Forest Rights Act | Public representatives, activists seek postponement of FRA meetings

Many elected District Development Council (DDC) members, Panchayat members and activists have appealed Government to delay the gram sabha meetings to elect Forest Rights Committees (FRC’s) at village level in view of the recent snowfall and lack of awareness.

The DDC members said that the Government has directed the Deputy Commissioners to start rolling out the Forest Rights Act (FRA) across J&K as soon as possible. Notices have been issued by various District Panchayat Officers (DPOs) directing BDOs and Panchayat Secretaries to hold Gram Sabha’s to elect Forest Rights Committees that have the sole power to give entitlement to the forest dwellers.

“The forest areas of Shopian like Sedou, Zampathri, Kellar, Moshwar, Jam Nagri and other areas are covered with snow and holding gram sabha in the open is impossible. To hold  such meetings in Panchayat building or some other house is not advisable as there are chances of spread of COVID19. We need more and more people to be present in the gram sabha (dehmajlis) so that a 15 member Forest Rights Committee is elected with consent of the dehmajlis. This is not possible now. We appeal Govt to delay the FRC gram sabha meetings as they hold the same in March. Until that time awareness on Forest Rights Act can be created in village and block level by Govt and NGOs” says Ajaz Ahmad Mir former MLA and DDC member from Shopian.

DDC member Tral Dr Harbaksh Singh Shunti has also demanded that the Gram Sabha meeting to constitute FRC’s be delayed as areas in Tral like Shikar Gahetc where forest dwellers live are covered with snow.

“Let the meetings be held after snow melts to ensure more participation of people. We also need more awareness about this act by NGO’s, Rural Development Department, Revenue Deptt. The Forest Department can’t go to people in view of being a respondent party under the FRA. Information Deptt also has to play a great role and then only the law should be implemented,“ said DrShunti.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat social activist said that such gram sabha on FRA should be held after there is proper awareness among panchayat members, officials of Rural Development Department, Revenue Deptt and Forest officials.

“The Panchayat Secretaries (VLW’s), Patwari’s, Panchayat Inspectors, Girdawar’s, Foresters, Forest Guards, Tribal affairs deptt officials, Sarpanches, DDC members etc need to be sensitised first and then only FRC should be constituted in villages. With very cold climate and snow still on ground in rural areas this is not possible.”

Deputy Sarpanch Jabbad Ghulam Mohammad Jahara and Panchayat member Batwodder Abdul Rashid Kumar in block Surasyar of Budgam want more awareness on Forest Rights Act (FRA) before its roll out.