Odisha food commission stresses on FRA to beat hunger

Panel chief writes to all collectors to implement Forest Rights Act properly

By Ishan Kukreti
Last Updated: Thursday 18 April 2019
A forest in Odisha. Photo: Getty Images
A forest in Odisha. Photo: Getty Images A forest in Odisha. Photo: Getty Images

Odisha State Food Commission chairperson Ranglal Jamuda has written to all the district collectors of the state regarding the poor implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) and how it is endangering the food security of people.  

In a series of letters sent on April 5, 9 and 10, Jamuda has raised concerns over the process of rejecting claims, creation of Forest Rights Committees (FRCs) and the status of convergence of welfare activities with FRA.

“The bulk of rejections are at the level of the Gram Sabha. During field visits, the impression gathered from the public is that the claimants under the FRA, 2006 have not received any written communication from the concerned Gram Panchayats as provided under Rule 12A(3) or Rule 12A(10) of the Forest Rights Amendment Rules, 2012. The situation may be more or less identical regarding the claims rejected by the Sub-Divisional Level Committee (SDLC) or District Level Committee (DLC),” he said, drawing the attention of the collectors to the violations of the provisions of FRA related to rejecting a claim, adding, “Needless to mention that all these aggrieved claimants are still struggling to achieve freedom from hunger.”

Under FRA, a claim for legal recognition of traditional rights on forest land is made at the Gram Sabha Level Committee (GSLC). This claim, after scrutiny, goes to the SDLC and then finally to the DLC. While a claim can be rejected at any of these three levels, an appeal can be made against the rejections by the GSLC and SDLC.   

Jamuda’s letter also took up the issues a claimant faces once her claim is approved by the DLC.

“Though certificates of titles have been distributed to 4,27,889 title holders, actual demarcation of land has been completed only in respect of 3,01,812 cases. Demarcation of land is still pending for 1,26,079 cases and the bulk of them relate to five districts namely Keonjhar (37,266), Nabarangpur (26,747), Koraput (17,481), Sundargarh (9,1l0) and Kandhamal (6,189). These five districts account for 96,793 pending cases representing 76.77 per cent of the total pendency,” the letter noted.

There is a huge gap in the convergence of FRA and welfare schemes in the state. Out of 4,27,889 Individual Forest Rights (IFR) title holders, only 1,53,306 (35.83 per cent) households have been assisted under various rural housing schemes, according to data quoted in the letter. The percentage of coverage is miniscule in districts like Bolangir (18.32 per cent), Deogarh (22.36 per cent), Dhenkanal (28.99 per cent), Jajpur (7.22 per cent), Jharsuguda (20.04 per cent), Mayurbhanj (9.27 per cent), Nabarangpur (25.91 per cent), Nayagarh (22.90 per cent), Sambalpur (27.65 per cent) and Sundargarh (21.55 per cent).

“As per the norms laid down by the government, these IFR title holders are to be accorded the top most priority in the matter of assistance under various rural housing schemes like Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana, Mo Kudia, Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana etc. But the ground realities are really very discouraging,” the letter says.

“FRA is a really important legislation to ensure food security for forest dwellers, whose population is around 300 million. This is a great step taken by the Odisha State Food Commission. Other states should also learn from this,” said Giri Rao of Vasundhara, an Odisha based non-profit working on FRA-related issues.

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