|Voices for Change
A National Level Public Hearing ‘Voices for Change’ was organised by Indo-Global Social Service Society to Represent the Cases of Individual and Community Claims of Tribal Women under the Forest Rights Act, 2006
NEW DELHI: A national level public hearing ‘Voices for Change’ was organised by Indo-Global Social Service Society at Indian Social Institute with an objective to represent the cases of individual and community claims of tribal women under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The hearing was attended by 120 women and men from Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Rajasthan. The hearing discussed women’s experiences whose claims over land have been rejected. The hearing examined the consequences and came up with recommendations to redress the issues faced by the tribal community even after the implementation of Forest Rights Act, 2006.
The panel was comprised representatives from National Commission of Women, Dr. Charu Wali Khanna, Jharkhand State Commission of Women, Ms. Vasavi Kiro, Member, Drafting Committee of FRA, Ms. Madhu Sarin, Dr. Mohini Giri and activists gave insightful recommendations to further the proper implementation of Forest Rights Act. Tomorrow, the group is presenting the cases with their recommendations to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
People who came to the hearing have shared how the Forest Rights Act, 2006 is being misused by the officials who file false cases against them to prevent them in pursuing their claims. Their crops are being burnt and they are being prevented to collect even the minor forest produce. They also reported of regular harassment by the Forest Department officials and of their resolution to continue their struggles nonetheless.
The panel came up with the following recommendations:
- The Government should take major initiatives increase awareness on the Forest Right Act and its provisions. To further facilitate this, the Act should be translated into local dialects such that communities have easier access to the same.
- The role and purpose of the Forest Department in the context of the Forest Rights Act needs to be defined.
- The process of claim filing needs to be demystified such that the individuals and communities are facilitated to put forward their claims for entitlement and ownership.
- Entitlements of single women over land and other resources needs to be emphasized as this is a particularly vulnerable section with regard to entitlements and claims for such.
Kanta – A case study:130 kilometers from the district headquarters, at Kanta, lives Shankari Bai, a landless Bhil woman. Among her two sons, one used to be a bonded labourer while the other used to work as agricultural labour. She herself used to be involved in daily wage labour previously – 15 years ago, she worked upon a plot of barren land (5 bighas) under the Forest Department and started earning her living off the land. Her family also used to subsist on the foodgrains cultivated on this plot. Often the Forest Department officials illegitimately claim money from her and upon refusal to comply, they burn down the boundaries and spoil the freshly harvested crops. They even prevent them from collecting firewood and other forest produce from the forest areas. She also been fined a number of times and has had to pay up. Yet, she continues to live off the forest land, as this is her only means of survival. After the FRA came into existence in 2006, she tried to claim her rights to land under its provisions but was threatened by officials from the Forest Department. She has raised her voice in protest, with the help of the organisation, but has yet to receive her rights under the Act.