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Women's rights over forest and land be upheld: Activists

 

Last updated Wednesday July 06, 2016

Odisha, Women, FRA, Forest Rights Act  
 

Despite several provisions in the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 to uphold the rights of women forest dwellers, women of Odisha are being deprived of their due rights. Their role in FRC, SDLC and DLC has remained nominal in the state. Active involvement of women in the decision making process is yet to be ensured in the state of Odisha.

 

HNF Correspondent

 
 

Even after eight years of its official implementation, Forest Rights Act of 2006 still struggles with issues in Odisha. More particularly, involvement of women has not yet been ensured in the state. Several experts and delegates expressed their concern over the miserable state of women forest dwellers in Odisha in a two days workshop on ‘Women and Forest Rights Act’, held in Bhubaneswar.

While speaking on the objectives of the workshop in its inaugural session, Sujata S. Das gave a presentation about various provisions of FRA and the role women should take in its implementation. “Despite several provisions in the act, role of women in FRC, SDLC and DLC has remained nominal. Active involvement of women in the decision making process is yet to be ensured,” she said.

 

While emphasizing upon Community Forest Rights over the forest, Madhu Sarin, Member of Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD) and President, Vasundhara, asserted that “in many parts of the Country CFR process has not been initiated.” Sarin said, while pointing out the lack of awareness about FRA, “women are being victimized by the Forest Department that puts several restrictions on collection of (Minor Forest Produces (MFPs) specifically in Protected Areas and evicts people from their shifting cultivation land in the name of plantation. They too face harassment by the Excise Department during collection of Mahua.”

“Women members are not called in meetings, during claims making, verification, mapping etc. and, even, women members of SDLCs and DLCs are not made aware of their role and responsibility,” alleged Anna Kujur, President of Athkosis Sangathan of Sundargarh,  an NGO affiliated to CSD.

Women leaders from other States, who participated in the workshop, also shared their views on various FRA implementation issues and the struggles for forest rights in their respective States.

Raising the issue of ongoing illegal diversion of forest land, in the interest of private companies, without recognizing community rights under FRA and by violating all other forest laws, Vasavi Kiro, Convenor of Jharkhanad Wanadhikar Abhiyan (JAWA) and a member of the Core Committee on land and Woman (formed under National Commission for Woman) said, “we have to take over the governance of the forest from the Forest Department which has been illegally encroaching upon our land and forest.”

Addressing the house, Roma, Deputy General Secretary of All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) and Mahila Banadhikar Action Committee (MBSC) termed FRA as a revolutionary step and said, “This is the first time in the history that land rights of Women have categorically been recognized under FRA.”

Besides, issues of non-conversion of forest villages into revenue villages, non-recognition of Individual forest rights (IFR) of ‘other traditional forest dwellers’ in case of non-possession of records to prove rights, loopholes in field verification process, negligence in mentioning the name of the Woman (wife ) in the IFR titles, non-recognition of IFR of the displaced families etc. were also raised by several experts.

Participants and experts condemned Odisha government’s recent attempt for deregulation of Kendu leaves (KL) business in selective districts like Nabrangpur and Malkangiri. It was alleged that such a step exposed governments desire to have control over KL business. They demanded that government must abolish all the taxes on KL, bear all establishment cost (including salary paid to the government employees) in KL business, and distribute the profit among the pluckers. They also sought that the Gram Sabha be declared owner of KL and be allowed to take over the Kendu Leave operation.

Joining the Workshop Odisha’s Forest and Environment Secretary R. K. Sharma assured the gatherings that he would take appropriate action to address the issues raised. In order to ensure community rights, “the present working plan (WP) of Forest Department should be replaced by the community management plans,” Sharma said.

For effective implementation of FRA to protect the rights of women, the workshop suggested that special forest resource centre/cell for women be created at State level to deal with issues relating to women and FRA; rights of women over forest and Land be included in the State Women Policy; special awareness drives and capacity building programs be initiated for women members in FRC, SDLC and DLC; setting separate monitoring and reporting mechanism to ensure compliance of provisions in FRA for women in particular.

 
   
 

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