Implementation of the Forest Rights Act Inadequate

18 February 2012, Gumla

On 18 February the Jansatyagrah Samvad Yatra reached Palkot region of Gumla district where a public meeting had been organised by the ‘Ekta Parishad’. Palkot region is specially known for its dense forests and wild life sanctuaries. Shri Budheshawar Tana Bhagat of village Tabkara said that 3000 tribal families were displaced for the creation of Palkot Sanctuary and till date not a single person has been re-settled. He said that with support from Ekta Parishad more than 400 families had filed claims from 140 villages but not more than 10 percent received any land. Shri Ekta Bhagat of village Dipatoli said that for the tribal communities rights to common property resources are of paramount importance since in this part of Jharkhand according to tribal culture community agriculture is considered more important. Under the Forest Rights Act this practice of the people should receive its due recognition and the administration should begin its ground work so that people can get their rights over land that is under community use. Smt Soma of village Titartoli said that approximately 40,000 families in the region are without shelter/homestead and they had applied for land for residence and agriculture but till date the administration has not taken any cognizance of their applications. Regional Coordinator for Ekta Parishad Shri Ramswaroop said that the preparations for Jansatyagrah 2012 are in full gear and that more than 500 local tribal leaders would participate in the decisive movement beginning 2 October 2012.

19 February 2012, Gumla

On 19 February the first halt of the journey was at Shaktiman Ashram established by Vikas Bharti in village Chingri of Gumla district. This village is famous as the historical memorial for Jatra Tana Bhagat who was born in 1881. In April 1914 he challenged the British rule on the issue of self-rule and ‘swadeshi’. He also united the tribal communities on the subject of forests, water and land. Taking inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi he started a non-violent struggle against the prevalent social evils in the tribal society. Today his spirit lives on in the people who continue to follow the path of ‘swadeshi’ and self-reliance.

Second halt of the journey was at Vikas Bharti, Vishnupur. The founder of this organization Shri Ashok Bhagat said that they have been working in the fields of health, education and agriculture improvement for the last three decades. It is also engaged in public awareness generation across 12 districts of Jharkhand. Thousands of farmers in the region are benefited from its program on self-reliant agriculture taught through the Agricultural Science Center of Vishnupur. The Samvad Yatra team made a round of the Shaktiman Ashram where arrangements have been made for the health and education of children that are physically challenged. The team also made a round of the ‘Mahila Udyan Vikas Kendra’. This ashram is also known as ‘Singhboga’ Ashram where people are being trained in the field of organic farming and conservation of herbal/medicinal plants. The next halt was made at village Chormuda of Latehar district where a public meeting had been organised by the ‘Jansangharsh Samiti’ that is engaged in protesting against the Netarhat field firing range. All senior members of the Samiti along with over 500 villagers were present in the meeting. Senior member of the Samiti Shri Peter Minj said that the proposal for a field firing range in the region was made in 1962. Thereafter in 1986 the then government of Bihar began work on the proposal and notified the removal of 29 villages in Palamu and 127 villages in the Gumla districts of the state. In 1994 the ‘Jansangharsh Samiti’ organised the people of more than 200 villages to start a movement against the firing range project. The project intended to displace about 250,000 tribal people from an area of 1471 square kilometers largely inhabited by Uraon, Munda, Khairwar, Asur, Virhor and Korva tribes. In 1994 another organization ‘People’s Union for Democratic Rights’ also lent its support to the people to intensify the struggle against the injustice and atrocities on the people. The samiti organised the people because the cultural, social and economic rehabilitation of the primitive tribes, that were being affected by the project, is simply not possible as their entire existence is centered around the forests and land that they have inhabited since time immemorial. The ‘sanghatan’and administration continued to be at constant loggerheads till 2006 when it was announced in the parliament that the project is being postponed. However the government of Jharkhand hasn’t started the de-notification process till date. In the absence of such proceedings the non-violent struggle for the people’s rights continues. For the last one year there has been an understanding that the government of Jharkhand plans on acquiring land in the region on the pretext of establishing peace but the people of many villages including Chormanda have registered their written protest against any such plans and have asked the government to give them their rights over the forests, land and water resources in the region. They will continue to wage their struggle against any government plans and projects that threaten their rights and livelihood. Central Secretary of the Samiti Shri Manohar Anil announced that they would participate in Jansatyagrah 2012 and gave assurance that the representatives of the Netrahat Movement would be at the forefront of the movement on 2 October 2012.

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