraput in Orissa where fresh encroachments have been blamed on tribals of Andhra Pradesh by locals,” he said.
Contradicting the NC Saxena report, which blamed the state governments for poor implementation of community rights, the authority's survey said most tribals were not interested in getting community rights.