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Odisha govt. cautioned on violation of authority of gram sabha under FRA

Campaign For Survival Dignity convenor Gopinath Majhi had filed a petition with the Centre

The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs has cautioned the Odisha government not to erode the authority of the gram sabha while implementing the massive forest regeneration programme – ‘Ama Jungle Yojna’ (AJY).

The Naveen Patnaik government has decided to execute conservation of forests through the Vana Surakshya Samitis (VSS), informal village-level institutions, under the AJY scheme. It is proposed to undertake regeneration of forests over 2,60,000 ha area from 2016-17 to 2021-22

The State government will spend Rs.1,170.02 crore in six years under the AJY which is expected to create Block Plantation over 5,000 ha.

Campaign For Survival Dignity (CSD), Odisha, convenor Gopinath Majhi had filed a petition with the Union Ministry that the State forest department, which promotes VSS, was trying to usurp the constitutional power of the gram sabha recognised under the Schedule Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, through the AJY.

Acting on the petition, the Ministry wrote to Odisha’s SC/ST Development Secretary: “Gram Sabha is central to taking any decisions on community forest resources and wherever the FRA is likely to be implemented. As per the Forest Right Rule 4(1) (e), the gram sabha is to constitute a committee for protection and management of the Community Forest Resource Rights (CFR).”

The Ministry also directed the State government to ascertain whether it was in any conflict with the provisions of the Forest Right Act. It needs to be mentioned that the Odisha government was earlier given clear direction on the authority of the gram sabha under the FRA.

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs had issued guidelines that the Joint Forest Management committee or the VSS was not eligible for availing the CFR rights as per the FRA provision.

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