Odisha report on Community Forest Rights by State Level Monitoring Committee is full of discrepancy

odishaThe Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, which fought for the enactment of historic Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 in the country, is currently monitoring its implementation in the state. It has said that the report on Community Forest Rights (CFR), produced by the State Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC), is full of discrepancy. Text of the statement:

CSD, Odisha  has analysed the March  and April 2015 Monthly Progress Report (MPR) on implementation of CFR in the state, released by the nodal scheduled tribes/ schedule tribes (STSC) Department. Notably, while the SLMC had reported that till March 31, 2015 the total CFR claims filed was 12,500 (7,687 filed in ‘B’ form and 4,813 filed in ‘C’ form), and the total CFR titles issued was 3,474 (2,146 in Annexure ‘III’ and 1,328 in Annexure ‘IV’) in the State, including 2,168 (1,084 in total in Annexure III and 1,084 in Annexure IV) in the Kandhamal district only.

It had reported that in all 1,80,163.5 acres of forest land was recognized under CFR in the State. However, suddenly, in April 2015, SLMC says that the total CFR claims filed as per Section 3(1) in the State till April  30 is 6,572, out of which only 1,511 CFR titles have been issued for 97,830.91 acres of forest land, including 834 in Kandhamal, 169 in Kalahandi, and 126 in Keonjhar districts. Besides, there are 390 forest diversion cases, in which 537.37 acres of forest land have been diverted as per Section 3(2) of the FRA.

The nodal STSC Department had submitted the FRA MPR on January 12, 2015 to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), Government of India (GoI), in which it had reported that by December 31, 2014, the total FRA titles distributed in the State was 3,44,068 including (3,40,594 individual forest rights(IFR), 2146 community and 3128 CFR, and the total area recognized under FRA was 7,21,646.46 acres (including 5,41,482.96 acres under IFR, 1.09,391.46 acres under community and 70,772.04 acres under CFR).

The total number of CFR claims, CFR titles and area recognized under CFR has been suddenly changed. Also, the nodal Department has changed the CFR reporting format introduced in last February 2014 (bifurcating of claim under B and C and titles issued under annexure-III and IV)  and has reverted back to its earlier format.

CSD, Odisha has found the following serious discrepancies in the last CFR Status Reports (April 30, 2015) being produce by SLMC:

Firstly, the status report does not segregate the total numbers of CFR claims filed in the claim form ‘B’ and ‘C’ and also the number of CFR titles issued in annexure ‘III’ and annexure ‘IV’ as per FR Rules. So far as our knowledge goes, almost all the CFR titles issued in the State are issued in annexure III (CFR claims filed in form B form) in the State and only 43 CFR titles in annexure IV have been issued to the Gram Sabhas falling in the Similipal Tiger Reserves (STR) in the Mayurbhanja district in last April, 2015.

Secondly, The total CFR area (97,830.91 acres) reported to have been recognized under CFR is faulty because, for instance, while the District Level Committee, Kandhamal, never mentioned the CFR area recognized in the CFR titles issued in annexure-III nor it reported to the SLMC, the SLMC has arbitrarily generated the (34,040.03 acres) CFR area against Kandhamal district in the CFR MPR, and has also communicated the MoTA accordingly.

Thirdly, while the March 31, 2015 Report had mentioned of 477 forest land diversion cases as per Section 3 (2) of FRA covering 1249.29 acres of forest land, the April 30, 2015 Report has reduced it into 390.

Fourthly, while the gram sabha itself is the claimant in cases of community forest rights claims, and it can never rejects its own claim, and while Section 12A of the FR (amendment) Rules, 2012 strictly has directed the SDLCs and DLCs not to reject any forest rights claim, instead remand back those claims to the concerned gram sabhas, the SLMC arbitrarily continues to report that 466 CFR claims have been rejected by gram sabhas, 148 CFR claims have been rejected by SDLCs etc.

Fifthly, the Column 3A, Column 13A and Column 18A of the April 30, 2015 CFR MPR reflecting on number of villages fully covered, number of gram sabhas, and number of sub-divisions, confirming completion of recognition of claims, are confusing and have no meaning at all.

While “C” form is filed to claim rights over CFR areas and to legally ascertain community rights to protect and manage the CFR areas as per the Section 3(1)(i) of FRA, “B” form is filed to claim different types (nature) of forest rights over one’s CFR (forest) area and even outside of it (others’ CFR area), e.g. right to collect Minor Forest Produce(MFP), grazing rights etc.

CSD suggests that all the DLCs and SLMC  that since forest area claimed  under “B” and “C” forms and recognized in titles (annexure III and IV) would be the same, the Community Forest Resource(CFR) area should be reflected in the annexure-IV (issued against claim from C) only, and it should not be reflected in the annexure-III (issued against claim form B).

Despite CSD’s consistent appraisal on the CFR report, the SLMC has failed to produce a correct report. The nodal SCST Department should urgently make necessary correction in the CFR MPR and to adopt uniform process in recognizing community forest rights in the State. The CSD has requested the nodal agency to provide GIS/GPS support to gram sabhas/forest rightz committees so that the CFR determination process can be expedited. CSD, Odisha has also urged all the DLCs and SLMC to widely propagate the CFR Guidelines issued by MoTA on April 23, 2015 for the protection and management of CFR area.

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