Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fate of Chandauli forest dwellers still undecided

Rajeev Dikshit, TNN, Nov 22, 2010, 10.40pm IST

VARANASI: The fate of around 4,000 people of Maoist-affected Chandauli district, who have lost the scheduled tribe (ST) status in the past 8-9 years, continues to hang in balance due to the indecisive attitude of the Union government. The state government has forwarded the recommendation to restore the ST status of these tribals but the Centre is yet to act on it. Due to the delay in the restoration of ST status, these people are still deprived of the benefits of the Tradition Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

A tug-of-war between chief minister Mayawati and her arch rival and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had resulted in separation of Chandauli from Varanasi, re-merger and restoration of district in the past one decade. During her past regime, chief minister Mayawati had carved out Chandauli from Varanasi as a separate district in 1997. However, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav merged it again in Varanasi district after coming back to power in 2004. Finally a high court order helped in restoring the status of Chandauli district in July 2004. But in this tug-of-war, the jungle natives of Chandauli lost the status of ST and, in the lack of revenue records of past 75 years, proving them to be the traditional forest dwellers also became impossible. It also jolted the bid of the Chandauli administration to utilise this act as a major weapon against the Maoists.

On the basis of available revenue records and other evidences, only nine persons and their families of Chandauli district could be certified as the tradition forest dwellers. On May 22 last, social welfare commissioner and principal secretary Prem Narain visited the district and distributed the 'patta' of land among the same nine beneficiaries to provide them benefits as per the Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. If divisional forest officer of Kashi wildlife division PP Verma is to be believed, the benefits of community claims as per this act have also been given to the same beneficiaries.

According to Verma, over 14,000 claims have been received to seek the benefits of this act in the district. After proper verification, only nine applicants were found eligible for it. He said if the ST status of around 4,000 persons was restored, they could also be given the benefits of this act. During his May visit, Narain had disclosed that recommendation for the inclusion of 10 castes of Chandauli district on the list of ST had already been forwarded to the Union government.

District magistrate, Chandauli, VK Tripathi said the reminders were being sent to the Union government on regular intervals for taking decision on the issue. However, the Union government has not shown any interest in restoring the status of ST of the people of such castes. Verma said until they included in the ST list again, providing them the benefits of the act would be impossible. Members of the same castes are enjoying the ST status in adjoining Maoist-affected districts of Sonebhadra and Mirzapur, where a large number of the population has succeeded in getting the benefits of this act.

Read more: Fate of Chandauli forest dwellers still undecided - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/varanasi/Fate-of-Chandauli-forest-dwellers-still-undecided/articleshow/6971930.cms

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