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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

After Odisha, Chhattisgarh recognises forest rights claims

So far, 400,000 individual and 24,000 community forest rights certificates have been distributed in the state while according recognition to 342,000 hectares of land in individual claims and 950,000 hectares of land in community claims, the statement released on Tuesday said.

india Updated: Aug 14, 2019 02:10 IST
Ritesh Mishra
Chhattisgarh has become the second state in the country after Odisha to give recognition to forest lands acquired by scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, according to a government statement
Chhattisgarh has become the second state in the country after Odisha to give recognition to forest lands acquired by scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, according to a government statement(Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)
         

Chhattisgarh has become the second state in the country after Odisha to give recognition to forest lands acquired by scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, according to a government statement

So far, 400,000 individual and 24,000 community forest rights certificates have been distributed in the state while according recognition to 342,000 hectares of land in individual claims and 950,000 hectares of land in community claims, the statement released on Tuesday said

Soon after taking charge on January 23 as chief minister of Chhattisgarh, Bhupesh Baghel organised a state-level workshop on forest rights and reviewed its implementation. He said that it is the state government’s priority to provide forest rights to all claimants of forest rights certificates,” said Taran Prakash Sinha, director public relations, Chhattisgarh government.

Sinha further said that during the workshop, it was found out that a large number of claims have been rejected because of procedural shortcomings. On this, the CM issued directions to review rejected applications and provide certificates to eligible beneficiaries, Sinha added.

Directions have been issued to each collector and forest officer for reorganisation of forest rights committees at village level. Simultaneously, directions have also been issued for formation of district-level committees and departments,” Sinha said.

After reorganization of these committees, the claims that were rejected will be reviewed again.

“In the first phase, those claims that have been rejected earlier will be considered. The number of such claims is more than 4 lakh in the state. In the second phase, those applications will be taken for review in which certificates have been issued but discrepancies have been found between areas of claimed and approved land,” Sinha said.

Activists, however, claimed there was nothing new in the announcement.

“These figures of the state government are not new. About 4 lakh individual forest rights have been recognized but 5 lakh claims have also been cancelled. Community forest rights and community forest resource authorities are still not recognized as per the law,” said Alok Shukla, president of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, a non-government organisation that works for land rights.

“The second question is that the procedure being followed to revoke the dismissed claims is still not correct due to lack of information. Again, arbitrary claims are being revoked,” he added.

The Supreme Court on February 13 ordered the eviction of forest dwellers whose forest rights claims had been rejected. But the order was stayed on February 28 after the Centre and Gujarat government sought modification of the order following concerns raised by tribal rights activists and forest rights experts. The top court was hearing an 11-year-old public interest litigation by wildlife activists challenging the Forest Rights Act.

States have recently informed the apex court that an exercise has been undertaken to review the rejected claims and have appealed for time to complete the process. Eight states have also admitted before the court that authorities had failed to follow the due procedure under the law while deciding the claims.

Conservationists are still divided over whether forest dwellers whose claims were rejected should be evicted or not. An application filed in the top court in July by nine academics has highlighted that the implementation of the Act in recognising community forest rights has been very poor. The application filed by Sharachchandra Lele, distinguished fellow in Environmental Policy & Governance at Ashoka Trust for Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), author and historian, Ramchandra Guha among others sought directives to states to recognise community forest resource rights, which is critical for conservation.

First Published: Aug 14, 2019 00:06 IST

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