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Flaws alleged in tribal rights Bill

Special Correspondent

"It will prove detrimental to the interests of forest communities and forests"

NEW DELHI: Jan Sangharsh Morcha, a network of people's organisation in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, has strongly condemned the Centre for serious flaws in its proposed Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Rights) Bill that, according to it, will result more in the denial of rights than in their recognition. Unless fundamentally modified, the Bill will prove detrimental to the interests of both forest communities and forests, the Morcha says.

In a statement issued here on Saturday, Morcha representatives said that though the Central Government had finally recognised that "historical injustice" had been done to the tribal people by the continuation of colonial laws and that there was a need to rectify this injustice, "we are dismayed to find that the Bill fails to do this, and in fact is likely to increase the injustice done to adivasis. Through some token concessions, the Bill seeks to "settle" once and for all the politically sensitive question of adivasi rights, so that the way can be paved for the takeover of forest resources by industrial and commercial interests and global "big business."

The Jan Sangharsh Morcha will, along with other people's organisations, launch a campaign for a new legislation that fully recognises the legitimate historical rights of all forest communities, while stringently preventing destructive large-scale commercial exploitation and the diversion of forestland to industry and large projects. "We demand the full and unequivocal recognition of rights that forest dwellers have been fighting for over the past two centuries, through a legislation that will recognise all land holdings of all forest dwellers on an `as is where is' basis and the full recognition of rights over minor forest produce."

The Morcha is opposed to imposition of arbitrary, irrational and impractical limitation of conditional rights only to those adivasis who can prove their claim of the land before 1980, exclusion of non-adivasi traditionally forest dwelling communities from the purview of the legislation and "tyrannical" control of the Forest Department over the forest among other things.

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