CSD, Orissa Condemn Forest Department’s Proposed Participatory Forest Management Resolution 2011
Report by OrissaDiary.com correspondent; Bhubaneswar: Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a large network of tribals and forest dwellers which struggled hard to get the historic Forest Rights Act, 2006 enacted by Parliament today vehemently criticized the State Forest Department for attempting to dilute the community rights over Community Forest Resources (CFR) recognized under FRA. Addressing the media, members of CSD, Odisha reacted upon the recent proposed “PARTICIPATORY FOREST MANAGEMENT RESOLUTION” 2011 uploaded in the Forest Department’s website. They are of view that the proposed resolution is illegal and contradictory to the FRA. “The Forest Department does not have any legal authority to issue such a resolution when the nodal agency for the FRA is the Tribal Dept”.
The Forest Rights Act not only recognizes individual forest rights to the tribals and forest dwellers, it also recognizes community rights over CFR at the same time the Act has empowered the local community people for the first time after independence to protect, re-generate and manage the forest themselves forming “Forest Protection and Management Committee”. When the FRA does not mentioned any role of the VSS and FD in the protection and management of CFR area, the Forest Department after losing its power is trying to reestablished its colonial control over forest by revising JFM.” “When the FRA is talking of recognizing community rights over CFR by issuing community forest rights titles to the gram sabhas, in contrary to that the proposed Participatory Forest Management wants the community to sign MoU with the Forest Department to get their rights over CFR” the CSD members shared.
When the Gram Sabha or the villagers are authorized to determine their CFR boundary/area and to plan for the protection and management of their CFR, the proposed PFM by the FD want to high jack these statutory forest rights they are entitled under FRA by bringing all the community forest rights within the exiting framework of the JFM and forest working plans controlled by the Forest Department.
Targeting the Colonial Forest Bureaucracy, CSD members contended that “the forest bureaucracy lobbied hard not to enact the FRA, when it was enacted it filed number of cases against FRA in the Supreme Court and in different High Courts in the names of retired forest officials and when they failed in their all attempts now trying to have same control by brining CFR rights under JFM/PFM fold.” CSD members alleged that the crores of rupees spent in the forestry sector has been a historical reason behind these attempts.
Raising concerns over the plantation and forest management programmes of the Forest Department through JFMC/VSS, CSD has alleged that over time, communities have been used as scapegoats in the name of community participation through JFM/VSS while most of the funds are siphoned off by forest officials in collusion with village elite. A stringent review through Vigilance or CBI investigations could unearth the longstanding scams in the plantation programmes.
Criticizing the Govt.’s recent decision for special funding to more 5000 VSS, CSD members criticized the Govt. for pumping fund leading to community conflicts. “It is unfortunate that in the name of plantation, people of Odisha have been burden with the JICA loan, the CAMPA fund has been mismanaged by the FD in the name of Plantation”.
Commenting on implementation of the FRA in the state, the Campaign alleged that while the state govt. is claiming to be No.1 in the nation in recognizing individual forest rights, the recognition of community forest rights is lagging way behind due to the non-cooperation FD. The forest department has been trying to restrict the recognition of community forst rights, the claims in reserved forest areas and wildlife sanctuaries. Besides, the Forest Department is still having control over important MFPs like Kendu leave (KL) and Bamboo while the communities have been given ownership rights over them by the FRA.
Challenging the legality of the proposed “participatory forest management resolution, the campaign has urged the Govt. of Odisha to withdraw it and has alert the Forest Department to take it into the Court if it continue violating FRA. CSD, Odisha has put forth the following demands before the Govt. to effectively implement the community rights over CFR failing which the Govt. will be remained accountable for any future consequences.
1. Immediate withdraw the “Participatory Forest Management Resolution” 2011.
2. Wide spread the community rights over CFR. Amongst the community using the positive circular issued by Tribal Department D.O. No-8348/SSD on dated 20.2.2010.
3. Recognize the “CFR Area” as new forest land typology where community people would have exclusive right to protect and manage the forest as per Section -3(1)(i) of FRA and the role of Forest Department would be of technical support as per the community demands.
4. Recognise and settle of community forest rights by issuing community forest rights titles and dissolve the 11995 VSSs and 4000 EDCs formed, stop using forest working plan in these areas and handover the forest protection and management power to the Gram Sabha/palli Sabhas.
5. Review of faulty Community Forest Rights titles issued in different districts.
6. Recognise the community ownership rights over Kendu leaf and Bamboo, distribute the royalty earned in the Kendu Leaf from last 2008 amongst the KL pluckers and ensure the infrastructural and market facilities for the collection and disposal of MFPs including KL fixing MSP.
7. Identify all the forest villages/habitations in forest areas and convert them into revenue villages extending developmental all programmes.
8. Recognize and give protection to the PTG and Tribal areas respecting PESA.
9. Respect the authority, resolutions, recommendations and consent of the Gram Sabhas/palli Sabha in the implementation of the FRA including recognizing the forest rights of the other traditional forest dwellers and in the diversion of forest land for non forest uses.