Srinagar, Dec 14: Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha Monday assured a delegation of tribal population that Forest Rights Act is being implemented in Jammu and Kashmir and government was working with an agenda of equitable and balanced development for the upliftment of all the sections of the society.
A delegation of De-notified Nomadic Tribes Development Council (All India) called on Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha at Raj Bhavan on Monday.
The delegation led by Anil Devidas Phad (National Secretary) apprised the Lt Governor about various welfare issues of the tribal community and submitted a memorandum of demands pertaining to the establishment of De-notified Nomadic Tribes Development Board in J&K on the line of the Central Board, a District level Grievances Redressal Council for De-notified Nomadic tribes, a domestic survey of De-notified Nomadic and Semi-nomadic tribes among other issues.
Sources privy to the meeting told news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service (KINS) that Sinha assured the members of the delegation that the issues put forth by them shall be taken up for consideration on merit.
“The Lt Governor observed that the Forest Rights Act is being implemented in the UT and the Government is working with an agenda of equitable and balanced development for the upliftment of all the sections of the society,” sources said.
Recently, Chief Secretary, B V R Subrahmanyam also chaired the maiden meeting of the UT-level Monitoring Committee, constituted under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 which was recently made applicable to Jammu and Kashmir.
It was informed that under the Act, the forest-dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers will be provided the rights over forestland for the purpose of habitation or self-cultivation/livelihood; ownership, access to collect, use, and dispose of minor forest produce, and entitlement to seasonal resources among others. “However, the rights conferred under this Act shall be heritable but not alienable or transferrable.”
The Chief Secretary has impressed upon the Forest Department to kick start the initial survey of claimants by the Forest Rights Committees and assess the nature and extent of rights to be recognized and protected.
A sub-committee under the chairpersonship of Commissioner Secretary, Forest, Ecology & Environment was also constituted to devise a suitable review mechanism, criteria and indicators for monitoring the process of recognition and vesting of forest rights along with appropriate monitoring formats.
There are hundreds of Gujjars and Bakarwals who have been served eviction notices for the last few weeks across Jammu and Kashmir.
Forest dwellers like Gujjars or Bakarwals have been demanding extension of Forest Rights Act to J&K so that they too can enjoy “rights” on the forest land.
Gujjars, Bakerwals, among the tribal population, mostly depend on forest land for their livelihoods and shelter and is third largest community in Jammu and Kashmir after Kashmiris and Dogras. They primarily rear cattle, goats, and sheep.
On December 18, 2006, Indian Parliament passed Forest Right Act- 2006 whereby the Schedule Tribe and other traditional forest dwellers are entitled to graze their cattle in forestland, access water resources and establish livelihoods based on forest produce. It was the product of a long struggle by India’s marginal communities to reclaim their rights over the forestland on which they have been dependent since decades.
The Act could not be implemented as Jammu and Kashmir had Article 370 owing to which central laws were not being directly implemented in the erstwhile state.
The BJP had cited the erstwhile semi-autonomous status as main reason for its non-implementation.
On August 5, 2019, Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre abrogated Article 370 which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir and 106 central laws including Forest Rights Act were directly applicable to new Union Territory.
In 2018, Qamar Hussain, who was then a PDP legislator had moved a bill in the former J&K assembly seeking implementation of the Forest Rights Act in the erstwhile state. However, the BJP had opposed the bill. Chowdhary Lal Singh, the then Forest Minister told the Assembly that Forest Rights Act cannot be implemented in J&K without the consent of the state legislature given J&K’s special status under the Indian constitution.
The Gujjars, Bakarwal constitute around 15 percent population of Jammu and Kashmir and are largely nomadic Muslim groups. (KINS)