Land deed under RFR poses threat to forest
Agartala, Aug 11: Fresh controversy over forestry management after implementation of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of forest Rights) Act 2006 (RFR) has erupted after distribution of 1.76 lac hectare of forest to 19000 odd tribal families as land deed (Patta) in Tripura in past few years. The study report under the aegis of 17th CSE Media Fellowship on Fragile Forest Ecology of Tripura appears, more than 14000 land-deed holders under RFR were not yet identified the plot of land on which they had got deed. The report said that Rabindra Reang, Hemabati Reang, Atul Debbarma of Kanchanpur, Rajendra Kalai, Kumaresh Uchai, Rabi Kurmar Chakma of Gandacherra and Arun Tripura, Sunirmal Tripura and Punnyabati Halam of Shantirbazar and many more across the state got patta two years ago but the administration did not demarcate the plot of land. Block Development Officers (BDOs) were asked to demarcate the land and for which they were placed funds but they did not know how to identify the land plot in deep forest and in most cases the land falls under reserved forest, the report pointed out.
The study also expressed serious reservation to continue land distribution under RFR and stated quoting senior foresters: “The manner and fashion land deed is distributed to be nothing but issuance of licence to destroy forest by the government to retain the vote bank at the cost of forest and ecology.” Moreover, the land deed achievers have started cultivating horticultural crops and cash crop like rubber by cutting down natural forest, which appeared to be detrimental to the forest conservation that also results change of the character of forest rapidly, the study revealed. The report however, underlined that the state govt had launched Jhumia (shifting cultivators) rehabilitation programme in 1976 targeting around 42,000 tribals to shift them to settle agricultural practices. But after 37 years the figure of Jhumia was still around 28,000 though more Rs 100 Cr had been spent for their rehabilitation. “Estimation of state forest department says, people of Tripura had been extracting resources directly from the forest to the tune of Rs 18 Cr per annum and more than 10,000 families are managing their livelihood from forest but RFR has added the woes for massive destruction even in the reserved and protected forest, the entire process is nothing but a political gimmick,” the study commented.