Effective implementation of forest rights laws, particularly in Maoist-hit areas, and socio-economic uplift of tribals will be the main focus of the Tribal Ministry in the year to come. Losing of land and livelihood because of “poor” implementation of the Forest Rights Act is one of the prime reasons for the surge of Maoist insurgency in different parts of the country, according to Union Tribal Minister Jual Oram.
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Seeking active cooperation of states to ensure effective implementation of the act to curb Left-wing extremism, Oram says his ministry has asked at least 10 states inclduing Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Telangana, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Bihar to review all rejected claims for land titles since the legislation came into force on December 31, 2007.
“There is reluctance especially on part of the state forest departments to give forest rights to tribal communities. “In the coming year, we will strive to ensure that states implement the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act effectively so that forest dwellers get the rights to the forest land and resources, where their forefathers settled centuries ago and also to prevent them from getting influenced by Maoists,” Oram told PTI.
Observing that there were “a high number rejections” of land titles, he said scrutiny had revealed that “majority of those (rejections) were based on invalid and trivial grounds”. Uttar Pradesh reported the highest rejection rate at 80.03 per cent followed by West Bengal (68.56 per cent), Maharasthra (64.88), Madhya Pradesh (60.74) and Chhattisgarh (59.03).
The ministry has identified 163 priority districts: 94 of them having more than 50 per cent of tribal population and 69 districts having at least 25 per cent of tribal population. “The Ministry will focus on development of health, education, skill development, agriculture and employment in these districts in the coming year. Improvement in these spheres will also prevent them from getting influenced by Maoists.
“The Ministry is collaborating with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to build a framework suited to the need and requirement of tribal people. We plan to set up one multi-skilling institute in each of these districts to cater to the development and promotion of sustainable livelihood avenues in tribal areas through entrepreneurship and skill-upgrade,” says Oram.