Bhopal: The government of Madhya Pradesh reversed its decision to set up a community forest management committee in tribal areas on April 29, three days after being notified because the new provision was not in line with the law on rights foresters.
The Forest Rights Act (FRA) provides individual rights for tribal and forest dwellers who have lived in the forests for three generations with a cut-off date of December 31, 2005, and community rights for common land used for grazing or the places of worship of the local population. deity. While a large number of tribal and forest dwellers have been given ownership rights to up to four hectares of forest land in India, very few community rights have been allocated.
In the first week of March, Amit Shah announced the formation of a Community Forest Management Committee to enable tribal communities to exercise control over land in the forests. The MP government notified the constitution of the committee under the Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Raj and Gram Swaraj Act, 1993, which authorizes local panchayats to administer villages.
“For the management of forest resources, the committee constituted on the proposal of the Gram Sabha as defined in the Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Raj and Gram Swaraj Act 1993 shall be called the Community Forest Management Committee, which shall also be called the Forest Committee,” said the The order, issued March 11, replaced the October 2001 resolution to have joint forest management committees that had local chapters to manage community forest areas.
Nagpur-based organization Tribal Ethos and Economic Research (TEER) Foundation Director Milind Thatte met with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the third week of April to oppose the notification.
“We made a presentation and convinced him (the CM) that the decision to form a committee is nothing but a bureaucratic decision and against the FRA. In the resolution, the state government talks about the Panchayat Raj Adhiniyam but not the ARF. We have advised the CM that in the future they may have to deal with the wrath of the tribals over this issue,” Thatte said.
Several other tribal activists also wrote to the government stating that the FRA had a community rights provision and that the state government had formed a committee under the Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Raj and Gram Swaraj Act 1993 without mentioning anything to about the FRA, officials said.
On April 29, the state government repealed the decision and reinstated the October 2021 resolution with a slight modification. “The decision to give 20% of the amount of revenue to the Joint Forest Management Committee is embodied in the said resolution of the financial year 2022-23,” said the repeal order issued by Padmapriya Balrishnan, Secretary, Forestry, Madhya Pradesh .
The order also reinstated the FRA provision, stating that while deciding rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, referred to as FRA, the “rights of forest management” are granted to the community/ gram sabha, in places where the forest is protected in accordance with the provisions of the said (FRA).
Explaining the change, a Forestry Department official said: “In MP, the state government has only granted individual rights, ie patta de maison under the FRA. The state government has not provided any community rights, so this decision makes it clear that the old system will remain in place with an additional provision to provide 20% of revenue from the forest for tribal development. »
Tribal and human rights activist Madhuri, who only uses her first name, said: “The state government was trying to set up a parallel system. They have just changed the name of the Joint Forest Management Committee (JFMC) to Community Forest Management Committee. JFMC gained a bad reputation due to interference from the forest department and exploitation of tribal rights, so the state government thought of changing the name. We were planning to hold a protest against this, but the state government pulled it off in a timely manner.
Senior Chief Forest Conservator (Development) Chitranjan Tyagi said: “It was a political decision and was changed for the welfare of the tribes.