MP: Tribals Strike Outside Govt Office for Speedy Disposal of FRA Claims
Bhopal: Upset with the non-implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in the district which is leading to their day-to-day harassment, thousands of Tribals protested outside the Nepanagar Tehsil office on February 7.
Under the banner of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) – an outfit that works for the marginalised in the Nimar division of the state, the tribal protestors demanded speedy implementation of applications filed under the FRA.
They were demanding verification of their application through the Gram Sabha, and those claims which were wrongfully rejected without the consent of the Gram Sabha should be taken for review.
According to Tribal Area Development Planning (TADP), Burhampur has 8,546 tribal claimants under the FRA. By March 2022, only 343 applications got approved with the help of the Van Mitra App launched in October 2019 for the speedy disposal of the applications. Apart from it, over 2,000-3,000, claimants are unable to register with the App.
The tribals were irked as the verification of applications is moving at a snail’s pace leading to the confrontation between tribals and Forest officials over alleged illegal ‘encroachment’ on forest lands. The district has seen multiple cases of violation of FRA including forced eviction and implicating tribals in alleged criminal cases.
They also alleged that the state government deliberately lagged the verification process to make the diversion of forest lands easier under the new Forest Conservation Rules, 2022. The new law grants in-principal agreement to projects and companies to acquire forest lands before the verification process of the Forest Rights claims is completed.
When tribals refused to budge after two days, on February 8, the district administration and the tribal department, gave a written assurance to complete the verification of applicants of 61 villages, as demanded by tribals in the memorandum, within seven working days.
The district administration also dashed off a letter to the TADP department to reopen the Van Mitra portal for fresh applications as over 2,000-3,000 tribals are left to file the fresh claim under the FRA.
After the written assurance, the tribals who were protesting outside the Nepanagar Tehsil office for two days called off the protest on the night of February 8.
Protesting tribals alleged that the forest officials and cops often harass tribal claimants whose applications under FRA are pending. “In some places, land rights applications were rejected without holding Gram Sabhas or without Sabha's consent – which is a mandatory clause. Protesters said that those who refuse to pay forest officials were termed 'outsiders' or 'encroachers' and their ready-to-harvest crops or even homes were mowed down with JCBs,” alleged Nitin, an activist, associated with JADS.
The agitators also opposed the New Forest Conservation Rules, 2022 which enable handing over of the forest land to the companies without the consent of Gram Sabha.
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