CSD Urges Chief Secretary, Govt. of Odisha to halt expansion of Anti-FRA “Aama Jungle Yojana” in the State
Bhubaneswar:19th March 2017 (Prasanta K Bhuyan)– The Odisha Chapter of Campaign for Survival and Dignity(CSD) that struggled for the enactment of historic Forest Rights Act(FRA),2006 today in a letter addressing the Chief Secretary, Govt. of Odisha has urged to halt expansion of Ama Jungle Yojana(AJY) in the State. In its letter sent CSD has appreciated the efforts of Govt. of Odisha in recognizing Individual Forest Rights in compare to other States in the country. However CSD feels aggrieved when the Govt. of Odisha lunched “Ama Jungle Yojana” Forest Department and promoted VSS under Joint Forest Management (JFM) Resolution,2011 and 2015 usurping the constitutional power of the Gram Sabha(the Authority) recognised under Forest Rights Act, 2006. The petition said to have been filed before Chief Secretary looking to tomorrow’s meeting in which Chief Secretary along with the Forest Department officials are taking decision to expand the Ama Jungle Yojana to more districts. It is to be noted that earlier CSD has also raised this issue(had field petition) before Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) ON 28 th Dec 2015. Accordingly acting upon petition filed, on dated 23 rd Feb 2016 vide letter F.No-23011/39/2015- FRA MoTA had directed the Commissioner-cum Secretary, SC/ST Development Department, Govt. of Odisha to examine the “Ama Jungle Yojna” and to ascertain whether it is in any conflict with the provision of FRA and to furnish its comments to the MOTA. Further, in its direction, MoTA had reiterated that the “Gram Sabha” is the central to taking any decision on Community Forest Resource(CFR) and wherever FRA is likely to be implemented as per the Rule 4(1)(e), Gram Sabha is to constitutes a Committee for protection and management of CFR. Besides, taking cognisance of CSD petition filed against “Ama Jungle Yojana”, National Commission for Scheduled Tribe(NCST) had also issued notice to the Chief Secretary, Govt. of Odisha vide File No.GAI14/2015/STGOR/SEOTH/RU-III on dated 16th June 2016 in which it mentioned that “the Commission has decided to investigate/inquiry into the matter in pursuance of the power conferred upon it under Article 338A of the Constitution of India.” The Commission had further directed the Chief Secretary to submit the facts and information on the action taken for the protection of tribal and their land to the Commission within 15 days. It is to be noted that AJY has been launched last year for 6 years from 2016-17 to 2021-22 with a cost of implementation of the project is Rs1170.02 crores which is proposed to be met out of CAMPA fund, State plan through Forest and Environment Department, MGNREGS and NRLM funds. The AJY is proposed for implementation in 7000 number of VSSs/EDCs located in 30 territorial and wildlife divisions of the state of Odisha. The project is planned to be implemented through Odisha Forestry Sector Development Society(OFSD) in partnership with selected NGOs and VSS members at the field level and an area of up to 50 hectares will be assigned to each of the 7000 VSSs covering a total area of 3,50,000 hectares. However, in its petition CSD has contended that “when hundreds of Gram Sabhas are already protecting and managing the forest sustainably of their own without any legal and financial support from Govt. in the State over the years, the Forest protection, conservation and management of the forest would become more stronger when the community people will get legal rights(FRA) recognised over forest.” CSD has further urged the Govt. of Odisha that instead of promoting anti-FRA VSS through Ama Jungle Yojana and JICA Project, the Government of Odisha should take more proactive initiatives throughout the state towards the proper recognition of CFR rights. “Once the Community Forest Resource (CFR) area is recognised, the Forest, Wildlife Protection, Conservation and Management Committee, constituted by Gram Sabha under section 4 (1) (e) will take care of their own forest and seek technical support of the Forest Department and financial support if any from other line Departments as and when required. Further it its letter sent. CSD has assured the Govt. that if all rights recognised under the FRA, 2006 will be recognised in its letter and spirit, the Govt. of Odisha can also effectively dealt with the outlawed naxal problem in the State.