15 Sep :More than half a dozen states lag behind in implementing provisions of a central act aimed at doing away the "historical injustice" done to the tribals in the country.Despite missives of the Central government including Prime Minister himself, these states have failed to implement the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006.
Three states have, meanwhile, informed the Centre that the Act is not applicable there.
As per the latest data on state wise implementation of the Act, tribal state Jharkhand ruled by five tribal chief ministers so far has failed to set-up even Gram Sabhas, the basic units for processing claims of beneficiaries on account of non-holding of Panchayat elections in the state. As such no claims could be received or processed there so far.
Even translation of the Act and the rules in local languages and their distribution, one of the key components of the Act could not be done in Jharkhand.This is happening when even the Minister of State (MoS) for Tribal Affairs Rameshwar Oraon hails from Jharkhand itself.
After the state sought advice of the Union Minister of Tribal Affairs PR Kyndiah in this regard, the Centre recently directed the state to call meetings of beneficiaries by constituting village groups specially for this purpose.
A senior forest official in Jharkhand meanwhile argued that the Act would be applicable only in Chaibasa and Latehar districts of the state, which has forests in non revenue villages.
The response in Chhattisgarh, which was created during the same period is somewhat better, which is in final stages of completing training for the Gram Sabhas.However, even this state could promise to give just 15,000 titles to beneficiaries by July end against 2.5 lakh claims its received.
Only 1.05 lakh claims, which is less than half of the total claims received, could be verified.Moreover the state government is yet to appoint any Nodal Officer for the job.CPI (M) led West Bengal government received just 20 claims of which only five were recommended after verification of altogether seven claims.
The state government nevertheless claimed that the District Magistrates there have been directed to invite claims.Bihar is yet to receive any claim by beneficiaries, although tribals live in a good portion of the state bordering with Jharkhand.
Moreover the state could complete training only in 50 of its 390 Gram Sabhas so far.Claims have not started coming even in Tamil Nadu, which admits to have started awareness programme "in a limited way."
No claims have been received in Rajasthan as well, even as the state informed the Centre that the officials there have already distributed claim forms. It also failed to constitute almost two thirds of Gram Sabhas in non-scheduled areas so far.
Maximum of 2.5 lakh claims have been received by the Chhattisgarh government followed by 2.28 lakh of Andhra Pradesh and 1.3 lakh of Madhya Pradesh. But then huge difference is reported in claims made and recommended in few states.
Orissa could forward only 636 claims for final approval out of 77,894 claims received.
Karnataka argued that training programme and other work relating to the implementation of the Act were delayed due to election, while West Bengal blamed it on flood for not being able to set up Forest Rights Committees (FRCs) in West Medinipur, Bankura and Purullia.
In Meghalaya, the translation of the Act in local languages is held up on account of "non-availability of the Act’s legal lexicon in local languages."Earlier a review by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs showed that while some states moved ahead on the Act, a number of them were still to complete activities related to filing of claims and other works.
This state of affairs prompted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to write to all Chief Ministers on 29th July urging them to give personal attention to expedite action on the matter.
Prior to it on 8th January this year, the PM had also drawn their attention to the need for speedy implementation of the Act.The PM said that it’s primarily the responsibility of the state governments to "ensure that a very vulnerable section of the population of the country finally gets its basic rights over the land, which has historically been in its possession."
However, Nagaland claimed that the Act may not be applicable there owing to its unique land holding pattern.
Haryana said no scheduled tribes and traditional forest dwellers live in its forests while Union Territory (UT) Lakshwadweep says it has "no terrestrial forests and no forest tribes or traditional dwellers there."