penalise the tribals - Young MPs urged
New Delhi: Asian
Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) today urged the Tigers and Wilderness
Watch formed by young Members of Parliament not to penalise the
tribals by blocking the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest
Rights) Bill, 2005 and to examine the role of timber mafia for commercial
exploitation of forest and the organized criminal gangs and poachers
who trade in prohibited animal articles.
In October 2003, custom officers in the Tibet intercepted a record
haul of 31 tiger skins and 581 leopard skins being taken to Lhasa.
At the Kaziranga National Park, some
25-50 animals killed each year by the poachers.
“Blaming the tribals for reduction of tigers
in Sariska and elsewhere is akin to blaming the victims of trafficking
and not the organized criminal groups who force hundreds of thousands
of women across the world into contemporary forms of slavery” –
stated Suhas Chakma, Director of ACHR.
The Scheduled Tribes constituted about 8.1 percent of the total population
of the country according to 1991 census but they also constituted
55.16% of total displaced people which indicates victimization of
the tribals. Many of the tribals have been displaced for creation
of national parks. The failure to provide rehabilitation to the
displaced tribals consistent with constitutional provisions such
as "land for land" as provided in the 5th and 6th Schedule
of the Constitution of India has created further pressure on forest.
tribals are arrested each year for collecting minor forest produce
while timber mafia operates with virtual impunity. On 11 October
2004, Orissa government directed the Forest Department to withdraw
all 11,424 minor cases involving forest produce of less than Rs
100. The recognition of the forest rights will reduce the mis-use
of powers by the forest officials.
ACHR urged that
the Draft Forest Bill does not provide blanket access to the forest
as the deadline for the recognition and vesting of forest rights
to forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes has been set before 25 October
1980. Most of these tribal villages are revenue villages and the
State governments have already been making attempts to recognize
them as such.
“The Draft Bill strikes a fine balance of
rights vis a vis duty as it does not only entrusts the forest right
holders for prevention of activities that adversely affect wild
life, forest, bio-diversity but also provides for penalties including
permanent termination of rights against the offenders.” stated