Ahmedabad, Feb 7 (PTI) The implementation of ForestRight Act (FRA) has been "disappointingly slow" in Gujarat,with the approval percentage being only 10 of the total forestright claims received in the state, according to a reportreleased report by National Committee on FRA.
"While Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan andTripura show 100 per cent of received claims as processed(accepted or rejected), and Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh andMaharashtra are also above 90 per cent, some states areabysmally low (below 40 per cent) including Gujarat, Jharkhandand Tamil Nadu), the report said."Given that the implementation was supposed to beginin January 2008, the implementation process has clearly beendisappointingly slow in these latter states," the report byJoint Committee constituted by the Ministry of Environment andForests and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to review theimplementation of FRA in April 2010, added.
Gujarat had received 1,82,558 Individual Forest Rights(IFR) claims till October 2010, out of which 18,745 wereapproved while around 15,000 were rejected and the rest, over1.4 lakh claim were still pending.
The approval of claims in Gujarat was 10 per cent ofthe total claims received. Only one other state has lower ratethan Gujarat which is Karnataka (4 per cent).
Higher claim approval percentage has been recordedfrom states like Tripura (68), Assam (66), Orissa (58), AndhraPradesh (54), Kerala (52), Rajasthan (50), Madhya Pradesh (31)and Maharashtra (31).
The FRA recognises and vests individual forest-dwellerswith forest rights to live in and cultivate forest land thatwas occupied before 13 December 2005 and grants communityforest rights to manage, protect, regenerate the forest, andto own and dispose minor forest products from forests wherethey had traditional access. (More) PTI PB PD DK DK
Broadly, the Committee found that the progress on claiming, verifying and deciding on IFRs has been substantial,and it appeared that majority of the accepted claims weregenuine ones. "But there are significant shortcomings in thelevel of outreach to potential claimants and several lacunaein the manner of rejections," it said.
The report said that application of spatial technologies,including remote sensing (RS), global positions systems (GPS)and geographic information systems (GIS) had the potential tohelp in objective determination of physical status of claimedlands.
It said that Gujarat state attempted to use thesetechnology but its approach was poorly designed, lacked properground verification and transparency."Mandating satellite image-based evidence violates theAct (FRA) and denies due process to claimants," it said.
"The Gujarat government has decided to verify claims withthe help of only satellite imagery, whose accuracy forestablishing or denying a claim is highly questionable. Suchimagery can only be used with thorough ground truthing withrespect to each plot, which is absent," it added.
The report also said that there have been widespreadviolation of the FRA, where claims have been rejected withoutgiving applicants a reasonable opportunity to be heard.
"Rejection has also happened on illegitimate grounds orfor reasons the claimants are not responsible for, lack ofcaste certificate in Bhamragarh (Maharashtra) and Panchmahals(Gujarat)," it said.
It said that there was also widespread practice ofrejecting claims without giving reasons, and informing theclaimant very late, thereby denying an opportunity to appeal.
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"No or delayed communication of decisions or reasons thereof to claimants, giving no chance for appeal, as inChhattisgarh and Gujarat. Where appeals have been made, thereare long delays in dealing with them (some of over 2 years),and no information meanwhile given to the claimants on statusof the appeal," the report said.It however, said that in some districts of Gujarat thecivil society groups and officials were pro-active that hasresulted in more claims being filed.