Demand to implement FRA gains momentum in Mandi

The Tribune | April 12, 2019

As the nation goes to polls for its 17th Lok Sabha elections, Himachal’s geographically largest constituency Mandi comprising Kinnaur, Bharmour, Lahaul Spiti, Kullu and Mandi districts is witnessing the demand for implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006.

A massive rally was taken out today on this issue under the banner of Van Adhikar Manch, Himachal Pradesh, at the district headquarters Mandi. The office-bearers of the manch alleged that the state government is reluctant to implement Forest Rights Act (FRA) in full spirit. As a result, people of the state have been deprived of their rights under the FRA.

“The Forest Rights Act was passed by the Parliament in 2006 with the aim of protecting the interests, providing legal recognition and recording the rights of the communities dependent on forest land for their livelihoods. Lakhs of people all across the country have benefited during the past 10 years under this Act but in the state of Himachal Pradesh merely 129 claims have been recorded till date”, said Shyam Singh Chauhan, an associate of the manch.

“Even within Himachal Pradesh, while claims have been filed in Kinnaur, Lahaul and Kangra, the case of Mandi district is extremely unfortunate where since 2014 blanket ‘zero claim’ certificates have been procured by the administration from forest right committees of all villages indicating that people have no claims to make under this Act”, he said.

“This step was initiated by the then District Magistrate on the basis of the templates issued by Principal Secretary, Forest, in June 2014. We had been demanding the withdrawal of these templates on the grounds that they were in contravention of the Act”, said Shyam Singh.

The manch is demanding immediate withdrawal of the ‘zero claim’ certificates taken in Mandi, Chamba and Kangra districts and reopening of claim filing process in these regions. The manch demanded immediate review and action on the pending files and most importantly a detailed and thorough training and awareness program for all officials of the line departments concerned as well as for the Forest Rights Committees of the entire state.

He said that without widespread information and understanding of the law, it is impossible for people to make a demand for its implementation. It is estimated that FRA is likely to be an issue in more that 25 per cent constituencies in the country. In Himachal too, the issue is gaining momentum among the people.

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