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ONLY about 28 per cent of the minimum potential for Community Forest Rights in Maharashtra has been recognised since the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006 came into force. Data compiled by the Tribal Development department shows that out of 12,009 claims for Community Forest Rights (CFR) received in total since the Forest Rights Act (FRA) came into force, a total of 8,719 claims progressed to the District Level Committees, the third tier of the approval process. Of these, 7,359 claims were accepted, or 61.27 per cent.
The FRA accords rights to forest-dwelling communities including Individual Forest Rights and Community Forest Rights. The latter are rights to “protect, regenerate or conserve or manage” common forest lands to which the community traditionally had access – including, for example, control over forest produce such as tendu leaves or bamboo. CFR titles and rights are vested in the Gram Sabhas.
Land titles for CFR have been granted for 25,71,971.99 acres until April end. Of this, the largest chunk is in Gadchiroli district, where CFR titles for 11,65,316.17 acres have been granted. The second highest acreage granted for CFR is in Nandurbar district where titles for 2,16,723.10 acres have been granted till April end.
A 2017 report by the CFR Learning and Advocacy Group Maharashtra, as part of the National Community Forest Rights-Learning and Advocacy (CFR-LA) process said Maharashtra is actually one of the leading states in the implementation of CFR, mainly on account of the high rate of recognition in a few districts, particularly Gadchiroli, where peoples’ movements and the work of particular district collectors have led to greater awareness on the law and better implementation.
Quoting data compiled until November 2016, the report said CFR titles had been granted for 7,260 sq km, or 20 per cent of the absolute minimum CFR potential of 36,209 sq km spread across 33 districts.
By the end of April 2018, this figure has grown to 10,408.40 sq km, or 28 per cent. Some districts have granted zero CFR, including Sangli and Kolhapur, with minor tribal populations. In Sangli, all 197 claims made since 2006 were rejected by the Sub Divisional Level Committees (SDLC). In Kolhapur, there were 239 claims, of which 138 progressed to the DLC, all rejected there.
Aurangabad also shows zero claims for CFR accepted, all 88 claims pending with the SDLCs. Hingoli received no claims. In Washim, of 113 claims received, 111 were rejected by the SDLC. The remaining two are pending with the DLC.