“Today, bamboo is liberated … The adivasi is not the enemy of the forests” – Union Minister

Meena Menon, indiatimes.com, National, Mendha-Lekha (Gadchiroli district), April 29, 2011

“Today, bamboo is liberated,” proclaimed Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh at a function here on Wednesday, where he handed over to Mendha’s community leader Devaji Tofa a transit pass that would allow the sale and transportation of bamboo within the community.

Ever since bamboo was given the status of a minor forest produce (MFP) in the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (Scheduled Tribes and Traditional Forest Dwellers [Recognition of Forest Rights] Act), there has been a campaign for its selling rights — something which the Forest Department has jealously guarded. The Act, which seeks to redress a historical injustice to Adivasis, apart from entitling them to land ownership, also gives communities rights to collect, use and sell bamboo as an MFP. […]

Mr. Ramesh said forest officers alone could not protect forest areas; local participation was essential. “About 25 crore people live off the forests, we cannot keep them out.” He also called for a change in the mental attitude towards adivasis and forest-dwellers.The adivasi is not the enemy of the forests, he said.

Mr. Ramesh commended Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for taking the brave step of vesting power with Gram Sabhas. Of the 2,800 claims for community forest rights made in the country, 691 were approved for villagers in Maharashtra. He advocated a minimum support price for minor forest produce and said at least 12 items, including bamboo, mahua, tendu, and lac, could be considered for this.

A special case would be made for the Gadchiroli and Gondia districts and local development work for school, health sub-centres, government buildings — which involved five hectares of forest area — could be taken up without clearance from the Centre. It also decided that Section 68 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, would be amended so that no cases could be filed against adivasis without the approval of the Gram Sabha. […]

He hoped that the Forest Department and villagers would become equal partners in sustainable forest management. […]

Source: The Hindu : News / National : Bamboo is liberated, says Jairam Ramesh
Address : http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article1818936.ece
Date Visited: Fri Sep 02 2011 22:16:01 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Mendha Lekha is first village to exercise right to harvest bamboo
Dipannita Das, TNN Apr 23, 2011, 11.40pm IST

PUNE: Mendha Lekha in Gadchiroli district will become the first village in the country to exercise its community right to harvest bamboo under the Forest Rights Act. […]

The bamboo was earlier treated as a timber under provisions of the Indian Forest Act, though technically it is a grass. This gave the forest department the exclusive right to harvest it and exercise tight control on the lucrative multi-crore trade in bamboo. However, the Forest Rights Act changed this by categorising bamboo as a minor forest produce that can be sold and harvested by local communities using government transit passes.

Source: Mendha Lekha is first village to exercise right to harvest bamboo – Times Of India
Address : http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-04-23/pune/29466126_1_forest-rights-act-forest-bureaucracy-minor-forest
Date Visited: Fri Sep 02 2011 22:10:56 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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The foremost example of self-governance comes from a village in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, Mendha (Lekha). With a forest area of 1800 hectares, it has a population not more than 450 people of the Gond tribe. Yet, they made it amply clear that representative democracy handed over to them by a political structure far removed from their own tribal customs would not work for them. “Before Independence, the nation was under the British rule, the tribes were not. Yet, the rules thereafter meant getting permission for every action undertaken in our own forest land which was termed as public property. We were of the opinion that the government should handle the papers of the forest land, while we look after the forest ourselves,” says Devaji Toffa, one of the prime members of the village who brought about a revival of tribal rights to forests.

Source: Mendha Lekha – Gadchiroli « Conflict reportage from Vidarbha
Address : http://conflictreporting.wordpress.com/category/mendha-lekha-gadchiroli/
Date Visited: Fri Sep 02 2011 22:14:07 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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