Govt may soon allot forest land in non-scheduled areas
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As Chief Minister Narendra Modi distributed 4,700 land-ownership titles under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) at the Garib Kalyan Mela in Chhota Udepur on Monday, top state officials said a government resolution to similarly allot forest land to communities in non-scheduled areas (non-tribal areas) would be issued soon. However, this is not likely to cover agariyas, or salt-workers.
According to a senior official, the files related to the expected government resolution is currently with Additional Chief Secretary R M Patel, who told The Indian Express that the resolution is being finalised but refused to divulge further details.
The official said the state-level monitoring committee had met in June to discuss, among other things, the Act's implementation in non-scheduled areas. As things stand now, forest land would be allocated not to individual families but to communities for common use, the official said, adding that only fishing and pastoral communities would be eligible to get these lands.
Another senior official said the issue of the Act's implementation in non-scheduled areas has been complicated by financial and administrative problems arising from jurisdiction matters. The Tribal Development Department, which is implementing the Act, does not have jurisdiction over non-scheduled areas, and cannot use its funds for non-tribals.
The official added that the government has asked the Centre to amend the part of the Act that defines "other traditional forest dwellers", which the pastoral and fishing communities in non-scheduled areas would fall under.
"The Act says these communities should have lived in and used resources from the forest for three generations, one generation calculated as 25 years. But where will we find a 93-year-old person in the forest, since the statement of someone who was not yet 18 when the community began living there would be unreliable," said the official.
Nevertheless, communities in non-tribal areas, especially Kutch, seem to be in no mood to wait for the government to take a decision as a recent meeting of representatives from the government, non-government organisations and communities, which pursue traditional livelihoods, appeared to show.
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