Gujarat: Forest dwellers get title rights

Parts of forest area were allotted to these tribal farmers under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, but ownership of the land still rested with the government.

Written by Kumar Anand | Lunawada | Updated: August 15, 2015 1:33 am
Anandiben Patel at a pre-Independence Day event at Santrampur in Mahisagar. Bhupendra Rana Anandiben Patel at a pre-Independence Day event at Santrampur in Mahisagar. Bhupendra Rana

The Gujarat government has decided to give legal possession rights to forest dwellers so that they could enjoy benefits of various government schemes for regular farmers and avail bank loans against property, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel said Friday.

The announcement was made during a function at Santrampur in the newly-carved Mahisagar district where the Chief Minister handed “order letters” of land ownership to around 800 tribal farmers. Parts of forest area were allotted to these tribal farmers under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, but ownership of the land still rested with the government.

To facilitate the process, tribal settlements in forest area would be listed as revenue villages. According to a forest department official, despite getting the ownership, a tribal family would be allowed to sell the land to a non-tribal person or use it for any purpose other than farming.

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“When I learnt that the land that is being given to tribal farmers under the Forest Rights Act did not actually belonged to them, and they did not enjoy ownership of the land as other farmers do, we decided to make changes. If the forest land is not given in the name of the tribals, it will make it difficult for them to avail bank loans and other benefits by using land as guarantee,” said the Chief Minister at the pre-Independence Day event. Patel would unfurl the national flag in Lunawada, the headquarters of Mahisagar district, on Saturday.

“We have rectified the process further so that the land is issued in the names of both husband and wife, so that if something happens to the man, his wife’s rights over the land is not snatched away,” she said. “Each tribal village will be given the status of a revenue village.”

Under the Forest Rights Act, forest dwellers also get community ownership of shared resources like grazing fields, forests, or ponds falling under the forest area.

Patel said her government was taking several steps for the betterment of the tribal population and stressed the importance of Govind Guru University, which has been proposed near Godhra. Nearly 35 per cent population in Mahisagar district belong to the tribal community.

At a “woman empowerment” event, organised at Virpur in the same district, Patel exhorted women to get their free medical check-up done.

“So far, only 8 lakh women have undergone check-up at their respective CHCs and government hospitals for breast and cervical cancer. Of them, 8,759 women have detected positive for breast cancer and 7,926 of cervical cancer. Of 7.5 lakh persons who underwent diabetic test, around 60,000 tested positive. As many as 435 children have been given plastic surgery. I would request you all to take up medical test so that cancer could be prevented at early stage,” she noted.

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