Even as the Maharashtra government is claiming to be reviving the virtually forgotten joint forest management (JFM),an agitation by some partner villages in Chandrapur district for their dues,is questioning its sincerity.
Hundreds of villagers have been agitating in front of forest department offices in Chandrapur since Thursday,locking up an office and also stopping bamboo auction,demanding their share as JFM partners with the forest department.
Led by Paromita Goswami of Mul-based NGO Shramik Elgar,the protesters Thursday locked up the range forest office at Chichpalli in Mul tahsil and stopped bamboo auction at Sindewahi on Friday.
There are around 530 JFM committees in Chandrapur district. Those,which have completed more than 10 years,are eligible for a share in the value obtained through forest produce like timber and bamboo. However,till date,no money has been paid to any committee. We have consistently followed up this issue with the forest department,including at the level of Forest Secretary Pravin Pardeshi. After persistent follow-up,the department has accounted for shares worth Rs 30 lakh to be given to the various village committees. The total amount for the entire district is about Rs 85 lakh,which is not a very big amount for the government but means a lot to the villages, Goswami told The Indian Express.
She added: On June 17,after we agitated,the forest department gave in writing that the matter would be resolved in a month,but even after three months,nothing is coming through. Chief Conservator of Forests,Chandrapur,Sanjay Thakre has informed us that the proposal has been forwarded to the finance department. We have nothing to do with the redtape in finance department. The money is due to us from the forest department.
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According to Goswami,the government owes Janala village about Rs 1.5 lakh and Agdi Rs 7 lakh (Mul tahsil),Satara Tukum Rs 7 lakh,Asegaon Rs 4 lakh and Gilbili Rs 36 lakh (Pombhurna
A few months ago,the department held a big JFM programme addressed by Anna Hazare,notionally distributing cheques among some villages. What is preventing them from doing this now? Goswami asked.
Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Shree Bhagwan said: We have done the process. The matter is pending with Mantralaya. In government,things take some time. And this has to be understood. In democracy,everyone has a right to protest. From our side,there is no doubt that the money will be released.
Bhagwan cited lack of clarity in the earlier rules as the problem. The present secretary has streamlined the things and has tied the loose ends. Now,all that the protesters need to do is to have a little bit of patience.