Forum > Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests > Comments by Ashok Sharma Continued

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007


Some of the other glaring inconsistencies are:


            Rule 3 ( 1 ) defines the Gram Sabha. But the definition needs to strictly conform to the Constitutional provisions. It may be borne in mind that the provisions relating to thew Scheduled areas are restricted to only 2278 of the 15694 forested villages in the State. The Seventy-third Amendment empowers the Panchayat and not the Gram Sabha. The Bombay Village Panchayats Act, 1958, which was amended in 2003 to incorporate greater role for Gram Sabhas, deals with this issue differently. The expression,“Adult members” does  not find a mention in the Constitution. Instead, the Constitution mentions Gram Sabha as “a body consisting of persons registered in the electoral rolls relating to a village comprised within the area of Panchayat at the village level.


Rule 3 (2) prescribes functions of the Gram Sabha under the Act, which, as per the Constitution, is a duty cast upon the State Legislature.


            Rule 3(4) prescribes for constitution of Sub Divisional Committee. Under Clause ©, it includes – The Forest Officer in charge of a Subdivision. This needs to be changed as this designation  may not exist universally. An ACF or SDFO would be a better proposition.


            Rule 4(1)(a) seeks to define “family” as mentioned in Section 4(6) of the Act. But, the definition appears to be at variance with provisions of Section 4(4) of the Act. The concept of more than one wife and that of dependent persons other than minor children seeks to expand the scope of claim as to a forest right. There is a need to restrict this definition.


            Rule 4(1)© also appears to overshoot the provisions of the Act in providing that “in case of community rights to land, the entire  area under actual use may be recognized and vested with the community.” Section 4(6) on the other hand, unambiguously provides that “where the forest rights are recognized and vested by sub-section (1) are in respect of land mentioned in clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 3 such land shall be under the occupation of an individual or family or community, on the date of commencement of this Act and shall be restricted to the area under actual occupation and shall in no case exceed an area of four hectares.” In Bhamragarh Forest Division, 35 tribal families are practicing shifting cultivation over 10,000 ha of forest land. The Forest Department of Maharashtra does not admit existence of shifting cultivation in the State. If the draft rule’s provisions are allowed to go unchallenged, the department stands to lose 10,000 ha of thick forests @ about 280 ha / family!


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