CM rejects accusation of Centre over tribal rights

Bhubaneswar: Rejecting the Centre`s accusation that Odisha was denying bamboo harvesting rights to tribals under provisions of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today said the state was a pioneer in transferring collection and disposal rights for minor forest produces (MFP) to the Gram Sabha much before 2006.

"It may not be out of place to mention here that the state is also a pioneer in transferring collection and disposal rights for 69 MFP items to the Gram Sabha much before the FRA, 2006 was promulgated," Patnaik said in reply to a letter of Union Tribal Affairs Minister V K Deo.

Deo had wrote to the Chief Minister on May 24 suggesting that the state government allow tribals to have rights over cutting bamboo. He was referring to an instance of Kalahandi district where forest department officials denied transit permission to a tribal village to transport bamboo after harvesting it from the forest even though they were entitled to do so under the FRA.

Moreover, Patnaik said, the village community has also been given the rights over the bamboo growing in their adjoining assigned areas as per provisions of Joint Forest Management besides entrusting the responsibility of protection and conservation of such forest.

"In fact, ST & SC Development Department of my state has already sought for clarification from your Ministry letter No. 39802/SSD dtd 27.12,2011 seeking approval of draft guidelines duly vetted by State Level Monitoring Committee for facilitating harmonization of FRA with the provisions of Joint Forest Management. The said approval may kindly be communicated early," Patnaik said in his letter to Deo.

Claiming that the state government has been implementing the ST and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 in letter and spirit, Patnaik said Odisha occupied the number one position in the country in terms of distribution of number of title deeds.

"As on June 30, 2012, a total 3,14,719 number of titles have been approved covering an area of 5,10,572 acres of forest land. Similarly, under Community Rights, 929 claims have been approved covering 75,613 acres," he said.

Patnaik also claimed that the state was also number one among the Left Wing Extremism affected states in terms of the lowest percentage of rejection against the total number of claims received by the Gram Sabhas.