NE forest cover area reduced

GUWAHATI: Almost 14 years after its introduction, the Assam government has decided to review the implementation status of the FRA or the ‘Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Right) Act-2006’.

The FRA (Forest Rights Act) seeks to restore the rights of tribal people and traditional forest dwellers living in forests for three generations. Under the Act, the government has to grant land pattas to the tribal people and traditional forest dwellers who had settled in various ‘Bongaons’ and ‘Tongiya Gaons’ set up by the British in various RFs (Reserve Forests) of the State.

“For a number of reasons, the Act could not be implemented in the state. We are reviewing the status of implementation of the Act. We are also planning to settle claims of the settlers within a short period of time,” Minister for Welfare of Plains Tribes and Backward Classes (WPT& BC) Ranoj Pegu said.

“We have set up the Gaon Sabhas under the Act. We are implementing it in the mission mode,” added Pegu.

Of the 1,31,043 claims received by the Assam government till April 10, 2021, a total of 31,903 cases have been rejected till August 2021, state statistics.

“Most of the cases have been rejected at the Sub Divisional Level Committees (SDLC) before taking any decision by the District Level Committees (DLCs),” said secretary-general of the AATS (All Assam Tribal Sangha) Aditya Khakhlary.

“Despite all efforts, the Assam government has not improved their performance and rejection rates are high,” said Khakhlary.

What is surprising is that there is no response from three hill districts — Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao – on the implementation of the Act.

A total of 21,515 claims have been rejected in un-divided Sonitpur district (including Biswanath district), 4,234 in Nagaon and 1,922 claims have been rejected in Tinsukia district, the official figures stated.

There is a lack of awareness on implementation of FRA not only among the beneficiaries but also among those who are supposed to implement it, Khakhlary said.

After passage of the Act, the Assam government constituted 22 DLCs (District-Level committees) and 30 SDLCs (Sub Divisional Committees) in the State since 2009‐10. A total of 1,387 Gaon Sabhas — covering all the forest villages, hamlets and habitations under 17 DLCs — were also formed. In a meeting on July 16, 2021, Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya has asked all the DFOs (Divisional Forest Officers) of the State to take measures for the implementation of the Act in the State.

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