Srinagar: Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement on Friday claimed that fake gram sabhas were held across many places in Jammu and Kashmir recently to constitute the Forest Rights Committees (FRC's) under the Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA) which has been rolled out in the Union Territory.
In a statement issued to media, Chairman J&K RTI Movement Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat said that due to cold weather conditions and snowfall not even one percent people attended the Gram Sabha meetings across J&K to elect the village Forest Rights Committees (FRC's).
“It has been alleged that in many villages, the people were not even informed and those people who are in actual possession of the forest land for more than 100 years haven't been made part of the FRC's,” the statement said.
Bhat had demanded that FRC's be reconstituted by holding fresh Gram Sabha's after weather improves and until then Govt must only take up awareness programmes across J&K
"Before holding Gram Sabha meetings the govt was supposed to issue a gazette notification through J&K Tribal Affairs department wherein they will provide details of villages where people can claim the rights under FRA. People don't know whether the JK Tribal Affairs Department has been made the Nodal Department or not ? Most of the FRA workshops and training programmes were organized by the Forest Department at top which goes against the principles of this legislation,” Bhat said.
“Government made some people in villages hold closed door meetings which have been labelled as Gram Sabha meetings. There has been resistance from people as well. In these meetings 10 to 15 member Forest Rights Committee (FRC) members have been elected. In the bone chilling cold with 4 to 5 feet snow on ground in most of the forest villages Gram Sabha were hardly held. Have these meetings been held in places like Tulail , Gurez or Machil which are totally cut off from the rest of J&K ?” he added.
Bhat further alleged that in many places not even 5 people were present in the meeting which elected the 15 member FRC.
"I don’t blame the officials of the Rural Development Department or members of Panchayat for all this. It is the govt at top which is enforcing this. They seem to be under a confusion that by March 31st govt has to implement FRA 2006 in J&K . This is not the case at all,” he said.
He further added that FRA was a continuous process and has no time limit. He said as per the FRA guidelines jointly prepared by Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India office in 2015 there is no time limit for receiving FRA claims.
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