"Forms are yet to be given. We were told that the forms would be circulated by the frc," says Pradhan Majhi, a Santhal from Godibari, a village near Bhubaneswar. Majhi and others, mostly unlettered, in the village attended the palli sabha, or the village committee meeting, on March 18. They put their signatures or, thumb impressions on a register and came back with the knowledge that a committee was formed and that they would get forms to file claims.
They were told that claim applications needed to be submitted within 90 days of the meeting. "We were told we could apply even on plain paper but there is no one to help us out. Does it mean we won't be able to claim after all?" asks Majhi. Laxmidhar Soren, member of the Godibari frc, had no idea about when the forms would be issued. "The sub-divisional level committee was supposed to supply the forms," he says.
Villagers across the state are as confused as Majhi and Soren. The targeted beneficiaries in several villages of Chandaka area, visited by dte, have not received the forms and the sarpanches plead helplessness. Forty-year-old Ram Chatar of Kantabad panchayat is also awaiting the forms and so is Sabitri Mundri of the same village. They had attended the palli sabha on April 27. Kantabad sarpanch Bhabgrahi Sahu says he has done his job by organizing the palli sabha and ensuring formation of the frc, but has not been told anything about when the forms will be issued.
The state's panchayati raj department had set March 16 and March 23 as the dates for organizing these meetings. It later extended the date to April 30. R K Pani, additional secretary, panchayati raj department, said June 30 was the new deadline.
Tara Dutt, commissioner-cum-secretary, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Development, Minorities and Backward Class Welfare, the nodal department for the execution of the Act, claims 35,249 frcs have been formed and 483 claims received till the end of April. He expects the number of claims to be around 0.3 million by now, which, like Chhattisgarh, is a small (3) percentage of the state's 2001 tribal population.
There appears to be a lack of coordination between the nodal Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Welfare Department and the three other departments--forest, panchayati raj and revenue--involved in the implementation of the Act. SC Mohanty, the principal chief conservator of forests and a member of the state-level monitoring committee, sums it up saying his department did not have a major role to play in the present situation.
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