March 16, 2014


Rahul Sinha

Tripura Tops in Forest Rights Act Implementation TRIPURA is today way ahead of all other states in the country insofar as implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) is concerned. This recognition comes from none other than the Tribal Welfare Ministry of the union government. The official recognition once again proved beyond doubt the sincerity of the Left Front government of Tripura on the crucial issue of giving land rights to the marginalised. This has set a model for the other states to emulate. On Monday, March 10, Aghor Debbarma, the tribal welfare minister of Tripura, informed the state’s legislative assembly of this success scored by the state. Replying to a calling attention motion by CPI(M) MLAs Padma Kumar Debbarma and Jashbir Tripura, Aghor Debbarma mentioned about the success of the state and the recognition it had got from the centre. One recalls that it was due to the sustained struggle led by the CPI(M) and other Left parties that the UPA-1 government had to pass the Forest Rights Act. But insofar as implementation of the FRA is concerned, it was the Left Front government of Tripura which showed utmost sincerity and gave forest right pattas to the forest dwellers. Quoting from the figures given by the website of the union tribal welfare ministry, Aghor Debbarma said from 2008-09 to January 1, 2014 a total of 1,20,686 families of the state had received forest right pattas; out of these, the land of 19,069 families have been demarcated while the rest will be demarcated soon. Pillars have been erected on the lands given to 1,18,219 families. The minister informed the house that according to the union ministry, Tripura is ahead of all other states in terms of percentage of pattas given to those who have applied for it. Here 65.97 percent of the applications under the FRA have been accepted and pattas given. Kerala, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan occupy the next four positions. Neither the Gujarat government of BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi nor the TMC government of West Bengal under Ms Mamata Banerjee’s (who claims to have fulfilled 90 percent of her promises) could find a place in the list of the top five states. The percentage for Gujarat is 22 percent while for West Bengal it is even worse at 21 percent. It is worth mentioning here that in Tripura a significant number of non-tribal population too is residing in the forest areas. But as the FRA mandates producing a proof of residence for at least 75 years in forestland, these people could not be given pattas. The Left Front government has been constantly demanding that the criteria be amended in order to include these traditional forest dwellers by changing the cut-off date to the date of Indira-Mujib accord in 1971. The minister informed the house that for the economic rehabilitation of the families who have received pattas under the FRA, the state government had sent, way back in January 2011, a concrete proposal for a special package of Rs 444.16 crore. But a positive response from the centre is still awaited even after more than three years. However, the state government on its own has launched a number of schemes and has been utilising the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme for their economic development. Till January 1, 2014, a total of 77,973 families had been covered under these schemes. The government has spent Rs 143.47 crore on it. Furthermore, till January 1, 21,105 families have been provided the housing facility.