IFR titles given to landless forest dwellers in Odisha worthless?

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha State Food Commission has exposed the lie behind Naveen Patnaik-led government’s claim to be the best performing State in terms of Forest Rights Act implementation. Raising question over the effectiveness and efficiency of implementation of the act, the commission, in a letter to all district collectors said that not even a single individual forest rights (IFR) title (allotment of forest land pattas to landless SC/ST forest dwellers) has been distributed in Puri district.

Out of the 4,22,460 IFR titles distributed till September 2018, 1,29,797 titles are still pending for land demarcation. Besides, as many as eight districts, including Khurda, are yet to develop IFR land.

Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram lashed out at the Odisha government alleging that the claims of the Naveen Patnaik government are confined to pen and paper only.

“Odisha has become the number one State only on pen and paper. If a ground investigation will be done, it will be found that around 50 per cent people (who have been given pattas) have been fooled by the State government. The Odisha government has been cheating people of the State for the last 10 years,” alleged Oram.

Responding to Oram’s allegations, Odisha SC/ST Development Minister Ramesh Majhi said that Odisha is the best performing State in forest land distribution as the State government has distributed pattas to 4.2 lakh deserving individuals under the Forest Rights Act.

“I don’t know what the Union Minister has said. He always makes such frivolous allegations against the State government. We have visited several areas and found no such issues related to distribution of titles. At some places, we did find delay in demarcation of land and therefore, we have already directed the district collectors to complete the process as soon as possible,” said Majhi.

On the other hand, while Khurda Collector Nirmal Chandra Mishra said all those who applied after the act came into force, have already been allotted land and those who are still left behind will be identified soon.

Puri Collector, Jyoti Prakash Das said that though some cases were rejected as the applicants were not SC/ST forest dwellers, the administration is seriously looking into the left out cases.

Meanwhile, the State Food Commission has directed collectors of six districts (Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Nabarangpur, Koraput, Sundergarh and Kandhamal ) to undertake a special drive to complete the demarcation of land for all the IFR titles (distributed till September 2018) by December 31, 2018.