According to data tabled in the Lok Sabha in the recently concluded monsoon session, Gujarat ranks seventh among states in distributing forest land titles to Scheduled Tribes (STs) and traditional forest dwellers. Government officials said that the state has begun a review of rejected or pending claims with the help of satellite data dating back to 2005.
Till March 31, the Gujarat government has distributed 96,200 titles or 50 per cent of the total claims made. The cases that are pending are those that got rejected. They are up for reconsideration after 90,000 odd cases went to the court that asked the government to review.
The Gujarat government received 1.90 lakh claims (1.82 lakh individuals and 7,187 communities) so far and distributed 96,283 land titles, while 93,773 claims are still pending. The titles have been distributed for a total of 13.93 lakh acres of forest land. Of this,1.56 lakh acres are for claims made by individuals and 12.36 lakh acres are those made by the community.
With 2.12 lakh titles, or settling 77 per cent of the claims made in the state, Andhra Pradesh tops the list of states that have addressed the highest number of claims made till March 31. Odisha, Tripura, Kerala, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have also been awarded a high number of land titles. The lowest percentage of titles distributed are in the states of Goa (1.47 per cent of the claims), Bihar (1.5 per cent) and Uttarakhand (2.7 per cent).
“Under the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, rights are recognised and vested to eligible individuals and community among the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers to use the forest land and resources for their livelihood through the respective state governments. As per information received from the state governments, a total of 44.29 lakh claims have been filed and 22.34 lakh titles (including 21.32 lakh individual and 1.02 lakh community claims) have been distributed,” stated Bishweshwar Tudu, Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs.
The Forest Rights Act of 2006 encompasses rights of self-cultivation and habitation, which are regarded as individual rights, while grazing, fishing, access to water bodies in the forest, access to traditional seasonal resources, etc are considered community rights.