The Forest Department organized a training workshop for implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 for the Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers under the chairmanship of Commissioner Secretary Forest, Ecology and Environment, Sanjeev Verma.
During the workshop, spokespersons interacted with the Tribal groups and various stakeholders including FRC Chairman and members, PRI members and officials of Revenue, Forest and Tribal Affairs department.
The training focused on duties including roles and functions of district level, sub-division level and Gram Sabha level Forest Rights Committees as per the Act and rules made thereunder.
The implementation of the Act involves recognition and vesting of the forest rights on Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers who have been residing in forests for generations but whose rights could not be recognized.
The Act provides a framework for recognition and recording of rights so vested and the nature of evidence required for such recognition and vesting in respect of forest land.
The framework for recording the rights involves procedures and process to be implemented through the Gram Sabha, sub-divisional level and the district level committees as per Section 4 of FRA, 2006 and Rule 11 and 12 of FRA Rules, 2008.
The nature of evidence required are recorded in detail in the rules and also involves field verification by the Forest Rights Committee comprising 10-15 members to be elected among its members by the Gram Sabha as per the relevant rules in this regard.
The Government has already notified constitution of District Level Committee headed by the Deputy Commissioner, Sub-Divisional Level Committee headed by the Sub Divisional Magistrate and comprising officers from Forest, Tribal Affairs and Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department besides non-official members who are nominated by District Panchayat at the level of District and Sub-Divisional Level.
Speaking on the occasion, Sanjeev Verma spoke in detail on history of FRA 2006, key provisions of Act besides discussing in detail in context of its implementation in Jammu and Kashmir. He gave a brief background of Individual and Community rights.
The FDSTs who were residing prior to 13thDecember 2005 and OTFDs who were living for three generations prior to 13th December 2005 alone are eligible. Sanjeev Verma also elaborated the role of various institutions particularly Gram Sabha, Forest Rights Committee, SDLCs and DLCs as well as procedure involved in processing of the claim.
He informed the participants about tribal community that the Forest Department has stopped the auction process of Minor Forest Produce (MFP), a process which was there since last 70-80 years, due to the implementation of Forest Rights Act in J&K.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Shahid Iqbal Chowdhary, Secretary Tribal Affairs department explained that the FRA,2006 will bring change in the livelihood of Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers and help building of community infrastructure by utilizing the funds under CAPEX- Plan as well as from Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI.
He said the Act apart from recognizing the rights also gives various kinds of duties to holders of forest rights to protect the wildlife, forest and biodiversity of the area. In order to improve the process rate of the claims, he stated that Tribal Research Institute is planning training module for various stakeholder which is likely to start shortly.
PCCF (HoFF,) J&K Forest Department, Dr. Mohit Gera, gave a detailed account of status of implementation of Forest Rights Act in J&K, dissemination of claim forms, formats for processing of claims and providing of forest records and maps as well as GPS (technical support) to the frontline staff of the Forest Department.
Dr. Mohit Gera said that Act was extended to J&K from 31stOctober 2019 and implementation started from 1st December 2020. Besides, the right to live and hold forest land, the Act provides for ownership rights on minor forest products which have been traditionally collected by the Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes and OTFDs as well as rights to grazing and access to traditional seasonal resources.
Some of the districts like Rajouri, Poonch, Budgam and Kupwara have received maximum number of claims, so far, which are in different stages of verification and large number of claims have already been decided.
Dr. Mohit Gera stated that to streamline the resource use of Forest dependent communities, “Van Dhan Yojana” has been rolled out by J&K government through the department of Tribal Affairs for inclusive development of Forest dependent tribal communities.
He also called for raising of awareness besides liberal distribution of awareness material among the stakeholders/participants. A short film on Forest Rights Act, 2006 prepared by Forest Department was also screened during the training workshop.
Dr. Javaid Rahi, Tribal Researcher and Social Reformer while speaking in the workshop made aware the participants about role of various institutions like FRC, SDLC & DLC in implementation of the Act along with various procedures for forest rights from making application for the individual & community claim, FRC report, Gram Panchayat resolution etc. and important procedures & processes involved in consideration of claims, at the level of SDLC/ DLC.
Among other spokespersons who spoke on the occasion were Samuel Changkija CCF (S&D), Dr. Arshdeep Singh, DFO Rajouri, Vivek Modi, DFO Billawar and Dr. Abdul Khabir, Deputy Director TRI, Department of Tribal Affairs.
The workshop was attended by DFOs of East circle, ACR Jammu, Field staff including the Range officers and Block foresters and more than hundred members of tribal communities belonging to Gujjar, Bakerwal, Gaddi and Sippi community.
Sarpanchs, Panchs, FRC Chairman, Members from different Panchayats of Jammu Division were among the other participants.