Special Correspondent

VISAKHAPATNAM: The stage is set for the issue of ‘rights deed’ pattas to nearly 30,000 tribals in the districts of Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam under the provisions of the Forest Dwelling STs and Other Forest Dwellers Act, 2006. This is also called Recognition of Forest Right Act, 2006.

Land for this purpose has already been identified in Visakhapatnam (62,000 acres) and Srikakulam (4,750 acres) districts. This will confer rights on tribals for “cultivating land for their bona fide livelihood needs” and they will enjoy no other rights like sale etc.

The Act came into force on December 31, 2007, and the cut-off date for claiming right under the Act is December 2005. This means, all tribals who were in possession of land before December 2005 will be eligible to get the rights deed pattas. In fact, in most of the cases, the tribals had been enjoying fruits of the land for the last several decades. “Tribals will get rid of the fear of displacement because of the rights deed,” said Chief Conservator of Forests P.A.V. Udaya Bhaskar. Tribals had been facing a number of problems from various departments because of absence of any legal document in their possession.

Guidelines

The Ministry of Tribal Welfare issued operational guidelines and the whole process is completed. The prospective beneficiary should make claim in a specified pro forma. He should be in the possession of the land for the last several years. He should reside in the tribal area and be cultivating land for his livelihood. Gram sabhas were vested with the power of identifying such persons. The gram sabha would constitute a Forests Rights Committee and verify claims made by tribals. Then the Revenue Divisional Officer and Sub-Divisional Forest Officer would verify the list and finally the rights deed would be signed by the Collector.

According to Mr. Udaya Bhaskar, only the geographical possession system would have to be completed. Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy is keen to issue the rights deed to tribals at the earliest, preferably at a function in Visakhapatnam district.