There seems to be little progress in giving titles of forest land to tribals. Thousands of claims have been received, but 17 states and union territories are yet to disburse titles. Experts feel the states are intentionally delaying the process.
Of the 22.99 lakh claims the ministry of tribal affairs has received so far, a little over 30,200 titles have been given. Ministry officials said 1.54 lakh titles are ready, but states are not disbursing them.
“We have been sending reminders to state governments every month to expedite the process of title distribution, but there is no response. Implementation of the Forest Rights Act is a long process. It can’t happen overnight,” Girish Srivastava, director, ministry of tribal affairs, said.
“Seven states have started distributing titles. But bigger states, such as Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, Orissa, UP, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Arunachal, have not begun the process yet,” he said.
The ministry has received 3.29 lakh claims from Andhra, 2.45 lakh claims from Maharashtra, 4 lakh from Chhattisgarh, 3.66 lakh from Madhya Pradesh, 2.92 lakh from Orissa and 1.38 lakh claims from West Bengal.
NGOs working with tribals suspect the state governments are purposely delaying the process. “The records are fudged. State government officials have been demanding income certificates and other non-relevant documents from tribals. Instead of expediting the process, they are creating hurdles. The states are at fault. They have put wrong officers on the job,” Father Xavier of Rajpipla Social Service Society said.
Xavier, who has been working for tribals in Gujarat, said, “There are several irregularities in land records. State government officers are hiding facts about encroachment on forest land.”