Issue of Forestland also raised in Sambalpur and Jharasguda

22-23 January 2012, Sambalpur and Jharasguda

On 22 January the Janstyagrah Samvad Yatra reached village Patharmuda of Sambalpur district where ‘Astha Samaj Sewi Sanstha’ and ‘Rural Development and Conservation Committee’ had organised a public hearing. During the public hearing Shri Sanad Kumar Nayak said that Patharmuda village falls in the buffer zone of the Badarma Wildlife Sanctuary. The villagers submitted 120 claims on cultivated forestland but even after two years they have received no word of acceptance or rejection of their claims from the concerned authorities. In Sambalpur district 26,497 claims for forestland were filed but only 10,584 people have received rights over 13,839 acres of land while 4111 claims are pending and 11,802 claims have been rejected. Smt Manjunna Jani said that the Village Forest Rights Committees have been formed on the directives of the forest department because of which tribal representatives are unable to get their due space in the committees. Residents of Patharmuda village vowed to participate in the Jansatyagrah 2012 and announced that they would organise a parallel movement in the district during the month of October 2012.

The second halt of the Jansatyagrah samvad yatra was at Kulaimal village in Jharasguda district wherein a public hearing had been organised by the ‘Lok Mukti Sanghatan’. Shri Anand Bhai of ‘Lok Mukti Sanghatan’ said that claims by 84 tribal families had been submitted through the village forest rights committee but till date no action has been taken by the administration. The sarpanch of Nayikdih said that claims made by 86 tribal families belonging to the Gond, Munda, Kharia and Uraon tribes from his village have also met a similar fate. He further added that a claim for common property resource was also filed but it has not been accepted. Shri Ishwar Bhai of Lok Mukti Sanghatan said that claims from 60 villages have been filed through the organization but no action has been taken on these claims. According to the official data in Jharasguda district a total of 9204 claims had been filed and of these only 2328 families received 2093 acres of land while 6821 claims have been rejected.

He warned that if the State government fails to take some solid steps in favour of the people by 2 October 2012 they would launch a decisive movement in Orissa. Subsequent to the public hearing a joint meeting was organised by ‘Lok Mukti Sanghtan’, ‘Utkal Jyoti’, ‘Saheda’ and CASA to discuss the situation in the region. All the organisations announced their intention to join the Jansatyagrah 2012 in big numbers.

On 23 January the first halt was made at the Sambalpur district head quarter where a conference had been organised by ‘Lok Mukti Sanghatan’, ‘Sambalpur Visthapit Manch’, ‘Varisht Nagrik Manch’ other intellectuals. After the conference homage was paid to Martyr Surendra Saye who had fought against the British for people’s rights over water, forests and land. Addressing the conference senior thinker Shri Durgaprasaad said that at a time when governments have converted land into a commodity for sale and purchase it is important to redefine the revolt that was led by Surendra Saye for the rights of the tribal communities. He said that even though tribal self-rule existed in a large part of Sambalpur it was not respected by the elected governments of the state. Shri Govind Narayan of the ‘Varisht Nagrik Manch’ said that the time has come for the urban people to think about their role in the struggle for rights that is being waged by a large segment of the rural population. He very strongly asserted that all the sanghatans of Sambalpur would lead a parallel movement in the district at the time of Janstyagrah 2012. Senior social

worker Shri Bhagwat Prasad Nand said that even though a large region of Ssambalpur was visible affected by industrialization and mining the urban people and media did not openly stand in support of the various movements that are being waged in the rural areas. He expressed his belief that the process of Janstyagrah 2012 would also try to include the urban intellectuals in their final movement so that the battle for change could become decisive. The second halt was made at village Panimarra. 32 Gandhians from this historic village took part in the “Quit India Movement” and in 1963 Acharya Vinoba Bhave visited this village and it was announced that the village was given in ‘Gram Daan’. Today no one is landless in the village and people of all castes and creed have put their hands together to undertake a number of successful initiatives in the field of health, education and culture. Senior freedom fighter Shri Deshbandhu Pradhan while expressing deep concern over the current situation in the country and society said that unless breaks are applied on the speed of industrialization and priority given to agriculture and village based economy it would become impossible to stem the tide of rural discontent and violence. Senior social worker Shri Dayanidhi Nayak expressed his belief that the non- violent Jansatyagrah movement would certainly ensure the land rights of millions of landless in the country. Towards the end of the meeting a street play on land acquisition and displacement touched the heart of all present and focused on the issues with great precision.

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