Be cautious while granting patta lands, Centre tells states

Be cautious while granting patta lands, Centre tells states

Owing to the fact that large tracts of forest land were being given away to non-beneficiaries under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, the Centre has written to the State governments to exercise restraint in granting patta lands, Kaushik Mukherjee, Additional Chief Secretary, Forests, said.

Addressing a gathering at the national-level workshop ‘Strengthening of Livelihoods for Sustainable Management of Forests’ on Thursday, Mukherjee said the Director General of Forests, Ministry of Environment and Forests had written to the chief secretaries of the state governments to address the issue immediately.

Mukherjee said while the focus under the Act was on providing structured livelihood to the forest dwellers, there were growing instances of the provisions being misused.

“Land is being given away without sanction. This should stop,” he said.

Controversy

Given the controversy attached to the legislation and rights of the forest dwellers, the officer said that the policy makers should come up with “soul searching answers” to address the problem.

“Do we want to preserve forest dwellers as anthropological specimens or should we help them join the mainstream? On the one hand, there is the fear of losing a culture, but on the other there is the question - should we keep the tribals in continued subsistence? Thrust should be on respectable rehabilitation,” he said, adding that the State had been forced to spend its resources on rehabilitating the tribals. 

“The Centre’s allocation under this programme has been anything but generous – it’s been very skimpy,” Mukherjee e added. He said that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) funding had facilitated afforestation programme in the State.

He, however, added that JICA had failed to bring about a convergence between community-based organisations and statutory bodies. 

Vineet Sarin, Development Specialist, JICA, in his presentation said capacity building measures should be adopted for the sustenance of Joint Forest Planning and Management Committees. 

He took exception to the State forest departments sending officials who are not involved in the JICA project for overseas training. 

Tataguni estate to be declared forest

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the seminar, Mukherjee said parts of the Tataguni estate would be notified as forest area under Section (4) of the Indian Forest Act.

Mukherjee said that a proposal had been sent to the Advocate General to declare a major part of the 468.3 acres of the estate, earlier owned by Russian artist Svetoslav Roerich and his wife Devika Rani, as forest area.

The government plans to set up a museum, an artist’s residence and a rose garden there.


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