CHIEF MINISTER Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Tuesday announced that forest dwellers would get ownership rights on the land under their possession soon. Till that happened, the Chief Minister said, temporary pattas of their land would be valid.
He was addressing a Van Panchayat at his official residence. He made a clutch of announcements during the course of Panchayat, attended mostly by presidents and vice-presidents of Van Raksha Samitis of the State.
Referring to the tribal rights Bill recently passed by Parliament, he said the State Government was gearing up to give permanent pattas to forest dwellers in accordance with the provisions of the Bill. Till that time, temporary pattas would be valid despite expiry, Chouhan said.
Another important announcement was all forest villages would be converted into revenue villages and the Forest Department would spend Rs 240 crore on their development before handing them over to the Revenue Department.
After listening to the participants’ grievances and aspirations, he announced that one-third of the total posts of presidents of Van Raksha Samitis would now be reserved for women. He also announced to raise the wages of tendu leaf pluckers from Rs 400 per standard sack to Rs 450. He said incentive due to tendu leaf pluckers to the tune of Rs 18 crore would be disbursed among them in next one month.
Right to collect firewood from ground would be restored to villagers and separate arrangements would be made in the Krishi Upaj Mandis for firewood sale.
On problems in permission to fell trees on their own land, he said, it would now be given in a month, and fee for the purpose would be reduced from Rs 250 per cubic metre to Rs 100. The Revenue Book Code (RBC) would be suitably amended to provide for payment of compensation if case of crop damage by wild animals.
The Chief Minister said survey would be conducted in 2,000 villages of the State and quality grass would be grown to overcome shortage of grazing grass in villages.
Silk production in Chhindwara, Jabalpur and another district would be promoted, the Chief Minister said, adding that the State Government was urging the Supreme Court to lift ban on fisheries in areas under national parks and sanctuaries. Use of modern technology would be promoted for manufacturing commodities from minor forest produce, he said.
The MP Council for Science & Technology (MPCST) would impart training to forest dwellers for the purpose. About complaints that Van Raksha Samitis members were implicated in fake cases when confronted with illegal tree felling gangs or poachers, he said all such cases would be reviewed and a decision on their withdrawal or continuation would be taken.
Members of the Van Raksha Samitis who get injured while discharging their duties would be treated on Government’s expenditure. In the event of any disability, an ex-gratia of Rs 50,000 would be given to person concerned and a compensation of Rs one lakh in case of death of a person, the Chief Minister said.
The Chief Minister said 10 lakh saplings would be planted next year and this time, the emphasis would be on planting saplings of fruits or medicinal plants.
An annual award of Rs 25,000 to one samiti in each forest mandal will be given for best performance. The samitis would give loan to Self-Help Groups (SHGs) on 4 per cent interest rate, he said.
Power for clearance for construction of roads, canals etc would now be given by District Forest Officers (DFOs) to avoid delay in that respect, he said. Chouhan also said a policy would be framed to ensure promotion to forest employees like
forest guard and rangers, who did not get promotion for years.
In places where there is no source of water in forest villages, source of water like hand pumps, well or talab would be made.
But, he did not give any categorical assurance on honorarium to presidents of Van Raksha Samitis as demanded by many participants. He exhorted them to increase their income through SHGs.