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State performs dismally in settling forest right claims

Panaji: The state is still lagging far behind in disposing of claims received under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

Goa stands at 19th position in the list of 20 states in disposing of the claims.

The implementing authorities maintained that they do not have sufficient number of surveyors and PDA machines, which is a handheld device used for demarcating area under the claims.

The paucity of surveyors and handheld devices has frustrated the government’s efforts in disposing of the forest right claims.

Although the Forest Rights Act came into force in 2006, the actual process of receiving claims from the tribals and other forest-dwellers began in 2012 in the state.

As per a status report, the state government has received 9,758 individual claims and 378 community claims under the Forest Rights Act. However, even after seven years, the state government could distribute only 35 titles out of the 71 approved by the district-level committee to individual claimants, and eight titles of the 11 community claims approved by the DLC.

Of the 9,758 individual claims, the spot verification of only 3,192 claims has been completed.

The spot verification of 18 claims out of the 378 community claims has been completed.

The Chief Secretary pointed out at a recently held meeting of the state-level monitoring committee that state’s figures on the disposal of claims have been dismal that reflects negatively at the national level,   as Goa is a small state.

When the Chief Secretary enquired the reasons for the poor rate of spot verification, the South Goa district collector attributed it to the insufficient field surveyors.

The spot verification of claims could not be completed and without spot verification, the claims cannot be placed at gram sabhas for further process, it was informed. 

The meeting also brought to the fore the fact that there is only one PDA machine for every taluka. The device is used for demarcating the area under claim during spot verification. 

The revenue secretary maintained at the meeting that Google images are more accurate, suggesting that they could be more handy and useful in speedy disposal of forest right claims.

However, until a final decision is taken vis-à-vis the use of Google images, it would be advisable to continue with the current practice of spot verification, sources opined.

The South Goa district collector also highlighted the difficulty in achieving 50 per cent of quorum at the gram sabha for settling the forest rights claims.

However, the private members suggested to the committee that the gram sabha under the Forest Rights Act may be conducted in line with the provision of the Goa Panchayat Raj Act, which says that whenever 50 per cent of quorum is not achieved then the gram sabha shall be adjourned for 30 minutes; and even after the adjournment if the required quorum is not achieved then the gram sabha shall be conducted with those attending the meeting, and there will be voting.

Taking note of the suggestion, the Chief Secretary directed the tribal welfare director to move the proposal with reference to the requirement of quorum at the gram sabha under FRA, 2006 by quoting provisions and FAQ under the same act.

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