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Organisations demand implementation of FRA in Himachal Pradesh

Bhawani Negi | Shimla |

Even as Himachal Pradesh figured amongst 7 states having been pulled up by the centre, to effectively implement Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006, various organisations in the state are clamouring for its implementation.

These states had been asked last November to implement the FRA which seeks to restore rights for tribal’s living in forest and non-timber forest produce.

Since the FRA notification in 2008, brought about by previous Congress led United Progressive Alliance government, Himachal Pradesh has failed in implementation of the same. Even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had in 2015 called upon the states for its implementation in a campaign mode in 2015.

Other than the natives of tribal district Kinnaur, various organizations have demanded for the implementation of FRA, true to its word and spirit.

Him Lok Jagriti Manch convenor R S Negi said that in Kinnaur district around five and half thousands claims submitted to the Sub-Divisional Level Committee (SDLCs), but no action has been taken so far by the SDLC, District Level Committee (DLC) and state government.

Every time the SDLC and DLC try to create some problems and delaying the process, he said, in addition the Forest department has filed a case against the Forest Rights claimants and gave the eviction notice surprisingly under the direction of high court.

“This is openly the neglect of forest right act 2006. The people of Kinnaur will fight against this and ensure their rights under FRA,” he added.

Himalayan Niti Abhiyan coordinator Guman Singh stated that HNA is supporting the Gram Sabha’s to file the communities forest rights claims in the state and around hundred Gram Sabha’s filed the claims under FRA, but the state government has not taken any step so far.

If the state government fail to recognise the rights of the Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) individual and communities, HNA will start statewide agitations and demonstration against the state government.

Meanwhile, in view of the state government’s decision to examine and explore the possibility as to whether any act can be brought to regularize the encroachments made on government land by small and marginal farmers, Himachal Van Adikar Manch (HVAM) has called FRA as an option to protect small land holders with forest land occupations.

In a memorandum dated January 13, to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, HVAM convenor Askshay Jasrotia maintained that the key provision and objective of this act is to recognise the claims, both individual and common, of local communities on forest lands that they depend on for their livelihoods. This act provides the much needed relief to those who had years of “occupations” on forest land for their day to day survival, he said.

Citing about FRA implementation in other states, HVAM stated even in a developed state like Kerala where forest area is 11309.74 sq kms, less than Himachal, there also 24,599 individual titles have been issued for 33,018.12 acres of forest land.

There was need for clear instruction from the chief minister to implement section 3(1) which recognises the individual and community rights, as he had done for section 3(2), this will push the implementation of the act” added Askshay Jasrotia, convenor of Himachal Van Adhikar Manch.