January 21, 2009 2:18:45 am
Representatives of over 16 organisations working with the forest tribals in the state met on Tuesday to discuss the challenges in the implementation of the Forest Tribal Rights Act,which was passed in 2006 but has been able to make little difference on the ground level.
Recently,the state government started a survey to identify forest tribals but activists say many communities like the Seharias and the Kols may be excluded from the benefits for lack of documentation.
The Seharias will not find it easy becoming a beneficiary under the Act as despite living on forest land,they will be given the status of tribals only in Jhansi district, said Ajay Srivastava,a social activist from Lalitpur.
Similarly,the 30,000-strong Vantangiyas or Tongiyas,a tribal community living on the Nepal border in districts like Gorakhpur and Maharajganj,do not fall under the purview of the Act as they cannot produce documents to prove they are forest tribals.
The government is asking for their residence records of the past 75 years. But traditionally,the Tongiyas have been a mobile community. They move every five years,although in and around the district. Hence,they may find it difficult to produce such records, said Utkarsh Sinha,a social activist from the region.
For the Kols of Sonebhadra region,the fear of being branded as Naxalites is disturbing. Even those who are not from the families of the Naxalites have to face the stigma. Even if one boy from the village joins the Naxal movement,the entire village is targeted, said Bindu,a social activist from Sonebhadra.
The representatives also decided to help the state government in ensuring that all tribals are made the beneficiaries of the Act.
* The Seharias,the second-biggest tribal community in the Bundelkhand region,has been given Scheduled Tribe status in Jhansi district,but are treated as Scheduled Castes in Lalitpur.
* The Kols,who have a population of nearly 1.75 lakh in Chitrakoot district,do not have any basic amenities in their villages and nearly 80 per cent do not have ration cards.
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