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The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 seeks to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be recorded. More than 32.22 lakh claims have been filed under the Forest Rights Act. Out of them, 27,56,827 claims have been disposed off, which is 86% of total number. Out of claims accepted more than 12.63lakh titles have been distributed. As per the information collected 31st may 2012.

The Section 3 of the Act specifies the forest rights of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers that are to be recognized and vested under the Act. One of the forest rights specified in the said Section relates to the right of ownership, access to collect, use, and dispose of minor forest produce which has been traditionally collected within or outside village boundaries. The Act was notified for operation with effect from December, 2007. As per the provisions of the Act and the Rules framed thereunder, the responsibility for implementation of the Act lies with the State/UT Governments. The claims for recognition of forest rights under the Act are adjudicated as per the procedure laid down in the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Rules, 2008 notified on 1st January, 2008 for implementing the provisions of the Act. Rejection of claims is an outcome of a quasi judicial process. The law also provides for petitions to Sub Divisional Level and District Level Committees. However, in order to address various issues relating to implementation of the Act including the problem of rejection of claims, the Ministry has also taken the following measures:

(i) The State Governments were instructed to categorize all rejections, with their numbers, on a statistically acceptable sampling basis, at the level of Gram Sabha and Sub-Divisional Level Committees, in different categories, to find out the categories/reasons for their rejections, and to meet the expenses for this survey out of the grants under Article 275(1) proviso, as communicated to the States.

(ii) The State Governments have been advised to provide the Gram Sabhas with the assistance of facilitators in order to overcome the difficulties experienced by the claimants in accessing the requisite evidence in support of their claims, and also to facilitate claims, especially those of PTGs.

(iii) The State Governments have also been advised that the natural justice demands that the period allowed for filing petition shall count from the date of communication of the orders. Like-wise, the rejection of a claim by the District Level Committee should also be communicated for seeking redressal.

(iv) A review meeting with the State Secretaries/ Commissioners of Tribal Welfare Development Departments was also held at New Delhi to ascertain the categories/causes of rejection of claim.

PIB Aizawl

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