“They keep saying we will get it today or tomorrow. But we never do.” Despair is written all over Santuram’s face, as he shares his fight to right under Forest Rights Act with our Community Correspondent Khirendra Yadav.
Farmers in Nevta village of Kondagaon development area in Chattisgarh have been struggling to get ownership rights to their farmlands since 1993. It has been a long wait of over 28 years as various authorities promised to deliver their land deeds at the earliest. But so far, only five of them have received it. As a result, eight families are struggling till date running from Sarpanch to District Collector to get their ownership documents. This is happening despite the fact that under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), this land rightfully belongs to these farmers as the law decrees that forest-dwellers have the complete right to hold and live in the forest lands that they use for habitation, self-cultivation and livelihood.
The Forest Rights Act (FRA) along with the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act is a cornerstone of Indian grassroots democracy. They give forest dwelling communities and individuals a final say with regards to land use. When it came to power in 2006, forest dwelling communities who had fought hard to assert their rights over the land they had lived on for generations met it with enthusiasm. However, the poor state of implementation of this Act has deprived deserving communities of the benefits of the same.
This fact was proven on 5 August when PACS (Poorest Area Civil Society) organised a state-level consultation on the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in Chattisgarh. In this meet, Rebecca David, PACS State Manager for Chattisgarh presented her findings on the status of implementation of FRA in the state. According to her findings, only 8399 Community Forest Rights (CFR) titles have been granted in the state since the Forest Rights Act was passed in 2006, whilst 8851 CFR claims have been rejected. With individual Forest Rights (IFR) titles, although 3,45,279 have been distributed, the rejection rate has been 56.72%.
At the wake of these disappointing figures, this video which raises the call for action to support the right of indigenous tribal families to get their land rights becomes more relevant than ever.
Goreti Kujur, a video journalist for Video Volunteers from Jharkhand, is quite popular in her neighborhood. The villagers, especially women, approach her when they have issues with availing government schemes.