Shimla, July 26 (IANS) Successive governments in Himachal Pradesh have failed to notify and implement the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 and have allowed the rights of forest dwellers to get eroded, rights campaigner Rajeshwar Negi has said.
Negi, chairman of the Social Welfare Council of India, told IANS that the central government framed the FRA rules in 2008, but Himachal Pradesh has not implemented them.
On the contrary, the state has since 2012 been seeking for itself an exemption from implementing the FRA by arguing that all forest rights in Himachal Pradesh had been settled at the time of Forest Settlement in 1971, Negi said.
Negi, who is based in Shimla, said over 1,000 hectares of forests have been diverted in the past decade for hydropower, mining and road projects.
In a letter to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, Negi wrote: “In the wake of the Himachal Pradesh High Court Judgment on April 6, 2015, the forest dwellers are being forcibly evicted, invoking the Forest Act of 1927, whereas these individuals come under the protection of the FRA 2006, which cannot be superseded.”
All such occupants in actual possession of forest land prior to December 13, 2005, are thus owners as per entitlement under the act and are to be identified and given title rights, it said.
According to the 2006 act, no member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dweller shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is complete.
Despite the state was directed by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs on June 2015 to complete the process of verification of claims of the tribals by last year, Negi said the state has made no visible progress.
Negi said no infrastructure project clearance be granted without the recommendation of the respective gram Sabha.
He said in his letter to Virbhadra Singh he has sought immediate implementation of the FRA 2006.