Plea to dismiss “anti-tribal, anti-forest dwellers” Supreme Court Order dated 13th February, 2019

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Memorandum submitted by the Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD) to the President of India, the Odisha governor, and the Odisha chief minister, following a tribal and other forest dwellers rally in Bhubaneswar, asking the Supreme Court to scrap its order of February 13 on allegedly seeking to evict lakhs of forest dwellers from their land:

As you know that Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), a national platform of tribal and other traditional forest dwellers’ organisations played a vital role in the enactment of the historic Forest Right Act by the parliament of India in 2006. In the act it is clearly admitted the forest rights and their habitats were not adequately recognised in the consolidation of state forest during the colonial period as well as independent India resulting in Historical Injustice to the forest dwelling scheduled tribe and other traditional forest dwellers who are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest eco system.

The provision under Section-4 is unambiguous and under this provision the government of India recognised and vested forest rights in the forest dwelling scheduled tribes and traditional forest dwellers. The provision under Section-6 is clear and unambiguous that the Gram sabha is the authority for the process of determining the nature and extent of individual or community forest rights of the scheduled tribe and other traditional forest dwellers.

We observed that from the beginning of coming to the power, the BJP government at the Centre is working against the historic Forest Rights Act, 2006. It brought anti-FRA, anti-tribals and forest dwellers CAMPA fund Act, 2016 , Anti-FRA-National Forest Policy, 2018 and have diverted huge forest land for no-forest uses bypassing the gram sabha. Now the 13th February 2019 Supreme Court eviction Order is an anti-tribals and forest dwellers is because of the failure on the part of the central government to defend the FRA in the Court.

While the Government of Odisha claiming to be No 1. In issuing highest IFR titles in the country, the government authorities with their colonial mind-set have bypassed Gram sabha and have not implemented the law in letter and spirit. The same historical injustice was committed when the government of Odisha filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court of India indicating that 573867 ST families made their claims and 31687 OTFD families made their claims over the forest lands and out of which 122250 claims of ST families and 26620 claims of OTFD families have been rejected. But it is a matter of serious concern that neither any Gram sabha nor any IFR claimant was given any opportunity before rejecting their claims by SDLC/DLC.

We, as a platform of the Scheduled Tribe and Other Forest Dwellers from the beginning of the implementation of the Act in the State, have been agitating all these matters before different quarters including approaching the door of Raj Bhawan which has a special authority in the Scheduled Areas of the State. The functionaries of the Government of Odisha did not pay any heed to individual grievances or grievances raised by any Gram Sabha or to our grievances raised at different levels for proper implementation of the act.

It is stated through an affidavit by the Government of Odisha that The Rejected Claims are being reviewed consequent upon this affidavit the Apex Court directed the Government to complete the process within four months.

The Order dated 13th February, 2019 of Apex Court noted that “Let the Chief Secretary to the State of Odisha indicate, by way of an affidavit, as to why after the rejection of the claims, which have attained finality, eviction has not been made. The Chief Secretary shall ensure that where the rejection orders have been passed, eviction will be carried out on or before the next date of hearing. In case the eviction is not carried out, as aforesaid, the matter would be viewed seriously by this Court.”

Thus if the 13th February Order of the SC is implemented, there will be mass eviction of lakhs of tribal and forest dwellers in the State because of the anti- people pro corporate and that to illegal and bureaucratic approach of the public functionaries holding different posts in the Government of  Odisha.

And since most of the IFR titles 4, 22,384 (4, 22311 to STs and only 73 to OTFDs) over 2, 53,634 Hectares/6, 26,475.98 acres of forest land reported to have recognized are recognized in a haphazard way without proper demarcation leading to recognition of less area (not actual area under possession), they are also going to be evicted from their forest land by the SC Order. Besides, those who despite their occupation over forest land for generations have failed to file their IFR claims are definitely going to be evicted from their land. Even the status of recognition of Community rights in the State is very poor.

Thus to protest anti-tribal and forest dwellers approach of the government at the Centre,  and also at the State and to demand to review and recall of the order of Supreme Court for forcible evictions, CSD is organising a mass protest rally on 7th March in State Capital, Bhubaneswar.

Our demands before the Central Government:

  • Dismiss the anti-tribal and anti-forest dwellers Supreme Court Order dated 13th February, 2019.
  • Scrap Anti- FRA Campa Fund Act-2016 and National Forest Policy-2018.
  • Bring amendments in all acts and rules like Bio diversities Act-2002, Wildlife Protection Act-1972, Forest Conservation Act-1980, Indian Forest Act-1927, Coal Bearing Act-1957 and all forest policy related to Minor Forest Produces etc. which have been main hindrance in the implementation of FRA-2006.
  • No diversion of Forest Land for Non-Forest Activities without proposal and recognition of Gram Sabhas.

Demands before the State Government:

  • Send back all so-called rejected, approved and pending IFR claims to the concerned Gram Sabhas, the real authority for reconsideration and appropriate action as per Rule-12A(6) FRA Rules-2012.
  • Stop correction of ROR of Forest Lands issued without demarcation
  • Stringent Action must be taken against the Government Officials who have discouraged and deprived Other Traditional Forest Dwellers to file their IFR in different districts, arbitrarily documentary evidence have been prioritised and oral evidence of elders bypassed, 629 issued IFR titles have been cancelled in Sundargarh district.
  • Recognise the Community Forest Rights over forest resources as per 3(1)(i) of FRA-2006 & respect the Forest Protection Management Committee formed under Sec-4(e) of FRA Rules-2007 and dissolve V.S.S form under JFM.
  • Identify all forest/un-surveyed villages falling in reserve forest area and convert them into revenue villages.
  • Withdraw all forest offence cases filed against tribal and forest dwellers using different sections of Indian Forest Act, 1927, FCA, 1980 and WLP Act, 1972 before and after FRA- 2006.

We demand Panchyat in every village, 70% quorum of the Gram Sabha, no representation of government official in any executive body of the Gram Sabha and direct flow of all funds to the Gram Sabhas.

We demand to inform the  Campaign(CSD) what action have been taken based under the direction of Honourable Governor of Odisha (Vide Reference Number-CN/47/2018, Memo No- 5679SG/Dated 6.10.18) to the Chief Secretary of Odisha on the memorandum submitted by CSD, Odisha dated 28th September, 2018.

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