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Neglected:Karnataka has not implemented many provisions of the Forest Rights Act.
Bangalore: Karnataka has among the worst track records in the country in meeting the rights of tribal communities, the latest figures with the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs reveal.
Recently, the State Government opposed Unesco's nomination of the Western Ghats as a heritage site on the grounds that tribal rights could be violated, and that forest dwelling communities could even face eviction.
However, Karnataka features at the bottom of the ranking of States in implementing the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA). Of the 1,63,090 applications received from individuals and communities to claim title deeds on forest land that they have lived and worked on for generations, only an abysmal 6,522 title deeds — or 3.99 per cent — have been granted.
As many as 1,43,825 claims have been rejected by the Deputy Commissioners of districts across the State between 2006 when the Act came into force, and today.
Tripura on top
While Tripura ranks number one on the performance list, having granted 67.64 per cent of the claims received, Karnataka comes a distant 15, after Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, which have granted 12.87 per cent and 13.41 per cent respectively.
Only three States are worse off than Karnataka: Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The remaining nine States, which include Goa, Sikkim and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, have not received claims.
Karnataka has distributed 8,500.22 acres of forest land, which accounts for 0.07 per cent of the total forest area in the State. Several other important provisions of the Forest Rights Act have not been met, points out Roy David, convener of the National Adivasi Alliance under whose umbrella are tribal rights groups such as Budakattu Krishikara Sangha, which has protested the lack of consultation during the Unesco nomination.
In the past, forest communities have not been consulted before the declaration of the State's six tiger reserves: Nagarahole, Bandipur, Dandeli-Anshi, Bhadra, Kudremukh and BR Hills.
These involve the creation of inviolate zones and the potential relocation of tribal communities, while the FRA mandates that the consent of forest communities should be obtained before declaring a management status to a forest, he added.
Hundreds of families have already been relocated from the Bhadra and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves, and the process of rehabilitation has begun in the Kudremukh National Park.
In Nagarahole, where relocation began in 2006-7 and 150 families were relocated only two months ago, Mr. David points to violations of community rights as enshrined in the FRA.
“Communities have been prevented from collecting minor forest produce that is essential to their livelihood,” he said.
In a similar incident last year, the Soligas of BR Hills protested the tiger reserve status proposed for the forest fearing the loss of the land they have cultivated for centuries and access to forest produce — honey, lichen and gooseberry — upon which their livelihoods are based.
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