A large number of forest dwellers took to the streets in Bhubaneswar on Thursday protesting against alleged tinkering with the Forest Rights Act.
Although the Supreme Court had stayed its earlier order that had created panic among 10 lakh forest dwellers over possible eviction, protesters under the banner of Campaign for Survival and Dignity, Odisha, announced that they would continue to agitate till permanent relief was not granted.
“We do not want temporary relief… we want complete setting aside of the Supreme Court’s February 13 order. Ever since the NDA government came to power, there has been a consistent effort to weaken the FRA,” said Gopinath Majhi, CSD State convener.
“We are forced to stage protests as the Central government has failed to defend the FRA in the Supreme Court,” said Mr. Majhi.
“Since most of 422,384 individual forest rights titles have been issued in a haphazard manner without ground verification, it has led to confusion on the ground. As many as 1,45,567 IFR applications have been rejected. All of them are facing evictions,” he added.
“The BJD-led government claims to be number one in the country by issuing the highest number of IFR titles. In reality, the State has messed up the FRA implementation. It has bypassed the gram sabha,” alleged Manohar Chauhan, a campaigner with CSD.
Moreover, Mr. Chauhan said, not all IFR claimants have been formally informed on the rejection of their claims because of which hundreds of forest dwellers are likely to miss a chance to appeal at a higher forum. The CSD has demanded that all the so-called rejected IFR applications be sent back to the gram sabhas concerned for reconsideration and appropriate action.
Forest dwellers said they will continue to protest against any attempts to dilute the Act.