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Study breaks myths of ‘big encroachers’ under FRA in tribal areas;Reveals that most claimants are marginal landholders

Shimla, Dec 6 (UNI) Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective in collaboration with Zila Van Adhikar Samiti, Kinnaur, released its report titled, ‘Who Gains from the Forest Rights Act, 2006’ in Shimla.
The study conducted in the tribal district of Kinnaur, assessed 1351 Individual Forest Right (IFR) claims of 22 Forest Rights Committees (FRC) in the district where 132 FRCs have been formed.
The study found that 96.5 per cent of these IFR claims were for less than 10 bighas of land and only 6 claims out of 1351 claims being of more than 20 bighas.
Mr Jiya lal Negi, president of Zila Van Adhikaar Samiti, Kinnaur said while releasing a report on the
progress FRA-2006 and issue of alleged encroachment on the alleged forest land in the state.
“The data shows that people are making genuine claims of land under their occupation mainly for their survival and not for grabbing land as is the notion that the administration holds”.
The study also looked at the landholding data of 417 claimants of the total 1351 showing that 67 p c of these have existing private land holdings under 10 bighas. He further added that close to 26 pc of the claimants are in the category of Scheduled Castes, where as they form only 17.53 pc of the total population.
The report also revealed that the average size of land claimed under FRA by the SC community is slightly more than the average land claimed by ST community. Prakash Bhandari from Himdhara Environment Collective emphasized, “If the IFR claims of 417 SC claimants studied are recognized, then the average land holding size would increase from 8.86 bigha to 11.47 bigha,” showing that a fair and just implementation of this Act could play a critical role in reducing land ownership inequities in the region.
The Forest Rights Act, 2006 was legislated to support the survival of tribal and other communities living in areas where dependence on ‘forest lands’ is high. The act recognizes the individual as well as community uses of forest land dependent communities.
The study by Himdhara Collective was carried out to challenge certain arguments posed by administration in Kinnaur as well as some other areas, questioning the individual claimants on the grounds that they belong to already landed communities and would be grabbing more land.
“With such arguments dominating political and bureaucratic discussions, the implementation of the Act has remained poor, where only 129 individual claims have been approved across the state”, said Sonam Targay and Rigzin , representatives from Lahaul-Spiti.
The representatives from both districts recommended that it is high time that the pending files with State and District level Committees be expedited. They also emphasized on the urgent need of trainings that should be conducted for both the administration and political representatives to remove misconceptions about this very important act.
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