People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 3

January 25, 2009



Land Pattas Distributed To  Tribal Forest Dwellers

Haripada Das

THE Left Front government of Tripura stands first in the country to implement the Schedule Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006. Land pattas were distributed to 35 tribal forest dwellers in a massively attended rally at Mandai, a rapidly developing centre on January 17, 2009. This programme of distribution of land pattas was inaugurated by the chief minister, Manik Sarkar. The rally was presided over by the local MLA, Manoranjan Debbarma and seated on dais among others were Tribal Welfare minister, Aghore Debbarma, Panchayat minister Manik Dey, Party Central Committee member Rama Das and ADC executive member Radhachran Debbarma. The representatives of elected local bodies of the area and higher officials of various government departments were also present in the function. Before finalising the beneficiaries, all official formalities right from the village level were completed in various stages.

Mandai, a small tribal hamlet once attained nationwide notoriety for mass killings perpetrated by the secessionist and divisive forces under the banner of TUJS and TNV in June 1980, has now been transformed into an excellent symbol of amity, fraternity and unity of the tribal-nontribal people and at present has developed to a mini-township accommodating a block headquarter.

In his speech, chief minister, Manik Sarkar attributed the day as a new sunrise for tribal people of the state because, a section of impoverished tribal people could at last establish their right on their ancestral land which they cherished for long. Briefly narrating how the present Forest Right Act came into being, Manik Sarkar said, in the name of protecting environment, then Congress government at the centre passed Forest Act in 1980 with a view to evict the tribals who have been dwelling there for generations without any kind of re-settlement package. Rejecting outright the draconian law, CPI(M) launched nationwide movement against this. A few years back, CPI(M) held a national convention to formulate a tribal policy which extensively dealt with problems of tribal forest dwellers. CPI(M) also conducted nationwide campaign to highlight these problems to generate public opinion. In 2004, due to CPI(M)’s pressure, the demand for passing an Act for the traditional forest dwellers was incorporated in the CMP on the basis of which the Left parties lent support to the Congress-led UPA government at the centre. Ensuring land right of the forest dwellers was one of the important agenda set by the Left parties. In spite of that, the passage of the FRA could find its way in its present shape only after continuous pursuance and relentless pressure mounted by the Left parties, mainly by the CPI(M), over the Congress which was not at all keen to pass it. Even after passing the Act in the parliament, in the name of preparing rules for the Act, they halted its implementation for another one year to serve the interests of the land-grabbers and illegal timber traders. Now a section of environmentalists challenged the law in the Supreme Court where the three Left Front governments stood firmly in favour of the present law.

Mentioning the drawbacks in the present law, Manik Sarkar said, the present law should be further simplified. Many genuine tribal families, would be deprived of the benefits of this law due to dearth of documents to probe the conditionalities of at least 75 years of forest habitation. An intense struggle is necessary to amend the law in future, Manik Sarkar suggested.

Lambasting the so called tribal-lovers under the banner of INPT, some foreign companies interested in trading in Jetropha, Manik Sarkar said, they shed crocodile tears for the tribals misinterpreting and misleading the people with a view to stall its implementation by any means. We have concrete plan to remove the ‘remoteness’ from the state. Wherever there is people’s habitation, basic amenities like road, water, electricity, school, hospital etc., must be present. We have succeeded in making a breakthrough in this sphere, he informed and added we would have advanced much more, had there been no extremist problem for the last three decades in the state. The extremist outfits are now suffering a shrinkage, but still they are not eliminated. So there is no question of abandoning the anti-extremist drive that is in operation in the state at present. At the same time, he made a clarion call to the extremists to return to the mainstream to take part in the development of the state. If necessary, they may negotiate with the centre and for that, Left Front government may cooperate with them, he mentioned.

Tribal Welfare minister Aghore Debbarma remembered Mohini Tripura, a tribal mother who was gunned down by the police while collecting firewood from her jhum plot in Belonia of South Tripura, during the Congress regime. At a time when her martyrdom bore fruit in the form of establishment of forest right, a section of vested interests are trying to create ethnic division to undermine this achievement, Aghore Debbarma said and advised all concerned to keep vigil that no land should go to the affluent land-holders depriving the actual beneficiaries. Panchayat minister Manik Day also addressed the rally.