Mamata to distribute land rights to 400 hill forest villagers

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee
Darjeeling: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee will distribute land rights to over 400 forest villagers from the hills, kick-starting a process shelved for almost a decade now.
Although Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act was passed by Parliament in 2006, it could not be implemented in the hills largely due to the absence of an elected panchayat and the lack of initiative by the previous board of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
Those at the helm of GTA then did not enjoy cordial relations with the Bengal government.
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Binay Tamang, the chairman of the present board of administrators at the GTA, said on Friday: "Much work has been done on this issue after we took charge of GTA. During chief minister Mamata Banerjee's visit to Darjeeling from September 3, we will distribute land rights to more than 400 forest villagers."

So far, 1509 ST residents and 1,232 other traditional forest dwellers from the Darjeeling district have claimed land rights.
"From Kalimpong district, 3,376 ST residents and 4626 other forest dwellers have made their claims. Verification of claims is goings on and we hope to complete the entire process soon," Tamang said.
Land rights will first be given to the STs, Tamang said. "This is because the verification process is easy for the STs. For other dwellers, they need to prove land possession for three generations or 75 years. This is taking a bit of time. None need to worry as certification by village elders for other forest dwellers can also be accepted," Tamang added.
On Friday, the GTA held a meeting with the district authorities of Darjeeling and Kalimpong to look into the issues.
Land rights is a major issue in the hills as most of the hill residents do not have them now. While the forest act only covers forest areas, efforts are also been undertaken by the GTA to grant land rights to other people staying on government lands.
The process to grant land rights to forest dwellers is likely to help expedite the rail project to connect Sikkim with rest of the people.
Forest villagers in the hills are demanding that they be given land rights after which they would provide a no-objection certificate for the rail link to pass through their areas.

The Telegraph
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Chief minister Mamata Banerjee will distribute land rights to over 400 forest villagers from the hills, kick-starting a process shelved for almost a decade now. Although Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act was passed by Parliament in 2006

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