Before the end of the Parliamentary session, I placed the demand for expedited implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA 2006) in Darjeeling and Kalimpong Districts, and have requested the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to investigate and ascertain responsibilities on the part of those who have deprived our forest dwellers their right to Parja Patta.
Placing the matter under Rule 377 of the Parliament, I informed the house about the discrimination meted out by the Govt of West Bengal while implementing Forest Rights Act 2006.
As per the FRA 2006, all forest villages inhabited by people must be converted into revenue village and land rights and ownerships are transferred to the forest dwellers. In 2013, the West Bengal Government issued a notification to convert forest land to revenue village across the state. A Gazette notification for conversion of Forest Villages into Revenue villages was issued for the neighboring districts of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduars in 2014 itself. However, no steps have been taken by the TMC Govt in West Bengal towards conferring the same rights to the forest dwellers of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts where around 2.6 lakh people live in Forest Areas.
Why is it so? I am unable to understand?
We are all citizens of the same country, governed by the same constitution and laws. Yet, why are forest dwellers from the districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong deprived of their constitutional rights?
I informed the house that, such is the level of deprivation that no Panchayat elections have been held in the region since 2000. Because of which, for the past 20-years, people from the hill regions of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts have been left to fend for themselves. In the absence of elected Panchayat, there is no elected people’s body which can protect the rights of these people.
I informed the house that, these are ancestral lands of our people, and are not occupied. These lands are a symbol of the heritage and historical roots of the forest dwellers from our region. Labelling the ancestral lands of our people as “land under occupation” is grossly wrong and reeks of racism and attempt at delegitimizing the rights of our people.
I have requested the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which is the implementing authority for FRA to investigate the issue urgently and take necessary steps towards ensuring justice for the forest dwellers of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts by recognizing their rights to their ancestral land and Parja Patta for the same.