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FRA implementation moving at sluggish pace in Himachal

Even though close to two-third of the State’s geographical area is under forest land cover, the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in Himachal Pradesh has been moving at a sluggish pace and the process of recognition of rights of forest dwellers is far from completion.

Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs data on status of implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, which is commonly known as Forest Rights Act (FRA) for the period ending February 2021, shows that in Himachal Pradesh 2,903 claims, which include 2,642 individual claims and 261 community claims, were received. Of the total received claims only 164 claims have been distributed titles.

Some activists working on forest rights believe that key reason behind the sluggishness in recognition and vesting of Community Forest Rights (CFR) and Community Forest Resource Rights (CFRR) under section 3(1) of the Act is the non-committal attitude of State agencies and lack of coordination among the Tribal, Panchayati Raj, Forest and Revenue departments.

‘Unaware of rights’

“People on the ground are hardly aware about their rights, especially the community rights. It is true that individual claims are to be filed by individuals and in case of non-receipt of the individual claims there can be no claim. However, claims with regard to community rights and CFRR are to be prepared and submitted by Forest Rights Committee (FRC) on behalf of ‘Gram Sabha’. Fear of eviction among people is one reason that they don’t come forward to stake claims, but it’s the duty of government agencies to aware them about their rights, unfortunately this commitment is hardly seen, resulting in sluggish implementation of the FRA ,” said Amit Singh Chandel, a lawyer cum activist, who has been working on environmental related issues for over a decade now.

Notably, Union Ministries of Tribal Affairs and Environment and Forest and Climate Change had in July this year, issued a joint declaration to the Chief Secretaries of States to review the implementation of the FRA, urging them for expeditious implementation of the Act, pointing out that “..Despite considerable lapse of time since the Act came into force, the process of recognition of rights is yet to be completed...”

High Court moved

Recently residents of Dhamchayan panchyat, which includes villages Panjond, Terang-Rajvan, Graman, Kharyan, Badi Bajgain, Tholtu Khod in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh have approached the Himachal Pradesh High Court with a submission that their forest rights, especially community rights and community forest resource rights, in terms of Section 3(1) of FRA, 2006, have been violated.

The State government, however, maintains that necessary process was followed as per provisions of Acts and rules while settling the rights of Dhamchayan panchayat.

Himachal Pradesh Tribal Development Principal Secretary Onkar Chand Sharma said: “We have already trained the staff surrounding the FRA implementation and wherever claims are being received they are being decided Besides, in Himachal Pradesh, the local and forest rights have been clearly defined in the revenue record and in the forest settlement rules long back, and hence applications are lower in the State.”

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 6:46:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/fra-implementation-moving-at-sluggish-pace-in-himachal/article36687050.ece

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