Farmers called off their protest Thursday following Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s assurances that all pending claims and appeals under the Forest Rights Act will be taken up in mission mode, and that compensation for crop losses will be extended to drought-affected tribals who have made FRA claims on land they till.
Fadnavis also assured the protesting farmers that directions would be issued to banks to give loans and benefits of other government schemes once land titles are transferred to the tilrs’ names. Fadnavis held a meeting with a delegation of farmers and tribals led by Pratibha Shinde, general secretary of the Lok Sangharsh Morcha, on Thursday afternoon, the second day of the farmers’ protest in Mumbai. “The tribal farmers’ demands are justified and all departments concerned should work on mission mode to resolve their issues. The forest land rights claims should be cleared immediately. The tribal farmers whose claims are pending will be given drought compensation,” said the CM.
He added there would be stronger monitoring of the process of tackling pending claims under the FRA, and the status would be reviewed after three months. “Besides fast-tracking pending forest land rights claims, the criminal cases registered against tribals (for encroachment) will be withdrawn,” said Fadnavis.
Minister for Water Resources Girish Mahajan, Minister for Tribal Development Vishnu Savara, Minister of State for Cooperation Gulabrao Patil, Chief Secretary D K Jain, Shinde and others were present at the meeting. District collectors of Palghar, Dhule, Jalgaon, Nandurbar, Nashik, Chandrapur and Gadchiroli also joined the meeting via video conferencing.
March — and the long, tough road to resolution
For the second time this year, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has promised farmers who marched to Mumbai quick resolution of grievances over the implementation of The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, a legislation enacted in 2006 granting forest-dwelling communities rights and legal titles. With the state staring at another drought year ahead of an election year, the government will have to seriously consider the demand for compensation. The larger issue — of implementing the Act — remains complex. The CM’s promise in March — that all claims would be resolved within six months — remains unfulfilled. Since 2006 and until September this year, of the 3,60,452 claims for Individual Forest Rights (IFR) registered by potential beneficiaries, only 1,14,432 have been finally accepted through a three-tier claims processing system. Of 1,22,043 appeals filed, only 55,609 have been accepted.
Addressing the gathering of farmers at Azad Maidan after the meeting, Shinde said: “Our demands have been accepted by the government and they have assured us that they will fast-track the pending claims.” In the evening, Shinde announced that the agitation has been call off.
Earlier in the day, Dhananjay Shinde of AAP said the party would stand with the farmers. “It needs to be seen how the government plans to give separate 7/12 extracts to tribals after their claims are approved. It will make things easier for them to avail of benefits of government schemes,” he added.
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly and Congress’ Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, NCP legislators Shashikant Shinde and Vidya Chavan, Shiv Sena Minister Vijay Shivtare also came to Azad Maidan to extend their support.
The farmers started marching towards Azad Maidan from a ground near Chunabhatti where they had halted Wednesday evening. They reached Azad Maidan around 11.30 am Thursday.