The Jammu and Kashmir granted sanction for the constitution of three committees – Union Territory Level, District Level and Sub-Divisional Level Committee – for the implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006 in the union territory.
Last month, the J&K government had said that it will implement the Forest Rights Act of 2006, which was not implemented in the erstwhile state of J&K for the past 14 years.
However, the abrogation of Article 370 and the reorganisation of the state into a UT last year paved the way for the implementation of this Act for the first time in J&K, which provides the grant of certain rights to forest dwellers.
As per the General Administration Department (GAD) order, the Union Territory level committee will consist of Administrative Secretary Revenue, Administrative Secretary Forest, Administrative Secretary Rural Development Department, Administrative Secretary Tribal Affairs Department,
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, three schedule tribe members of the Tribes Advisory Council will be nominated by the chairperson of the tribe’s advisory council and where there is no tribe’s advisory council, three Schedule Tribe members will be nominated by the government and Commissioner, Tribal Welfare or equivalent, as members.
This committee will meet once in three months to monitor the process of recognition, verification and vesting of forest rights, consider and address the field level problems, and furnish a quarterly report to the central government on their assessment regarding the status of claims, the compliance with the steps required under the Act, and details of claims approved, reasons for rejection, if any, and the status of pending claims, as per the GAD order.
They will monitor resettlement under sub-section (2) of section 4 of the Act and to specifically monitor compliance of the provisions contained in clause (m) of sub-section (1) of section 3 and sub-section (8) of section 4.
The District Level Committees under the chairmanship of Deputy Commissioner concerned have also been constituted, in which Divisional Forest Officer (Territorial), three members of Block or tehsil level Panchayat members to be nominated by the District Panchayat of whom at least two shall be Scheduled Tribes preferably who are forest dwellers or belong to the primitive tribal groups and where there are no Scheduled Tribes, two members who are preferably other traditional forest dwellers and one shall be a woman member and District Panchayat Officer will be members.
This District Level Committee will examine all claims, especially those of primitive tribal groups, pastoralists and nomadic tribes.
They will also consider and finally approve claims and record of forest rights prepared by the Sub-Divisional Level Committee (SDLC) and to hear petitions from persons aggrieved by the orders of the SDLC.
The GAD has also constituted third committee headed by Sub-Divisional Level Officer of Revenue Department i.e. SDM / ADC as its chairman and Range Officer headquarters/concerned range officers and three members of Block or Tehsil level Panchayat to be nominated by the district panchayat of whom two shall be Schedule Tribe preferably who are forest dwellers or belong to the primitive tribal groups and where there are no Scheduled Tribe, two members who are preferably other traditional forest dwellers, and one shall be a woman member and BDO concerned as member.
This committee will provide information to each Gram Sabha about their duties and duties of holder of forest rights and other towards production of wildlife, forest and biodiversity with reference to critical flora and fauna which need to be conserved and protected.
They will also provide forest and revenue maps and electoral rolls to the Gram Sabha or forest rights committee, and examine the resolution and the map of the Gram Sabha to ascertain the veracity of the claims, to hear and adjudicate dispute between Gram Sabha on the nature and extent of any forest rights, and to hear petitions including UT agencies aggrieved by the resolutions of the Gram Sabha.
They will prepare a block or tehsil wise draft record of the proposed forest rights after reconciliation of government records.
The implementation of Forest Rights Act and the constitution of three committees has come after the Jammu and Kashmir administration faced strong backlash over the demolition of temporary structures of tribal in certain forest lands, and the eviction drives conducted last month.