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Officials Threatening Forest Dwellers Hoping for Land Lease
Forest Dwellers Act Has Become a Joke for Tribals
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Own Correspondent
Raipuria, 10 May

After the passage of Schedule Castes/Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act by the Central Government, a piquant situation has developed in the area. While on one hand the villagers are eager to get lease of the forest land in their possession, on the other hand the forest department of the government reaching information about the act has initiated action to dislodge these very tribals from their land.

According to information received, officials of forest department are dislodging the tribals possessing Koon No. 250 at Morjhariya Phaliye of Mohankot in Petlawad forest range. The villagers said that more than 100 families of the village occupied the above land over a decade ago and were earning their livelihood from the same. During these ten years officials of the forest department made several attempts to dislodge the tribals, but the villagers did not give up.

After the passage of the Forest rights Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 and 2007 by the Central Government, these villagers hoped that they would get ownership rights on the forest land, but their hopes are shattering with the attitude of officials and employees of the forest department. According to the villagers, employees of the forest department frequently visit their villages and threaten them with jail if they did not give up their possession of the land.

Secretary of the Forest Dwellers Society, Mohankot, Viru Bhabhar says that instead of proper implementation of the forest act, officials of the forest department reach the villages with guns and threaten the villagers to give up their possession of the land.

According to a senior villager Chhitara Kharadi, forest department officials are not ready to accept their possession for ten years, whereas the act clearly states that those who have possession of the land prior to December 13, 2005, will be given ownership rights on providing sufficient proof.

Villagers murmur that forest officials were demanding lakhs of rupees for giving lease. The forest act passed by the Central Government has become a joke for the villagers.

(Translated from original Hindi news report, published in Nav Bharat, Indore, dated 11 May 2008)