Even six years after the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 coming into force, the government has failed to extend the benefits of the legislation to over 70,000 tribal families in nine districts of Karnataka. Instead of correcting “historical injustice”, delay in implementing the legislation (the Act was notified in 2008), is only fanning discontent among tribal people and traditional forest-dwellers.

Of the 2,58,780 applicants belonging to the Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) and community rights seekers, a meagre 7,700 have got title deeds between 2010 and 2015. As many as 1,73,082 applications have been rejected so far for various reasons, according to statistics released by the Department of Social Welfare recently.

Elected representatives cutting across party lines are demanding implementation of the Act in “letter and spirit” and are urging the government to extend the time for people belonging to ST and OTFDs to submit applications. Tribal organisations are also demanding a “review of the applications” rejected so far, and have blamed the Wildlife Act for the delay in implementation of Forests Rights Act.

At the same time, the Forest Rights Committees have their own reasons for receiving and rejecting applications. While the Uttara Kannada district received the highest number of applications, Shivamogga district received the lowest.

Peeved at the way the government had dealt with the matter, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Kagodu Thimmappa raised the issue in the recent legislature session. Upset with the apathy of the authorities, he even cautioned of holding a protest.

Interestingly, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Revenue Minister V. Srinivas Prasad and Social Welfare Minister H. Anjaneya recently visited haadis (tribal settlements) and assured the residents of implementing the Act.

Despite, assurances from those at the helm of affairs, nothing has changed at the ground level, regrets S. Srikanth, convener of the Tribal Action Committee.

Article by Muralidhara Khajane originally published in the Hindu Online Edition…click here for source

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