Odisha Forest Department Cuts Trees in Village despite Pending CFR Claims

Reported by

Sanghamitra DubeyLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

June 7, 2021

Location of Conflict

Malsadra

Kandhamal

This is a Left Wing Extremism Affected District

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Forest Administration (Other than Protected Areas)

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

38

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

416

ha

Starting Year

2016

State

Odisha

Sector

Conservation and Forestry

As per Section 3(1)(h) of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), the gram sabha (Village Assembly) of the forest villages can file claims for conversion of their village status into revenue village. Forest villages were established in the preIndependence era by the forest department of the states as colonies of laborers for forestry projects. These villages have not been recognised in revenue records, and their residents are deprived of benefits of the welfare schemes routed through the revenue department. Malsadra is a forest village with a small population of nine households under Phulbani block in Kandhamal district. In July 2015, gram sabha members filed claims for conversion into revenue village as well as for recognition of their community forest rights under the FRA and submitted them to the SubDivision Level Committee. However, in March 2016, even before the claims could be decided and titles of rights could be distributed, the forest department cut about 30 sal and teak trees in the village. The previous year too, the department had felled 90100 trees. Forest department officials say tree falling is part of the process prescribed in the working plan. The village residents, however, have been protesting against the ecological degradation. They claim that the forest department's working plan would no longer be applicable on their community forest as their claims under the FRA are still pending. The gram sabha members filed a petition under Section (7) of the FRA and submitted it to the state chief secretary demanding a ban on tree felling in their area and on any interference by the forest department until their FRA claims are pending. However, the forest department managed to uproot most of the trees in the village. The claim for conversion of the forest village into revenue village is still pending. In May 2021, Birendra Kumar Das, project administrator, Kandhamal district, informed LCW that there has been a public proclamation made for the conversion of the village inviting objections but that so far there has been none. Despite the process of marking and demarcation having been slow due to the pandemic, he remarked that the conversion could be completed within the next two or three months.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for legal recognition of land rights, Demand to retain/protect access to common land/resources, Opposition against environmental degradation

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Has the Conflict Ended?

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Forest and Scheduled Area Governance Laws

Legislations/Policies Involved

  1. Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006

    Section 3(1)(h) [Provision for conversion of forest villages into revenue villages]; Section 3(1)(i) [Right to protect and conserve community forest resource by forest dwellers]; Section 5 [Forest right holders and gram sabhas are empowered to protect forest resources, wildlife, biodiversity and against activities that affect cultural and natural heritage]; Section 6 [Authorities to vest rights in forest dwellers with initiation from gram sabha regarding the nature and extent of individual and community forest rights and further procedure regarding claims]; Section 7 [Liability and punishment for acts by officer or member of authority or department in contravention of provisions of the Act]

  2. Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

    Section 2(iv) [Any clearing of forests to be done with prior approval of the Central government]

  3. Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Rules, 2008, as amended vide the Forest Rights Amendment Rules, 2012

    Rule 2A [This rule stipulates the process of identification of hamlets or settlements and their conversion to revenue villages]; Rule 4(a) [Initiate the process of determining the nature and extent of forest rights, receive and hear related claims]; Rule 6 [This provision enlists the functions of the sub-divisional committee, which includes hearing petitions related to resolutions made by gram sabha]; Rule 8 [Functions of the District Level Committee, including hearing petitions against orders passed by the sub-divisional committee]; Rule 14 [Procedure for filing petitions to Sub-Divisional Level Committee]

  4. Guidelines on the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, dated July 12, 2012

    Clause (iii)(d) [State governments to take up conversion of forest villages into revenue villages urgently in a time-bound manner]

  5. Guidelines for conversion of forest villages and settlements into revenue villages, Revenue and Disaster Management Department, Government of Odisha, dated February 2, 2017

    Clause 2 [This provision lays down the procedure to be followed for conversion of forest villages into revenue villages]; Clause 3. III. [Any village or habitation on forest that is not a revenue village shall be considered eligible for conversion]

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community? What was the decision of the concerned government department?

Yes

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Non-implementation/violation of the FRA, Lack of legal protection over land rights

Legal Status:

Out of Court

Status of Case In Court

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

Yes

Name of the adjudicatory body

Sub-divisional level committee

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Case Number

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Whether criminal law was used against protestors

Official name of the criminal law. Did the case reach trial?

Reported Details of the Violation:

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Nature of Protest

Complaints, petitions, memorandums to officials

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Forest Department

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Yes

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Birendra Kumar Das, project administrator, Kandhamal, told LCW: "There has been a public proclamation regarding the conversion to revenue villages, inviting any objections. So far, there has been none. The marking and demarcation process has been slow due to the pandemic. We are hopeful that the process can be completed within the next two to three months, once a proposal has been sent via the Revenue Divisional Commissioner to the revenue department."

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of Corporate Authorities Approached

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:
No Images Available

Documented By

Sanghamitra Dubey

Reviewed By

Sanghamitra Dubey

Updated By

Sanghamitra Dubey

Edited By

Sanghamitra DubeyLand Conflict Watch
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