Forest dwellers demand land ownership rights, report of public hearing released

Tarun Joshi, the organiser of the programme, says the findings of the public hearing will be submitted to the chief secretary soon. The public hearing found that the forest dwelling communities have been denied of their rights on the forest produce and have been displaced from the land they lived on for centuries.

dehradun Updated: Dec 15, 2017 19:54 IST
Abhinav Madhwal
Abhinav Madhwal
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand,Van Panchayat Sangharsh Morcha,forest dwellers
Forest dwellers attend the release of a fact-find report in Dehradun on Friday. (Vinay Santosh Kumar/HT)


DEHRADUN: Pavitra Mandal from West Bengal’s Sunderbans, says life has become tough for the inhabitants of the low-lying delta at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal due to the rising water level and lack of livelihood opportunities.

“There are swamps all around, the threat of tiger attacks and the forest department not allowing us to go inside the forest for collecting honey, wood or other forest produce,” said Mandal.

Fishermen too find it difficult to go fishing in the delta and the sea, he said.

“Forest dwellers like us should be given more rights.”

People like Mandal, who are forest dwellers and are dependents on forests produce for their livelihood, gathered at the Dehradun Press Club on Friday under the banner of Van Panchayat Sangharsh Morcha as part of the releasing of the report of the ‘Jan Sunwai’ or public hearing of the forest dwellers held in Ramnagar, Uttarakhand on October 8 by the Morcha.

Tarun Joshi, the organizer of the programme, said the findings of the public hearing will be submitted to the state chief secretary soon.

The findings of the public hearing found that the forest dwelling communities have been denied of their rights on the forest produce and have been displaced from the land they lived on for centuries.

Displaced forest dwellers have also not been given land ownership rights, the hearing found, said Joshi.

Munni Lal from Haridwar who belongs to the community that follows the taungiya system of cultivation, said villagers were in 1931 given rights to cultivate agricultural crops by the forest department during the early stage of forest plantation to revive depleting jungles.

Community members who helped in the afforestation scheme that continued until 1986 were not given any honorarium by the government, he said.

Displace forest dwellers like him, who live in the periphery of the forest, have given be the status of revenue village due to which they had no panchayat or voting rights, said Munni Lal.

Hari Singh from Haridwar’s Haripur Tongia village said the land on which they are staying, is owned bythe forest department and they face constant threat of eviction.

Land ownership rights must be given to the community so that they can live in peace, he said.

First Published: Dec 15, 2017 19:54 IST