Report by Gopinath Majhi; Bhubaneswar: Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, consisting of a large network of community organizations of tribals and forest dwellers who struggled and got enacted the FRA by Parliament strongly attacked the Forest Department for attempting to undermine the community forest resource rights recognized under FRA.
The Campaign has raised certain fundamental questions over the recent decisions taken in the last State Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management & Planning Authority (CAMPA) Governing body meeting held on 20th May 2012 chaired by Chief Minister Sri Naveen Pattanaik and the State CAMPA Steering Committee Meeting held on 6th June 2012 chaired by the Chief Secretary, GoO, Sri Bijay Pattanaik.
Targeting the CAMPA Guidelines, devised by MoEF based on the direction of Supreme Court, the Campaign has alleged that this CAMPA Guidelines is in contradiction to the constitutionally enacted historic Forest Rights Act, 2006 which gives community ownership over forest resources. While the FRA has not only recognized rights over “Community Forest Resources” but also has empowered and authorized the forest dependent people to protect, regenerate and manage their forest under Section 3(1)(i), there is no provision at all in the CAMPA guidelines to involve the community people/Gram Sabha in utilization of CAMPA fund and give overwhelming power to the Forest Department. Even the “Tribal Department” which is the Nodal Department in FRA Implementation is totally missing in the State CAMPA Governing Body and in the CAMPA Steering Committee.
The Campaign has alleged that the Chairman of the CAMPA Steering Committee, the Chief Secretary, GoO who is also the Chairman of the State Level Monitoring Committee formed under FRA in 2008 has forgotten that the proposed “forest area” for the CAMPA fund utilization is belongs to the forest dependent community people. Even there have been protests all over the State from the tribals/grassroots/community people over the activities being done by the Forest Department using Forest Working Plans, Forestry Programmes, Plantations/tourism, Red Plus etc after the implementation of FRA.
Countering the forest regeneration through plantation and achievement of 1,82 lakh hectare plantation with an expenditure of Rs 160 crore shown by GoO during 2011-12, the CSD, Odisha has alleged that over the period, The Forest Department is the main culprit in destroying the natural forest, used the forest as commodity and the innocent communities have been used as scapegoats in the name of JFM/VSS, siphoned off all the funds in the name of forest protection, regeneration and management. Campaign has claimed CBI investigations which only could unearth the long pending scams in the plantation programmes. The CSD, Odisha has also vehemently criticized both the MoEF and State Forest Department for inaugurating the First Red Plus Project using VSS in Chhendipada Block of Angul District on 13th May 2012 without recognizing and settling the community Rights over Forest as per FRA, 2006.
The campaign has also raised concern over the NGOs who claims to have been working on FRA in the State for the tribals/forest dwellers and nominated to both the State CAMPA Steering Committee and Executive Committee by GoO have failed to raise the community concerns and contradictions between CAMPA and FRA before the Government.
Campaign has opined that the proposed plan in CAMPA which in operation from August, 2009 in the State is based on “Colonial Forest Bureaucrats” mindset and is totally deviation from the real objectives of forest conservation, regeneration and protection rather it will strengthen the Forest Department against the forest dwellers. They have demanded immediate withdrawal of Forest Department from other responsibilities like implementation of MGNREGA, tourism, rural development programmes etc..which is in realty coming under the purview of other departments. The campaign has strongly objected of running tourism projects in the protected area which they believe is solely responsible for pouching of wildlife in which again Forest Department is seriously engaged with wildlife mafias.
They have categorically demanded immediately to hand over the ownership rights of the community over MFP including Kendu leaf and Bamboo as per FRA.
Campaign has also demanded immediate correction of all contradictory Acts/Rules and laws in accordance with the community centric provisions of Forest Rights Act, 2006 and hand over the ownership rights to the community over their resources.
Reiterating their long pending demand to dissolve the VSS/JFM which they considered as a tool at the hand of Forest Department and bottleneck in recognizing the CFR Rights, the Campaign has call upon GoO to recognize the larger CFR rights. “If the Govt. of Odisha is committed for the tribal’s development, and effectively and seriously want to deal with the problems of Naxals /Maoist in the State, it should dismiss all the VSS/JFMCs and recognize the larger Community Forest Rights”- Community Rights over their Resources” the campaign urged the GoO.