Bhubaneswar, Dec 30: The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha community based federation of tribal and forest dwellers, has urged the Ministry of Tribal Affairs(MoTA), the Nodal Ministry to monitor the Forest Rights Act(FRA) implementation in the country, to issue early direction to Odisha government to halt the implementation of “Ama Jungle Yojana”(AJY).
In its letter sent to Arun Jha, Secretary, MoTA; CSD, Odisha has condemned the State Department for lunching the Ama Jungle Yojana despite strong reservation from the Campaign. CSD has alleged that the objective of “Ama Jungle Yojana” is to promote Vana Surakhya Samittee(VSS) under JFM and to usurp the constitutional power of the Gram Sabha(the Authority) recognised under Forest Rights Act, 2006.
CSD alleged that the project would be launched for six years from 2016-17 to 2021-22 with an estimation of Rs.1170.02 crores and around 700 new VSS and Eco Development Committees would be formed in 30 territorial and wildlife divisions in the state. The project will be implemented through Odisha Forestry Sector Development Society in partnership with selected NGOs and VSS members at the field level. An area of up to 50 hectares will be assigned to each of the 7000 VSSs covering a total area of 3,50,000 hectares.
CSD has made the department responsible for poor recognition of community forest rights in Odisha. As per the state government reports there has been no progress of recognition of CFR in the state for last 2 years and while 30,000 villages out of 50,000 villages eligible to get community rights over forest, till date only 1500 villages said to have haphazardly recognised community rights in Odisha.
Thus when the recognition of community forest rights and community rights over CFR is in the pre-stage and under process, the forest department cannot take forward in implementing this scheme by sabotaging the historic rights tribal and forest dwellers.
CSD had demanded to dissolve VSS/JFM after the act is enacted, but the forest department in Sept 2011 had changed the forest official as the Secretary of VSS and kept a member of the village as the Secretary in the VSS confirming PESA, 1996 and FRA in the JFM Resolution, 2011 (http://www.odisha.gov.in/forest_environment/Forest_resolution/pdf/JFM_Resolution_2011_Gazette.pdf), However, it reverted back the forest officials as the Secretary of the VSS/JFMC in June 2015 (Vide Notification No 9182 of dated 1-6-2015)
CSD has also raised serious concern over the role of Odisha Forestry Sector Development Society (OFSDS) and said OFSDS is an implementing agency of forest department and cannot replace the authority of the Gram Sabha, the statutory body under FRA. “In fact, the main objective of the scheme is to provide financial support to OFSDS which has become more venerable after closer of JICA project”, CSD alleged in the letter.
Targeting the Nodal STSC Department, CSD alleged that it has failed to protect the rights and interest of the Tribal and has become slave of the forest department. “The inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the STSC Department is also due to the appointment of IFS officer (R. Raghu Prashad) as in charge in the FRA Desk. This is not the first time that the IFS officer is in the FRA Desk, in last 7 years of FRA implementation, the State has consciously appointed the IFS officials i.e.Mr.Vinod Kumar(IFS), Mr.Chadda(IFS) in FRA Desk to sabotage the recognition of community forest rights .” Despite MoTA clarification, and CFR protection and management guidelines http://tribal.nic.in/WriteReadData/CMS/Documents/201504230255000176646guidelines.pdf, the Govt. of Odisha on 21st July 2015 in the SLMC, had arbitrarily decided to convert VSS as Gram Sabha’s Forest Protection and Management committee formed or to be formed under Section 4(1) (e) of Forest Rights Rules,2007 http://www.stscodisha.gov.in/pdf/Proceeding_8th_SLMC_FRA_21072015.pdf. And despite MoTA strong directionhttp://tribal.nic.in/WriteReadData/userfiles/file/Odisa.pdf to the state government to withdraw the 21st July illegal decision and humiliation faced, it is a shame to the Govt. of Odisha for going ahead with this AJY. Besides, very recently, when the SFD sought comments on the AJY from the STSC Dept.in spite of out rightly rejecting and dismissing the “Ama Jungle Yojana” has not raised any substantive objection to AJY.
CSD is of the view that VSS can never be converted into Forest Protection and Management Committee formed or to be formed by the Gram Sabha under Section 4(1) (e) as the provisions under it is contradictory to the basic principles of FRA, 2006 i.ewhile Gram sabha is the decision making body under FRA, the Forest Department is the decision maker in VSS, while under FRA, the ‘executive committee’of the Gram Sabha would bemember of the Gram Sabha only and no government officials can become the member, in VSS Forester/forest guard is the ex-officio secretary.Besides, under FRA Gram Sabha is the authority to determine the boundary Community Forest Resource (CFR) area and empower to protect and manage it, in VSS the Forest Department assigns the forest area to a VSS and VSS is mandatory to work as per Forest Working Plan of the Forest Department etc. “Thus any attempt to convert VSS into Forest Protection and Management committee formed or to be formed under Section 4(1) (e) will subvert the spirit of the FRA, 2006 and would draw legal problem. Hence, it should be immediately halted” CSD Claimed.
Targeting the 119 NGOs applied and 23 NGOs selected for this “Ama Jungle Yojana” Project, CSD has condemned these NGOs for losing their moral and social responsibility towards the tribals and forest dwellers. “It is ridiculous that many of these NGOs claim to have been working on PESA, 1996 and FRA, 2006”. CSD has urged the MoTA to cancel theRegistration and FCRA of these NGOs since they are involved in anti-tribal and anti-community violating the FRA.
In its petition filed to ArunJha, marking a copy to the Chief Secretary, Govt.of Odisha, CSD has asked the Govt. of Odishainstead of promoting AJY to take proactive steps in recognition of CFR rights in the State. CSD is of the view that “once the Community Forest Resource(CFR) area is recognised, the Gram Sabha will form its own ForestProtection, Conservation and Management Committee under Section 4 (I) (e) of FR Rules, 2007and will definitely seek technical support of the Forest Department and financial support if any from other line Departments as and when required.”
CSD has urged the MoTA to issue early direction to the Govt. of Odisha to halt “Ama Jungle Yojana” project targeted be start from Jan, 2016 and to avoid possible resentments from the tribal and forest dwellers of the State and legal conflicts with the FRA.