Bhubaneswar: A recent study conducted by the Community Forest Rights Learning and Action Group based on government agency data and responses to RTI queries found that the status of implementation of the Forest Rights Act (2006) in Scheduled Tribe (ST) constituencies was very poor.
The study conducted by the national think-tank examined the status of FRA implementation in the 33 Assembly constituencies reserved for STs.
The Assembly seats covered 11 of the 30 districts, 16,229 inhabited villages and 20,25,740 households with an ST population of 54,61,507 and an SC population of 9,86,217. The study analysed the success of the legislation in the scheduled areas.
The study found that 2.76 lakh Individual Forest Rights (IFR) were distributed between 2008 and August 2018. This constituted 66 per cent of the total titles distributed in the state, while 0.02 per cent of the titles were distributed to Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs).
The study said that the 24,923 titles distributed in the Telkoi Assembly constituency in Keonjhar district were the highest while the least was reported from the Rajgangpur Assembly seat in Sundargarh district where 818 titles were distributed.
Coming to the number of villages where titles were distributed, the study said that 2.76 lakh titles were distributed in 7,726 villages, which comes to around 56 per cent of potential villages.
The study said that four Assembly seats – Udala, Bangiriposi, Rairangpur and Gunupur – had 100 per cent coverage.
The groups who conducted the study said that issues like non-availability of records at Gram Sabhas, failure to understand the spirit of the law, rejection of claims without intimation and denying opportunities to tribals to challenge and defend claims that were rejected were some of the prime reasons making the entire exercise of granting forest rights to tribals a weak one.
Y Giri Rao, a tribal rights expert and a part of the study team said, “Some of the issues the tribals face are diversion of forest land without Gram Sabha consent, non-conversion of habitations in forests into revenue areas, forcible plantations by the Forest Department in claimed areas and areas where rights are recognised and many others which the government needs to take into account to ensure the welfare of tribals.”