A sensitisation programme among the forest dwellers about the Forest Rights Act (FRA) was held recently in Nilgiri. All stakeholders like panchayati raj bodies, forest and revenue officers, forest dwellers took part in the meeting.

Retired bureaucrat Hrusikesh Panda addressed the gathering while assistant conservator of forests M P Dora spoke of the provisions in the Act.

“There are 18 criteria for consideration of eligibility for patta of forest land but one has to fulfil at least two conditions for consideration. The tribals dwelling or depending on the forest land prior to December 2005 will be given pattas whereas for non-tribals they have to provide proof that they have been dwelling or seeking out living for at least three generations or more than 75 years,” said Dora.

“Under the Act, a forest dweller can be given maximum 4 hectares of land or the quantum of land which is under his possession that is less than 4 hectares. The pattas issued to the forest dwellers are neither alienable nor transferrable under any circumstances,” he said.

For the forest land pattas as many as 2805 applications were received across the district including from Kuldhia, Nilgiri, Jaleswar,Soro and Chandipur. A hundred and fifty were rejected following scrutiny owing to various deficiencies.

The pattas are issued after final approval of a district level committee which include district collector, divisional forest officer and district welfare officer.

“So far, 2510 applications are cleared for issuance of pattas by the forest department,” said a forest official.

The Nilgiri sub collector, Aboli S Narwane, who was also in the meeting said: “The stakeholders were informed about the rule and their rights. Emphasis was laid on formation of new village level committees comprising local PRI members and revenue official, which were defunct.”