April 28, 2011 12:50:05 am
After a long battle with the Forest Department,this village in a remote,Naxal-affected part of the state on Thursday became the first village in the country to become eligible to own,cut,use and sell bamboo declared minor forest produce by the Forest Rights Act.
Mendha-Lekha is the also the first village to get community rights over its forest under FRA.
In a programme attended by,among others,Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan,a number of ministers,MLAs and thousands of villagers,Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh not only handed over the much-needed transit passes,which is required to transport bamboo out of the village,but also announced more sops for future. Ramesh said he would clear pending files regarding 22 irrigation projects in Gadchiroli and added that villages in Gadchiroli and Gondia will get up to 12.5 acres for community programmes directly with the state governments permission.
He said he has also written to the Planning Commission that 12 minor forest product items be given a minimum support price by the Centre.
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In another significant move,Ramesh announced that the bhayanak (draconian) provision to register offences in the Indian Forest Act against villagers entering forests will soon be repealed. It is based on the British era understanding that villages and forests cant co-exist, he said.
As reported earlier by The Indian Express,Ramesh has not taken state forest departments into confidence before formulating the proposed amendment.
Not to be left behind,Chief Minister Chavan went a step ahead and said,Not only bamboo,but also tendu should be completely handed over to villages. We will initiate steps for this.
And not just jal,jungle,jamin,but water should also be owned by the tribals. We will all fight for this together, he added.
Home Minister and Gadchiroli District Guardian Minister R R Patil strongly criticised Forest Conservation Act and forest administration as being impediments in developmental works.
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