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Maharashtra: Forest rights for dwellers in 55 critical wildlife habitats within three months

Acting on a recent Bombay High Court order, the state has issued directives asking officials to take up the settlement of such claims on a war footing.

Maharashtra: Forest rights for dwellers in 55 critical wildlife habitats within three months Over the years, tribal activists have been organising protests against delays in the conferment of individual and community rights to forest dwellers. (Representational Image)

FOREST RIGHTS claims of tribal and forest dwelling communities residing inside critical wildlife habitats in Maharashtra will be settled within three months. Acting on a recent Bombay High Court order, the state has issued directives asking officials to take up the settlement of such claims on a war footing. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Nagpur) has notified 55 critical wildlife habitats (CWLH) across the state.

Under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Protection of Rights) Act, 2006, which is aimed at undoing historic injustices to forest-dwellers and to strengthen community based forest conservation, it is mandatory to settle the rights of the forest dwellers even in such CWLHs. Over the years, tribal activists have been organising protests against delays in the conferment of individual and community rights to such dwellers.

Following a December 18, 2019 order of the HC, the state tribal development department — the coordinating agency for the implementation of Forest Rights Act — issued a notification on January 10, directing officials from the revenue, forest and tribal departments to settle all claims inside CWLHs in the next three months.

A time-bound action plan for receiving of applications from those dwellers who are yet to apply, examination of their claims, deciding their applications in gram sabhas and divisional committees, and settlement of the appeals pending with the appellate authority was also spelt out. Accordingly, in the next 15 days, forest officials have been directed to submit the list of affected villages and their population to revenue officials. Within two months, gram sabhas have been asked to take a call on all new claims, while the appellate authority has been directed to settle all pending claims in three months.

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Earlier, while hearing a PIL filed by Vanashakti Public Trust, the HC, had on December 18, observed, “We shared the anxiety of both the petitioners and the applicants. In the event of any applications, which have to be made so as to protect the rights, under section 3 of the Act, of the dwellers, if not made till now, we grant three months time to make the same. If these applications are received and found to be in order, the claims raised shall be dealt with and decided strictly in accordance with the law. Similarly, all claims received and pending at the initial stage shall also be decided within the period. We also expect the appellate authority, which may have been approached by those whose claims have been partially or fully reject to deal with the appeals expeditiously and take a decision within the above mentioned duration.”

First published on: 12-01-2020 at 02:55:05 am
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