Ranchi, Jharkhand 29 May 2014 :: The signing of Memorandum of Understanding among Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) Programme, Tribal Cooperative Development Corporation Ltd. Govt. of Jharkhand and Jharkhand Van Adhikaar Manch (JVAM), for the effective implementation of Forest Rights Act, 2006 in the state to trigger great hopes and expectations amongst the civil society towards implementation of FRA in the state. The MoU that is expected to bring the stakeholders to have more ownership over the initiatives and bring about effective policy implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006 in the state was signed today the 29th of May 2014.
The Schedule Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, popularly known as Forest Rights Act (FRA) is one of the historic landmark legislation that provides for explicit recognition of the rights of forest dwelling communities over common lands and resources, including to land for cultivation, minor forest produce, grazing areas, water bodies, etc. The act was implemented from 1st January, 2008 in the country. Despite Jharkhand having the huge potential to utilize the benefit of this legislation by virtue of being a well forested region, the benefits have not accrued to extent it was expected. As per the report filed by the Government of Jharkhand (GoJ) to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), 42,003 claims have been received, 15296 (36.41%) titles have been distributed covering an area of 37,678.93 acres till 28th February 2014. This is only 1.08% of the national aggregate. The situation with regards to recognition of Community Forest Resource Rights (CFR) under Sec 3 (1) of the law has been practically a non-starter.
It was in these contexts that, 22 Civil Society Organisation led by PACS facilitated a formation of Jharkhand Van Adhikar Manch (JVAM) which is a forum of civil society organisations from 24 districts of the state. JVAM is an informal body – a people’s forum for effective implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA) in Jharkhand with the following specific objectives:
- To facilitate recognition of around 30000 nos.of Individual tenures in 24 Districts of Jharkhand in 2 years.
- To facilitate recognition of around 2000 nos. of CFR tenures in 24 Districts of Jharkhand in 2 years.
- To facilitate recognition of habitat rights for 20% particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) out of 8 PVTGs group in the State.
- 2000 Forest Rights Committee (FRC) strengthened and capable to bargain with the concerned authority for governance and management of the institutions.
- Develop knowledge products training manuals, IEC materials, studies, etc.
The signing of MoU marks the beginning of a constructive engagement with the state administration and a step to build synergies between the state, civil society, right holders for addressing the critical gaps in the implementation of FRA in Jharkhand through collaborative efforts. The MoU delineates the role of three partners in the process. The civil society groups primarily seek institutional support from state agencies while their role would be to facilitate FRA implementation in the state in letter and spirit. PACS would remain a technical and strategic partner in the entire process. The commencement of this formal partnership amongst the government, people’s organisation and NGOs presents a unique opportunity for a noble cause of ushering prosperity in the lives of the forest dependent community through recognition of their rights under FRA in the state.
On the occasion J P Lakra, IAS [ Tribal Welfare Commissioner, Government of Jharkhand ] mentioned “The signing of this MoU would strengthen the state’s commitment to reach out the rural community of Jharkhand. Collaborative efforts of the administration and civil society would immensely help in ensuring that the provisions of the act are realized on ground as envisaged”. He assured of providing the required institutional support to PACS and JVAM and issue directive to the districts delineating the formal tripartite agreement.