Gram Sabhas Ignored despite Tribal Self Rule

20 January 2012, Sundergarh

On 20 January the Jansatyagrah Samvad Yatra reached Jamarla village of Sundergarh district where four innocent villagers were killed on 4 May 1993. While addressing the meeting in the village senior social worker Shri Francis Tirki said that the government will have become serious about the security and constitutional rights of the tribal communities. The proposals and protests made by the Gram Panchayats and Gram Sabhas are not accepted by the administration and their negative attitude is fueling dissatisfaction in the youth. The next halt of the journey was made at Rajganpur village where a public meeting of more than 500 village leaders from 26 villages was organised by ‘Jungle Manch’,

‘Jasi Sanghatan’ and ‘Kshetriya Yuva Sangh’. Shri Mayadhar Kujur of ‘Jungle Manch’ said that in the Sundargarh region on one hand the government has given 10,000 acres of land to various industrial and mining concerns and on the other hand the same government has accepted only 10,549 claims as against the 37,435 claims that were filed by the local people giving rights over mere 18,031 acres of land. Of the claims filed 18,948 are pending and 7938 have been rejected. This proves that neither the state government not the government of India is serious about the forest rights of the tribals and other forest dependent communities as specified in the Forest Rights Act. Shri Dinbandhu of ‘Chasi Sanghatan’ said that 2000 claims for cultivated forest land were filed through their organization and the results indicate that while on an average claims were filed for 4-5 acres of land the record of rights gives only 50 dismil to 1 acre of land to each claimant. The families that were displaced by the Raurkela Steel Plant and were cultivating forest land have been denied their claims of ownership. Shri Vijay of ‘Yuva Sangh’ said that in Malidih village 400 families have not been given the ownership rights to cultivated forestland even after repeated claim applications and those who have received the record of rights are still awaiting demarcation of their land. In the Rajganpur region many industries have been set up through fraudulent ‘No Objection’ certificates from Gram Sabhas even though people from the very same villages have filed court cases against the industries. The next halt was made at village Virmitrpur of Sundergarh district where the villagers had organised a public hearing. A youth leader of the village Shri Kishore said that in 1908 the British began the process of lime stone mining in his village through BSL Company and since then 1800 acres of the village land has been lost to the mining activity while the people have received no compensation. Mining has been done to a depth of 400 feet and the entire landscape of the area has been destroyed. The mining lease given to BSL Company expired in 2008 but mining continues unabated due to political and administrative protection enjoyed by the company. 150 families of this village presented their claims on cultivated forestland but the administration rejected their claims saying that the village has been included in the city limit therefore making their claims redundant. All the residents of the village announced in one voice that they would join the decisive action planned in October 2012 namely Jansatyagrah 2012.

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