Supreme Court stay order is a temporary relief. Tribal families around the country face uncertain future
The Background Staff: The Supreme Court has stayed its earlier order of February 13 (in the writ petition (civil) No 109/2008), which would have led to eviction of tribal families-this would have amounted to more than 1,000,000 tribals and others- of 16 states by July this year. The court order came after the Centre moved an application seeking a stay. The Centre said in its application, the claims of lakh of forest- dwelling STs and other traditional forest dwellers were rejected by the States without observing due process of law. The Court has now said in its February 28 order that the administrations of the concerned states have to collate data and file affidavits on the matter. This is a big relief but it might just well be a temporary one.
More than 20 lakh tribal families are in distress now. The Forest Rights Act (FRA) passed in 2006 by the first UPA government was meant to enable the tribals to regain their lost habitats. Prior to this Act, entire communities living inside protected areas were denied entitlements on their lands. They were always threatened of eviction. They were considered illegal in their own areas. The FRA was very positive and hopeful. But lack of political will could not implement this legislative act over these years. The Adivasis are internally-displaced refugees now. Caught between mineral wealth hound corporate, conservation programmes of the government, ultra-left insurgency and corrupt administration – they are fast vanishing from their soil. They are facing stiff challenges in their day to day lives. They have become a pawn in the indifferent and callous system of ours.
Hundreds of members of the tribal communities are on the march now in different parts of the country. There would be a rally in Bhubaneswar on March 7 by different organisations. The activists say that eviction should be done through proper process. They also say that lack of education and awareness; most of the tribal people do not have documents with them. The Supreme Court has set December 13, 2005 as the cut-off date for land ownership claims. As of September 30, 2018 42 lakh claims has been filed. Of these 19.3 lakh had been rejected. This included 18.8 lakh individual claims.
A humanitarian crisis is looming large. There are thousands of Adivasis whose claim to reside in the forest areas is nothing but natural but they have no proper paper work.