‘Maharashtra ignoring tribal rights over forest land’

Special Correspondent

MUMBAI: Senior leaders of the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) and the Janata Dal, N.D. Patil and Mrinal Gore on Tuesday alleged that the Maharashtra government was favouring companies over the rights of poor Adivasis in Dhule district.

Addressing a press conference, Mr. Patil said the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 gave rights to Adivasis cultivating forest land for decades and the cut-off date for the Act was December 13, 2005.

Taking advantage of the fact that the rules under the Act were still being framed, the Maharashtra government was allotting forest land to private companies and also trying to extern leaders fighting for the rights of the poor, Mr. Patil alleged.

Since January, there have been several protests in Dhule over the allotment of forest land for wind energy projects, he said. Earlier this month the government had issued notices to extern five activists championing the cause of the Adivasis and ban their entry into Dhule and four other districts.

A final decision is to be taken on September 27. Mr. Kishore Dhamale of the Satyashodhak Grameen Kashtakari Sabha and four others have been charged with various cases on the basis of which the government is proposing to extern them.

Mr. Patil said the government has to go by the law and the law said the Adivasis have the first right to the land they cultivated.

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