The Forest Dwellers of Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) witnessed a historic day on 9th April 2015 at Barehipani Gram Panchayat where Community Forest Rights titles under Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 were distributed in the programme organized by the district administration.
The grand programme was jointly inaugurated by the district collector, Rajesh Prabhakar Patil, Mangal Singh Madi(Jassipur MLA), Anup Krishna(S.P, Mayurbhanj) and Arindrum Dakua (PD, DRDA, Baripada).
Around 2000 community people from the 43 villages of Similipal SRT and Jassipur block, many government officials witnessed the programme. Chakradhar Hembram, the Zilla Parishad Member who is also the Member of the FRA District Level Committee (DLC) gave inaugural speech. Dharmendra Mallik, the Block Development Officer(BDO) Jassipur, presided over the meeting and shared the objective of the programme.
Distributing the CFR titles to different villages of STR, Rajesh Prabhakar Patil Said, “out of the 4000 villages in the Mayurbhanja district, around 3000 villages are very close to the forest and are eligible to get CFR rights recognized under FRA, 2006.” He further said, “recognition of CFR titles to these village is more valuable for people living in the Similipal which they needs to preserve for their next generation.”
Mangal Singh Madi, the local MLA congratulated both the community people and the district administration and said, “while the local people of the area are living a life under threat from the Wildlife Department people who are also trying to forcefully relocate some of them, now they can do so and it would be easier for the district administration to extend all necessary support to their doorstep and work to improve the quality of life in the area.”
It is to be noted that after the forest rights (amendment) Rules, 2012, the district administration of Mayurbhanja took the CFR claim making process as campaign mode and started the process before 2 years in 2013. While in most of the other districts of Odisha, the tribal department works as the nodal department, the district Collector made the Revenue Department as “Nodal Agency” for FRA implementation in the district. He appointed around 79 retired RIs/Amins and 139 new RIs/Amens for the process and expedited the claim making process. He took the help of the volunteers of the Civil Society Organizations i.e CREFTDA working on FRA in the Jassipur area and of Vasundhara(a State based NGO working on FRA) for mapping the CFR area with the help of GPS/GIS machine.
While the Mayurbhanja district spread over an area of 10418 Sq.km(25,73,246 acres), the total area of STR itself is 2750 Sq. km (6,79,250 acres) and the total CFR area recognized to 43 villages under Community Forest Resource(CFR) is 24786.23 Hectares(61,965.57 acres). The SRT was conferred with legal status as per provisions of Section 38V of Wildlife (Conservation) Act, 1972 vide notification No. 8F(T)-9/2007/20801/ F&E on dated 31st December, 2007. There are 44 villages in the Similipal Sanctuary (19 villages in Gudugudia G.P. 14 villages in Barehipani G.P and 11 villages in Astakuanar G.P). CFR titles have been issued to all villages expect village Jenabil which was relocated from area in the year 2010-11. There was also news of gross violation of Forest Rights Act, non recognition of Individual Forest Rights, huge problems of health and extension basic facilities including of PDS rice and forceful attempts by Wildlife department and district administration to relocate the Village Jamunagah in June 2014.
Jitendra Sahu, who helped the villagers in the CFR boundary determination process and was present in CFR title distribution ceremony said “CFR titles issued under FRA is the “Surakhya Kawatch” for the community people of Similipal”. He further cautioned that these CFR titles would have no meaning if the district administration and wildlife Department do not respect it and provide continuous support to the community in the coming days.”
Dhaneswar Mahanto(Mantu) of CREFTDA who was present in the occasion said, CFR titles distribution would not be helpful if the illegal restriction by Wildlife Department for collection of minor forest produce(which has been their primary source of livelihood) do not withdrawn and convergence of developmental programme does not extend to the community people living in the sanctuary. The district administration should come up with budget allocation for the fulfillment of basic needs of the tribal”.
Y. Giri Rao, Director of Vasundhara congratulated the forest dwellers of the area said “this is for the first time in the whole country that the CFR titles have been issued after mapping the traditional access area/boundary with the GPS machine.” He further requested the district administration to make correction of the record of rights (RoR) based on the CFR area recognized under CFR as soon as possible to avoid further conflict in future”. “We are very much hopeful that with the legal recognition of community rights over forest, all the problems and miseries being faced by the Similipal people would end.” He said.
Dr. Manohar Chauhan, Member of Campaign for Survival and Dignity(CSD) ,Odisha giving his observation over the CFR titles issued said, “While the district administration had not mentioned the CFR area in the CFR titles issued before two months to the Jamungarh village despite GPS reading, when we raised the issue in media, this time they have mentioned the CFR area in the CFR titles issued in Annxure-III against the claim filed in form ‘B’ which should have been in fact mentioned in Annexure-IV issued against the claim from ‘C”. He further wanted correction in the FRA status reports being produced by FRA State level Monitoring Committee(SLMC)who arbitrarily repeats the CFR area recognized against ‘C’ form also against ‘B’ form and committing a gross mistake.
Besides, CFR and CR titles distribution, 94 individual Forest Rights(IFR) titles also distributed were distributed. In the same programme “Biju Gaon Gadi Yojana” was also inaugurated and health camp was organized. Among others who were present in the occasion are, Neheru Majhi(Tahasildar Jassipur), Harish Chandra Bista(Conservator of Forest), Aurobinda Dakua(PD, DRDA), Ajit Sathpathy(STR Deputy Director), Bhagbat Mandi(DLC Member), Brahmanand Behera(PA, ITDA, Baripada), Sarpanch and PRI members of all three G.Ps (Gudugudia,Barehipali and Astakuanr),Manoj Kumar Dehuri, Shayam Saundar Sahoo, Tanuja Mishra and Bibhor Deo from Vasundhara.