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FRA Campaign in Jharkhand

01 June 2015 Share: facebook share twitter share

On 1 June the Honourable Chief Minister of the Government of Jharkhand, Shri Raghubar Das, launched a state-level campaign for claim generation under the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The campaign is a joint initiative between the Government of Jharkhand’s Department of Welfare, PACS and Jharkhand Van Adhikar Manch – a network of civil society organisations working on forest rights, set-up by PACS.

A poor FRA implementation record

The need for launching a campaign on FRA claim generation was decided in the context of extremely poor implementation of the FRA in Jharkhand, in particular the recognition of Community Forest Rights (CFRs). This was, among other reasons, due to a lack of clear guidelines and understanding on the process.

However, a recent amendment to the FRA brought a greater clarity on the concept of CFRs and the procedure for determining and recognising these rights. This made it easier for civil society organisations (CSOs) under Jharkhand Van Adhikar Manch (JVAM) to advocate for better FRA implementation in the state.

Successful advocacy

As a result of JVAM’s advocacy work, the Government of Jharkhand’s Department of Tribal Welfare recognised that FRA was one of the most neglected programmes in the state. They agreed that a focused intervention was needed to implement claim processes as per the guidelines issued by the Government of India’s Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

Working together, PACS, JVAM and the Department of Welfare have devised a joint campaign to expedite claim generation in Jharkhand.

The campaign launch

The launch of this campaign was held at the Sri Krishna Institute for Public Administration in Ranchi. It was inaugurated by Shri Raghubar Das (Honorable Chief Minister, Government of Jharkhand) who acknowledged and appreciated the work of civil society and emphasised the need for meticulous planning with clear targets to make Jharkhand the lead performer in terms of FRA implementation.

“FRA is a priority not only for the state government but also for the central government and therefore any carelessness will not be tolerated” he said in his speech. “In the coming days we will be at par with other states in terms of claim generation and realisation. To ensure this there is a need for teamwork and collaborative action of government with civil society.”

He went on to say: “I will ensure rigorous reviews of the progress from each district through planning and review meetings to ensure effective implementation of the act in the state.”

The Chief Minister of Jharkhand - Shri Raghubar Das - inaugurates the campaign launch event.

A speedy process

Dr. Louis Marandih (Honorable Minister for Welfare and Social Welfare, Government of Jharkhand) appealed to all concerned stakeholders and officials to ensure a speedy claim generation process. She suggested that officials need to play a more proactive role by reaching out to communities to raise awareness and provide handholding support.

Mrs Vandana Dadel – the Welfare Secretary for the Government of Jharkhand – echoed these sentiments, stating that district authorities should take leadership at the district level and develop their plans for claim generation in a time bound manner. “I will be the first one to take disciplinary action against any official found guilty of hindering the progress of FRA,” she warned.

Other speakers also highlighted the need for coordination between the Forest Department, Revenue Department and Welfare Department.

Sharing and learning

In addition to hearing from political personalities, civil society representatives also shared their experiences of working on the FRA, highlighting the challenges and bottlenecks that they have experienced and the roles of different stakeholders.

Vaundhara - a CSO working on FRA in both Jharkhand and neighbouring Odisha - provided many useful, comparative insights between the two states. It was agreed that an exposure visit for government officials should be planned to the Mayurbanjh district of Odisha.

Mr Panda from the Foundation of Ecological Security also shared his experience of post-CFR resource management strategies, emphasising the importance of participatory planning through the empowerment of Gram Sabhas (Village Councils) and the promotion of village leadership.

Going forward

The event successfully highlighted the importance of FRA claims, the issues with the current system and the importance of ongoing governance and management of community forest resources after claims have been recognised.

There was strong state ownership over the initiatives and processes, and we are hopeful that the promises made by political representatives will prioritise, improve and expedite the claims process over the coming months.

A FRA caravan was also launched at the event, coordinated by the CSO partners of Jharkhand Van Adhikaar Manch. These mobile vehicles will be stationed in 5 commissionaires across the state, equipped with Information Education Communication materials on the FRA. They will visit different villages to generate awareness amongst the rural masses.

Our team of Van Adhikar Mitras (Forest Rights Friends) were also celebrated and recognised at the event for their work in helping communities to apply for their forest rights. They will continue to play an important role in raising awareness and providing advice and support to communities across the state.

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