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PUCL, June 2003

 

The forest case - The way forward
--By Pradip Prabhu

Proforma for Claims for Regularization of Encroachments under FP(1), FP(2), & FP(3)

Intervention of Kashtakari Sanghatna in the Supreme Court

Intervention of the Adivasi Mukti Sangathan

Intervention of SAKTI

Some of us met in Delhi on 25th and 26th July to discuss the way ahead in the forest case. Present in the meeting were representatives from Jan Sangharsh Morch (MP), Soshit Jan Andolan (Maharashtra), Zabran Zot Andolan (Vidharba, Maharashtra) PUCL (Tamilnadu), Jangal Jamin Jan Andolan (Rajasthan), Adivasi Mahasabha (Gujarat), Adivasi Aikya Vedika (AP), Chetna Sanghatan (Uttrakhand), Sruti (Delhi), Bharat Jan Andolan (Delhi), National Forum for Forest People and Workers Workers (Delhi). There were several other friends who were not invited, the responsibility for the oversight is totally mine. It was inadvertent but nevertheless I seek forgiveness. In the meeting the following issues were discussed.

The ground realities in the different states. In Maharashtra, the agitations forced the hand of the state government, which issued a Govt. Resolution for verification of claims and in which thousands of claims have been filed and the process of verification is underway in the different districts currently. In Andhara there is a current stay on evictions granted by the High Court. In Orissa the Government stated that no tribals would be evicted and district committees have been formed but no claims have been filed. In the other states talks are underway with the government but claims have not yet been filed. Evictions are going on in Taminadu notwithstanding that the tribals have filed claims.

· The status of the interventions filed before the CEC. Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have filed interventions before the CEC. Though I feel that the various states which filed through advocates should verify the same once again. None of the interventions before the CEC has been called or heard. There is no indication whether the CEC has admitted our firm contention that the guidelines of MoEF (GOI) dated 18/9/1990 should be implemented before any evictions can be undertaken or that they simply do not care for our point of view and there is no sustained struggle on the ground to make them to sit up and take notice.

· The agitations of August, September and October 2002 have faded into distant memory and the vague promises made by state governments have not been translated into law or into a strategy of implementation except in the case of Maharashtra, where the agitation and other circumstances forced the state to issue a Resolution to undertake verification of claims for regularization. Otherwise the state Governments have made promises particularly given the fact that most governments face elections in the next 15 months but we have not yet held them to their word or started bringing pressure.

It appears that the Supreme Court has placed the matter for final hearing in the month of July, but the dates are not confirmed. Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have filed interventions before the Supreme Court. The status of the interventions is yet to be ascertained one the Court resumes.

Though the situation is quiet in the states going to the polls, the people are being issued notices and in the case of Chattisgarh also being issues ‘Eviction Orders’ after following due process.

Subsequent to our discussions, we reached the following conclusions.

Those who have filed interventions before the CEC should write a formal letter stating that the CEC has not heard them as yet and ask for a hearing.
Those who have not filed interventions before the CEC should formally file interventions before the CEC by registered post-AD and ask for a hearing. We felt that many more organizations should file interventions. (if any seek to have a draft of the interventions, I am enclosing the draft of Madhya Pradesh as a sample).

Those who have not filed interventions before the Supreme Court could request one of the lawyers who would handle their intervention (The lawyers who have agreed are Rajeev Dhavan, Prashant Bhusan, Venkatramani, Murlidharan, Colin Gonsalves), others whom you may know are welcome though some co-ordination is necessary. We could request Rohit Jain from Sruti to help to co-ordinate. His email is rjn@vsnl.com informally file interventions before the CEC by registered post-AD and ask for a hearing. We felt that many more organizations should file interventions. (if any seek to have a draft of the interventions, I am enclosing the draft of Kashtakari Sanghatna as a sample.)

File claims with the Collector of the respective districts under the various Guidelines (FP1 – Encroachments prior to 1980; FP – 2 Disputed Claims arising out of Forest Settlements i.e. areas being declared as Reserve Forests without following the Procedure laid down in the Forest Act; FP –3 Leases/ Grants/ of forest land made before 1980 but still not legally conferred, FP (5) Conversion of Forest Villages into Revenue Villages and Settlement of Other Old Habitations)

Demand verification of claims filed with the Collector.

Holding a Indian Peoples Tribunal Hearing in New Delhi on 19th and 20th July. In the meeting many said that 12th and 13th would be too close to made adequate preparations and preferred the IPT Hearing on 19th and 20th July. I had advocated 12th and 13th, but now looking at ground realities it appears that 19th and 20th would be preferable.

Sorry for the inconvenience. Preparation for the IPT Hearing would include
a) preparation of a detailed submission on the history of the problem of disputed claims, un-conferred rights, encroachments, forest villages, shifting cultivation and the current status of the issue in the respective states.

b) preparation of testimonies of 5 persons who have been seriously affected by the issues mention! ed above. Of the five 3 would have the opportunity to testify before the judges.

c) participate in the hearing with approximately 100 persons from each state.

d) each state would raise approx Rs. 10,000 for the stay, food, shamiana for the hearing

e) search for appropriate sites for stay, food and for the hearing.

f) Colin Gonsalves has agreed to organize the judges and meet the costs of bringing the judges to Delhi, conduct the hearing, record evidence and finalize the report.

Priyadarshini Sreenivasa from Kashtakari Sanghatna has agreed to help in the logistics for stay, food and location for the Hearing. Xavier Manjooran from Rajpipla Social Service Society had promised to see if ISI would provide the hall for the two days for the hearing. He would need to verify if the place is available on the changed dates.

We sincerely hope that you will prepare and participate in the hearing and make it a success.

Pradip Prabhu will be the Co-Ordinator/Convenor for the present Campaign.

In addition I am making the following suggestions

File Writs for stays on evictions in the respective High Courts if possible depending on the situation in your respective High Courts. T (I am enclosing Shivaramakrishnan’s Writ as a sample)

Try to push the hearing in the SC back by a month after which the model code of conduct for the elections will operate in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Orissa and the SC could be restrained from passing orders.

Looking forward to hear from you soon.

Please also send a copy of all your communications to Priyadarshini Sreeneevasa email enessess@vsnl.com. Priya will also get in touch with you all.

We have also requested Madhu Sarin to help in the communication, so also send her a copy of your communication. Madhu’s email is msarin@satyam.net.in

Please pass on the invitation to others in the different states who are either not accessible on email or whose addresses I do not have. Send info about the same to Priya and Madhu for follow up.

I believe we will have to give it all we have or the issue will swallow us up.


 

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