Question of rights of Tribals on forest land also raised in Keonjhar district

12 February 2012, Keonjhar

First stop of the yatra on Feb 12 was the headquarters of Keonjhar district, where a discussion was organized by the Keonjhar Suraksha Parishad and the Law College. Shri Biroban Nayak, Vanwasi Chetna mandal shared that Juaam and Santhal tribes live in hilly areas of the district and their livelihood is dependent on agriculture and forest. Large areas of Keonjhar district were under the Bhuia King during 12th to 14th era. After independence, mining work was started by the NMDC and NALCO. But in the last 10 years, about 1 lakh acres of land were given for mining to BPLRT, POSCO, Vedanta, Arcelor Mittal, Essar, Jindal and many other companies. Lakhs of tones of Iron ore, Bauxite, cleome and manganese are exported to foreign countries (China, Singapore, and Malaysia including 20 countries) from this district, every year. Due to excessive mining, local tribes, mostly Juang are struggling for their livelihood. There were about 56 villages of Juang tribes but now they reduced to 19. He asked to what extent it is lawful to make the kings of land, landless. Shri Mulyakumar Panda, senior social worker said that the cultural rehabilitation of the Juang tribes affected by mining and industrial activities is impossible. Mining in the area has led to destruction of an entire tribe. He said that more than 90 percent claims under forest rights act in this region have not been accepted. As a result, the tribal are struggling for their livelihood after mining.

He further shared that without taking into consideration environmental security, about 50 mining companies and 20 sponge iron factories have given permission. But unfortunately, not more than 10 percent local people are being employed in these units. He hoped that the questions of the rights and livelihood of Juang tribes in Keonjha district will be raised through Jansatyagrah with the government.

The next stop of the yatra was Jassipur of Mayurbhanj district where a public hearing was organized by the local organization- CREPTA. Shri Tilotama Nayak of village Khadvan shared that out of 400 tribal families, about 250 are landless in the village. For the last 50 years, all these landless families are occupying forest land for agriculture. They have filed application under forest right act for this land but no action was taken on their application. Shri Nayak of village Angarpada said that for the last three generation,15 tribal families are cultivating forest land and are also paying fines but they have not been given entitlement on that land. Shri Sundrar Nair of village Basantpur shared that 20 tribal families have no land for home and agriculture. All these families are occupying 25 acre of land for the last two generation. Warnings to evacuate the occupied land are often given by the jamindars and forest departments. Shridhar Nayar of village Matiaghad said that for the last 30 years, 260 families are cultivating occupied government land and all have filed cases under the FRA but no action was taken by the authorities. Ghaneshwar Mehto, a tribal leader shared that in about 20 villages of Simlipal reserved forest area of Mayurbhanj district, no application under FRA has been accepted, whereas more than 80 percent of Khabij /occupant are paying fines for the last 25 years. Khadia tribe earns their livelihood through agriculture and MFP. He shared that in village Mudgudiya and Masidghad, 27 people have been given forest right on land they are holding but land has not been demarcated. He further shared that rehabilitation of tribes are still pending in Simlipal region. In these areas, the attitude of forest department is anti tribal. He announced full support of the Tribal leaders to the Jansatyagraha.

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