New Delhi: Amidst the ongoing battle by tribal communities in India to formalise their land claims, the Madhya Pradesh government has reportedly proposed the privatisation of 40% of “degraded forest land” to private firms.
The government claims that this land is wasteland and has degraded for multiple reasons, and that private players will be brought in for a period of 30 years and to “improve” the ecology of the state's forests.
The proposed land spans across the forest area of 37,420 sq km (40%). While Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief of Forest Force Rajesh Srivastava has issued a circular to all CCFs and DFOs asking them to select degraded forest areas, a detailed proposal will be finalised with the nod of the Central government soon, according to sources..
What constitutes a degraded forest?
This move is being seen as a big blow to the tribal communities and their fight for land rights, activists on the ground state, adding that this is yet another move to privatise land that does not belong to the government and yet constitutes a rich resource land.
Speaking with NewsClick, Madhuri Krishnaswamy of the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, said: “The government is exposing its own duplicity of claims on conservation.The proposals to hand over degraded forests to private parties is not actually a new drive, this has been ongoing since the early 2000s. “
Krishnaswamy said the definition of degraded forests needs to be understood. “What are these forests? The area is in fact surrounded by villages, which has been used by communities. The land that is being called degraded forests are actually fields or are actually being used for other purposes.In many cases, they have tried to do a regeneration of degraded forests areas (RDA) which include plantations, however, they have planted on people’s fields,” she said.
She said: “This is instead being used to deny tribal communities their land pattas (claims). Government and forest department are not interested in conservation at all,” adding that had that been a concern, they would involve the communities living on the land for generations.
“Instead the government is denying them ownership and selling off of their land which does not even belong to the government,” she added.
The tribal community is now gearing up to launch a resistance movement against the move.
Speaking with NewsClick, Ratan Bhai a tribal activist said: “The law is being violated brazenly. On one hand, the land claims are being deliberately denied and the land is now being passed on to corporate firms. The land which will go to these enterprises is an enormous stretch of over 37,000 kilometers. The companies thereafter will do business on tribal lands, they will lose the rich natural resources, The major tribes to be affected include Bhil Bhilala, Barela, even Gond tribes inhabit this stretch across Berhampur, Nepanagar, Bandapur, Bakri, Mandwa, Jamunia among others. “
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