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25 Apr 2017

Govt accused of land right delay

RAJEEV RAVIDAS Kalimpong, April 24: The Himalayan Forest Villagers' Organisation today accused the state government of meting out step-motherly treatment to forest villagers of the hills by continuing to deny land rights to them in violation of the provisions of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
Lila Kumar Gurung, the secretary of the organisation, said 52 forest villages in Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri districts had been given the status of revenue village, but similar villages in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts had been ignored.
"There are 168 forest villages in Darjeeling and Kalimpong. Like the rest of north Bengal, we have been demanding the implementation of the Forest Rights Act ever since it came into existence. The state government has initiated the process of granting land rights to 52 villages in Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri, but has completely ignored the hills. We see it as a step-motherly treatment of us," he said.
Gurung said the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, which is popularly known as Forest Rights Act, envisages granting forest dwellers the right to land and other forest resources, but the state government has been very tardy in implementing the law.
"We are only demanding what is due to us by law," he said.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of forest villagers from Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts gathered in front of the Tricone Park here, demanding rights to their land. "We will be submitting a memorandum to the Kalimpong district magistrate on May 2 on our demand," he said.
Asked if his organisation had lined up more protest programmes, Gurung replied that nothing was on the anvil in the immediate future.
<>Chapter II of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, among others, allow: right to hold and live in the forest land under the individual or common occupation for habitation or for self-cultivation for livelihood by a member or members of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dwellers.
"To be fair, hills-based parties like the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Jana Andolan Party and the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) have raised the land rights issue in the past. However, by virtue of being in power in the state, Mamata can really queer the pitch," said an observer.

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