Implement Forest Rights Act speedily, Centre tells states

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New Delhi, Jun 27 (UNI) Expressing concern over slow implementation of the Forest Rights Act in some of the States, the Centre has asked the respective governments to accord the highest priority to the law, which could go a long way in improving the socio-economic conditions of the Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers.

Inaugurating the State Ministers meeting here today convened to review the implementation of the Act, Minister for Tribal Affairs P R Kyndiah said the law would benefit crores of tribals across length and breadth of the country.

The Minister said the Act would help achieve the objective of empowering tribals and to eliminate historic injustice meted out to them.

The Act envisages vesting ownership rights to the tribals, who are historically and traditionally residing and dependent on forests for their livelihood. After the enactment of the law, they would not face the threat of eviction from the forest, he said. The Minister said a core committee under the chairmanship of Secretary, Tribal Affairs consisting senior officials of Panchayati Raj and Environment and Forest Ministry had already been constituted at the Centre to assist the States in the implementation of the Act.

Such committees are also desired at the State level to monitor the implementation of the Act, the Minister added.

Underlining the fact that vesting land rights to the tribals would not create any damage to the forests, Mr Kyndiah said tribals traditionally known as protectors of the forests, were most experienced in terms of what kind of human activities could sustain regeneration of the forests and bio-diversity as their lives were historically and culturally linked to the forests.

Briefing the Centre about the implementation of the Act, most of the states said the Forest Rights Committees for inviting claims and apex committee for monitoring the implementation had been formed, and public awareness campaigns were being run to make the tribals aware of their rights and procedure for filing the claims.

Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa and Tamil Nadu said they had started even verification of claims for conferring the final rights of the land to the tribals. Some of the States raised the issue of financial difficulty and other technical problems, but assured that these would be overcome very soon.

Mr Kyndiah also informed the states that a National Tribal Policy covering all important matters that concerned the development of tribals, including issues such as regulatory and protective regime had been prepared and was in the process of finalisation. He expressed the hope that the policy would lay the roadmap for the welfare of tribals.

He also announced that the Ministry would release Rs 173 crore during the current financial year for development and primitive tribal groups to provide tangible benefits.

The Tribal Affairs Ministry was already providing post-matric scholarship to about nine lakh ST students annually and best available opportunities for higher studies not only in the country but abroad. Number of other schemes were also have been initiated recently for the upliftment of the ST students.

The one-day meeting was attended by the Ministers in-charge of the tribal affairs from various States and senior officials of Central Ministries convened to review the Forest Rights Act.

UNI NAZ LPB NS1815

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