Agartala, Oct 01: Land reforms politics in Tripura has taken a new dimension ahead of assembly poll scheduled to be held in February, as Tripura Tribal Lands Restoration Campaign Committee (TTLRCC) demanded rights of forest lands and forest produces The demand came at a time when controversy was raging on implementation of the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2005 between Tribal Affairs Ministry and Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).
The TTLRCC took out a rally in Agartala on Saturday with about 25000 people of both tribal and non-tribal who are living in the forest areas in the state.
TTLRCC estimated that 18.75 lakh hectors of land was captured by the government in Tripura and about 1.92 lakh indigenous families lost their land due to Tripura"s merger with Indian union.
The rally highlighted two important issues demolition of Joint Forest Management (JFM) approach and stops the interference of land uses by the forest dwellers as well as gives them the right of forest land, which is now under department of forest.
According to TTLRCC leaders, following sustain pressure form leftist UPA government has passed the bill but it was not implemented due MoEF"s warning that it would make an irreparable ecological damage of immense proportion, if the act goes through.
The intention behind the Act was to reinstate the tribals" traditional rights over forests but they were stripped of these rights in colonial times, a historical injustice that the act wants to address, said Mr Bijoy Mog, one the executive of TTLRCC.
The act had given the right of 2.5 hectares of land per forest-dwelling family, ownership of minor forest produce and rights of grazing access to traditional seasonal resources, he said adding that tribals in turn are entrusted with some conservation and protection measures but was not given the right of land which they were using since royal regime.
Meanwhile, MoEF argued that distribution of 2.5 hectares of forest land to each family is against the goal of the National Forest Policy of 1988 to get one-third of the country under tree cover and denotification of vast tracts of forestlands and elimination of legal protection for forest cover will lead to ecological damage.
On the other, the left front considers it a manipulation of concept by a multinational company who has been initiated a project of Jetropha cultivation in the degraded forest land of Tripura and they are now trying to hold the land right by using the innocent people before the election.
Left leaders said that the rights of non-tribal traditional forest dwellers have already been recognised by government and 3.75 lakh hectares of land was regularised for pre-1980 forest dwellers tribal and non-tribal.
The land so regularised has no ceiling but was done on an as is where is basis. The cut-off year of 1980 has itself been shifted by government to at least 1993 which mean that 1980 is not a sacrosanct date for the government. Government has acknowledged difficulties in distinguishing between the different sections occupying land.