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Activists demand speedy settlement of tribal land title claims

Villagers of Khagrabar move to safer place

Mumbai : Terming government’s policies as “anti-tribal”, Shoshit Jan Andolan, a group of associations working for the development of tribals in Maharashtra, today sought approval of all pending land title claims of tribals.

Over 700 tribals from four districts– Mumbai, Thane, Raigad and Palghar– attended the ‘Forest Rights Parishad’ held here today.

Brian Lobo of Kashtakari Sangathan said, “Our primary demand is that all the pending land title claims made by tribals and appeals filed in this regard must be settled.”

“More than 3.46 lakh individual land title claims had been filed in  Maharashtra under the Forest Rights Act, of which only 1.06 lakh land titles have been awarded so far. It means 66 per cent of the total number of claims were rejected. Even the size of settled claims is only 0.87 hectares, which is sort of denial of their rights.”

1.51 lakh appeals were filed against the rejection of claims with various authorities, of which only 39 per cent have been settled, he said adding, “But more than 46,000 appeals filed before the District Authorities are still pending.”

Lobo alleged that the recent circular issued by the Centre makes it clear that it wants to hand over the forest land to private players. “The government wants to snatch the rights of the tribals. In the past three years alone it has diverted 6,724 hectares of forest land to various projects in the state,” he said.

Ulka Mahajan, another tribal rights activist, while addressing the convention, alleged that government is not interested in awarding the community forest rights claims.

“Initially, the state government put the implementation of Forest Rights Act on the back burner and now suddenly it has declared that the implementation is to be completed by December 31, 2015. So in this situation, injustice would be done to the tribals as most of their claims are likely to be rejected,” Mahajan said.

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