In Jharkhand, the forest is like a mother to Adivasis

May 4th, 2011 - 5:49 pm ICT by ANI  

By Aloka Kujur Ranchi, May 4 (ANI): For Adivasis, the forest is their provider, taking care of food, medicine, firewood and herbs. Forest produce like lac and mahua are sold in the market for cash. Small wonder then, that for the Adivasi, the forest is like a mother’s bosom. So, why is it that this harmony is lost on those who make policies? The government’s program, in the name of Joint Forest Management, highlights this lack of understanding, this denial or refusal to accept and enhance the equations that exist on ground.In Jharkhand, this has a tragic consequence. The state is blessed by nature including mountains and luxuriant teak forests. Teak not only symbolises the culture and way of life of the Adivasis, it also has a very important role of retaining ground water levels. Ask any Adivasi, and you will get an anguished response to this. Seeing the depletion of forest cover, they recognise the threat to not only to their physical existence, but also their entire belief system, cultural and social practices, and in a larger sense their identity. This may be seen as subjective, and even a non-intellectual response, but it is for the government to go about collecting data and putting together an objective forest policy framework.

In Bonda village, in Chanho block, the collection of fuel from the forest is affected. Chandra Dev Tana Bhagat, a villager rues, “In and around the forest, all such trees are being planted, which is not useful. Its leaves can’t be used.

According to him, the forest has a wisdom, an innate sense of what to allow to grow and what to throw out. Yet, there is now an outside force that is derailing this natural process. Bhagat goes on to say, “Suddenly, the government has started planting useless trees which can damage the traditional forest property.”

Not that the communities have been passively accepting their fate. There has been noise and agitation around the issue.

Soma Uraon of Chauda village says, “The people who live around the forest have been fighting against this new form of encroachment for many years”.

Yet it is so much water off duck’s back and government continues its mindless plantation, its replacement of precious forest wealth with cheap alternatives.

The question is why? Is this sheer mindlessness or is there a larger conspiracy at work? The answers are not so hard to find, you simply need to join the dots. The teak wood in the forest is priceless and is vanishing at an alarming rate. It is an open secret that the timber mafia is entrenched in the area. .

The thick forests of Khunti are completely destroyed because of wood smuggling. In Ormanjhi block, teak worth probably lakhs has been cut. Infact to put a price on it would be a disservice, and still undervalued. Its worth in terms of its value to the Adivasis is infinitely more.

At another level, the suppression of the rights of the Adivasis continues. The police acting upon the complaint of the Forest Department arrest forest settlers of the region slapping on cases of encroachment of forestland.

The pity is that these incidents, this fear and insecurity continues despite the existence of the Forest Act, 2006 which clearly safeguards the rights of the forest communities in relation to the forest and its produce.

Sub section 5 of Article 4 of the Act states that unless the process of claim of trespassers on the forest land is not complete, the police or the officials of Forest Department cannot remove them from the place, Yet the police, mostly at the behest of the Department continues to slap cases against the hapless villagers. Is this then not a violation of the Law?

Such cases abound. In Adasadam village of Jarideeh block the police slapped cases against 15 villagers. According to the FIR, these villagers are booked for cultivating land meant to plant trees.

What has been overlooked is that the eight families who have been affected are domicile since 1939 and have ‘zamindari’ receipts to corroborate their rights on the land. They also have receipt for the land that was given to them in 2005. So what is the justification for such arbitrariness, such flagrant violation of the law of the land?

There is none but then why are those that are inflicting injury not being brought to book? Do we need a super-cop, a super-authority to oversee the functioning of those who have been vested with power and authority in the first place?

The Charkha development communication network feels that the government needs to wake up to the importance of nurturing forests and the rights of the communities connected with it.

The preservation of the bond of the Adivasi to the forest, the spirit of protecting and nurturing it should be the policy. It would make governance and development in tune with the needs of the people, not antithetical to them. (ANI)

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