The Joint Director, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi, has clarified that the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act 2006 applies to municipal areas too.
Accordingly, the Directorate Scheduled Tribes Welfare, Government of Karnataka, has directed officers to take note of the Union government’s clarification and take action on constituting Forest Rights’ Committees in municipal areas too on the lines of the Village Forest Rights Committees (Gram Aranya Samithis).
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, is a key piece of forest legislation passed on December 18, 2006.
It is also called the Forest Rights Act or the Tribal Rights Act or the Tribal Bill, and the Tribal Land Act.
The law is related to the rights of forest-dwelling communities to land and other resources, denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws in India.
Deputy Commissioner B S Shekarappa, in a circular dated January 6, has directed the Divisional Commissioners and the chief officers of the Town Municipal Councils and Town Panchayats to act on the basis of the amendments made to the Act in 2008 to be implemented in 2012.
Shekarappa, when asked about the clarification on the extension of the utility of the Act to the municipal areas, told Express that some taluk headquarters are situated in the middle of the forest region in districts like Chikmagalur, Kodagu, Mysore, Hassan, Uttara Kannada, Udupi, Dakshina Kannada , Belgaum etc and the tribal people living there can lay claim to their right to the land under the Act. In Chikmagalur district, for example, Chikmagalur, Mudigere, Tarikere, Sringeri, Koppa, N R Pura taluks fall in the forest region. The same parameters apply to the constitutuion of Municipal Forest Committees as in the Gram Aranya Samithis, he added.
In a committee of minimum 10 and maximum 15 members, there should be 2/3 ST members, 1/3 other members and 1/3 women members. The committee president and the secretary wil be decided by the committee.
However, Krishik Budakattu Welfare Committee President K N Vittal has questioned the necessity of new committees when the Gram Aranya Samithis have not been completely constituted in many areas of the district. The rights of the tribal and forest dwellers on the land have not been recognised completely as of now, he added.