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Recognition of Community Claims in Odisha

Prepared by: Hitabhilash Mohanty, LLM in Human Rights

Apart from granting of IFR claims, almost all the CFR claims in the state has been granted or is under verification thus, serving the purpose of the Act. Apart from the state actors, non-state actors such as NGOs have played a vital role in entrusting community with their rights over the forest resources. This study analyses few case studies of claiming of CFR claims and in some of the case studies role of the local NGOs could be traced.

Case study – I. Juang PVTG process of claiming habitat rights

The Juang PVTG of Odisha happens to be the first community in the whole to country to have filed habitat rights claim under the Forest Rights Act. A total of three habitat rights (Three Pidha) claim have been filed with the SDLC of which the first one was filed in the year 2010 and the remaining were filed in 2011. The claims were never processed by the SDLC due to prevailing confusion regarding meaning and scope of habitat rights at the level of government. The Government of Odisha subsequently wrote to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs seeking clarification on the issue. The process of claim making was facilitated by Vasundhara (an NGO based at Bhubaneswar, Odisha) and BanabasiChetna Mandal (a local NGO based at Gonasika, Keonjhar district), Odisha based NGOs. Similar processes were adopted for determination and filing of claims. Example of one such claim making process has been described in the following section:

Process through which the Juang community have claimed Habitat rights

Series of awareness camp and meetings on FRA provisions and habitat rights in the region organised by facilitating local NGO then a Pidha level Mahasabha meeting was organized under the leadership of MukhyaSardar participated by all Sub-PidhaSardar with Pradhans, Dehuris and also dakua of all the villages coming under JuangPidha based on which an action plan developed to initiate the habitat rights determination process. While following up with the agenda Gram sabha of each village under the leadership of Pradhan (whether revenue, hamlets, un-surveyed, forest villages) under all SubPidha organised to discuss the action plan then dates for subsequent meetings was fixed.

Then a subsequent round of gram sabha meetings organised as per previously fixed plan. In these meetings they demarcated their customary boundaries and intimated to SDLC about this development. In next round of meetings, details related to places of NTFP collection, places of worship, Rivers, nalasor any water bodies, grazing places and roads used by them etc were marked and recognizable landmarks (Streams, hillocks, trees etc.) were identified and shown across the previously delineated customary boundary. Prepared maps presented in each of the concerned GS under all Sub-pidha area. Subsequently joint gram sabhas (covering all gram sabha coming under one subpidha area) was organised to look after any issue related to overlapping area or any conflict between two of the gram sabha and then the claim was finalised.

Pidha level meeting was then organised under the leadership of Sardar and included the Pradhans, Dehuris, Dakua, elders persons, women representatives, Panchayat Secretary, Forest Rights Committee Secretary and President of all the villages falling within that particular sub-pidha for final verification before making recommendation to SDLC. A final Sub-Pidha map was then consolidated and prepared.

The Sub-Pidha map was then finalized by the Sardar (traditional Sub-Pidha leader) with the consent of the Pradhans, Dehuris and all elders/important members of the villages of the Pidha where Panchayat Secretary and FRC Secretary and President were also a part. The Pidha wise Habitat Rights claim was filled before the SDLC. This same process was adopted by all three Sub-pidha for claiming habitat rights

Case Study – II. KutiaKondha PVTG process of claiming habitat rights

The Kondha were the principal inhabitants in the region now called Boudh and Kandhamal. The Kandhas are divided into many groups among whom the Kutia, Dongaria, and Desia are well known. The KutiaKondhas are found mainly in Kotagarh, Tumudibandh and Belghar area of the Baliguda subdivision. The Dongaria or the MaluaKandhas lives in high lands in hilly areas of the district. The Desia or OdiaKandhas lives in plain areas with the non-tribal.

The process of recognition of habitat rights has been initiated in collaboration with Kandhamal DLC, local CSO/NGO and the KutiaKondha traditional leaders, the proposed guideline was piloted in the process of recognition.

Case Study – III CFR governance and management process in Kandhmal

The process for recognition and vesting of community rights under FRA, in Kandhamal, started in 2008, which till date is completed in 2221 villages. The district administration with support from Vasundhara initiated the process of delineation and mapping of community forest resources using GPS in 23 villages of Jamjhari gram panchayat of Phulbani block. Madikhole is a village of Odisha, some 25 Km from Phulbani. Madikhole Gram sabha constituted a community forest resource conservation and management committee (CFR CMC) under section 4(1)(e). The Gram sabha elected 20 members of committee including 10 female member. The CFR CMMC which is formed for the first time under the provision of FRA meets several times and framed some customary rule and regulation and the same has discussed in Gram sabha and passed a resolution of the same. Thereafter it has been implemented and the community initiative on fire management awareness started. For the first time this year they are able to protect forest fire completely and enjoyed the benefits as well given the justice to wild lives. They assessed that number of jungle foul increases as well as other birds population who all are nesting on ground. The community generated a good income form sal leave plates sale. Women member feel comfortable while visiting the forest for different purpose because of cooling services of the forest. They are expecting some improvement in sapling number in this year and quality mushroom in rainy season.

Case Study – IV Bilapagha CFR governance and management

Bilapagha is another Village about 30 km from Jashaipur inside Similipal Biosphere Reserve. The Bilapagha governing on about 1200 hector CFR area and constituted a CFR CMC including more than 50% women member from bother Kolha and Bathudi community. Bilapagha Gram sabha framed some basic customary rule and regulation in order to initiate the forest protection, regeneration, conservation and management process after right has been recognized and title given to them under forest right act. CFR CMC also controlling other committee existing in the village such as EDC, SHG after passing a resolution in Gram sabha.