Tribal rights body questions veracity of Odisha FRA settlement figures

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 19:

The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, an outfit which was part of the struggle for the enactment of the historic Forest Rights Act, 2006 and is presently monitoring  its implementation in the state, has slammed the FRA-State Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC) for misleading the Ministry of Tribal Affairs(MoTA), Govt. of India over the actual extent of the Community Forest Rights (CFR) area recognized in the State.

Challenging the SLMC’s claims to have been recognized 1,59,432.98 acres of forest land under the Community Forest Rights in the State by 1st July 2014, CSD said, “the SLMC is not only misleading the MoTA, Govt. of India on this but also confusing the State by giving wrong information.”

Forest rights act beneficiariesAs per the latest MoTA’s report on FRA implementation in different states, up to 31 May 2014, Odisha is No.1 in distribution of the  highest number of Individual Forest Rights Titles(IFR) (3,29,805) followed by Chhatisgarh(3,12,250) and M.P(1,75,136).

But on an average Tripura is No.1 in distributing the highest amount of forest land to the IFR claimants(3.46 acres per title) followed by Maharashtra(2.35 acres),Odisha(1.58 acres). While Madhya Pradesh is No.1 in distributing highest number of CFR titles(12,256) followed by Odisha (3,196) and Maharashtra(2,371), while on an average Karnataka is the No.1 state for having distributed the highest amount of forest land under CFR which is 273.36 acres per CFR title,  followed by Maharashtra (27.03 acres per CFR title), Odisha(48.97 acres per CFR title).

Likewise Maharashtra is No.1 in rejecting the highest number of IFR claims filed (67.91%) followed by Karnataka(62.75%) and Odisha(24.54%), while Tripura is No.1 in rejecting CFR claims filed (79.42%) followed by Gujarat (58.95%) and Maharashtra (40.41%).

Wrong figures : Mistake or Deliberate Exaggeration ?

Besides, SLMC, Govt. of Odisha in its Monthly Progress Report(MPR) sent to MoTA vide letter No. D.O.No-23002 D-TD-II-(FRA)-43/2014 Dated 5 August, 2014 reported that up to 31 July, 2014, 3,35,443 IFR titles accounting for over 5,34,549.95 acres of forest land and 3319 CFR titles covering over 1,59,432.98 acres of forest land have been distributed.

“While the average forest land recognized under IFR is constant from last 2009 and is 1.59 acres in Odisha, the 1,59,432.98 acres of forest land shown to have been recognized under CFR is disputed one”, CSD said.

Targeting the CFR Status report, CSD has contended that “while CFR claims mostly in ‘B’ form have been filed by the community people with the “rough sketch map” of their CFR area which has hardly been verified by GIS/GPS or by Plain Table Method, how did the FRA district level committees (SDLC/DLC) could find out the actual CFR area invites a big question mark ”.

CSD has also questioned the FRA Status Report (up to June, 2014) uploaded in the STSC Development Department website. “the very attempt of the nodal STSC Department from February this year towards bifurcating CFR claims filed in B and C format and titles issued/distributed in Annexure–III and in Annexure-IV respectively after FR (amendment)Rules, 2012 has led to the confusion.”

CSD logo“While the CFR area claimed and settled under B form and C form would be the same, the STSC Department has wrongly generated false information by repeating the same area against both “B” and “C” in its reports.” CSD pointed out.

CSD has alleged that “the SLMC has blindly repeated the same CFR area recognized under B also against C while reporting for different districts i.e. Kandhamal, Nayagarh, Bargagh, Keonjhar, Nabarangapur, Malkangiri etc.

“Even CFR titles reported to have been settled/distributed under ‘C’ form are in fact claimed under ‘B’ form and issued under Annexure-III”, CSD said.

“Even when many districts i.e. “Kandhamal and Kalahandi do not mention the CFR areas in the CFR titles issued in their MPR sent to the SLMC. Therefore, how and from where the SLMC generated  CFR area in the CFR Status report is a matter of investigation?” the CSD said.

Further, pointing out the other mistake committed by SLMC, the CSD  said that “even it has repeated the 2561.13 acres of CFR area issued under 5 CFR titles in B form with 5 cases settled under Section 3(2) for developmental purposes in Bolangir district.

CSD also charged SLMC for continuing the gross mistake despite its earlier promise to correct the CFR data of Nuapada district and said “in fact the total area of forest land of 20 CFR titles said to have been settled under 3(1) in B form in Nuapada district is 84.43 acres and not 1920 acres and are settled under Section 3(2)” which has been found out by CSD during study.”

Clarifying the confusion, CSD asserted that “While “C” form is filed to claim rights over CFR areas and to legally ascertain community rights to protect and manage the CFR areas as per the Section 3(1)(i) of FRA, “B” form is filed to claim the recognition of different types (nature) of forest rights over one’s CFR (forest) area and even outside of it (other’s CFR area) i.e right to collect Minor Forest Produce(MFP), grazing rights etc. However, the amount of forest area claimed and recognized under “B” and “C” forms in one’s CFR area would be the same.”

“How forest area claimed under ‘B’ and ‘C’ would differ in one’s CFR area?”  the CSD questioned.

CSD also suggested that after the Forest Rights(amendment)Rules, 2012 which added the provision of “C” form and Annexure–IV (Title format against C form), the  CFR area should be mentioned in the CFR titles issued in Annexure–IV only and there is no need to mention the amount of area in the Community Forest Rights title to be issued in Annexure–III which is claimed under “B” form.

CSD has also contended that “the 3196 nos. of CFR titles reported to have been distributed over 1,56,510.59 acres up to 31 June 2014 in both B and C forms are in fact 2708 in number and account for over 1,53,206.62 acres forest land after deducting the 488 cases (including 205 alone in Keonjhar district) settled under Section 3(2) of FRA meant for developmental purposes in over 3303.97 acres of forest land.”

The CSD has also alleged that “the SDLCs, and DLCs under the pressure of the forest department have arbitrarily and intentionally restricted and limited the CFR are in the CFR titles and the actual CFR area under community control is much more than the reported one”.

CSD, Odisha has call upon all the gram sabhas which has filed CFR claims in B forms before to file “C” form afresh and to legally establish their rights over forest land.

CSD has also urgently urged the SLMC to correct the gross mistake committed over CFR area reported in the FRA Status Report and to recognize the actual CFR area claimed under FRA in the state.

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