KOCHI: A social audit of the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in Kerala has revealed that the state will have to go miles in this direction. A three-day convention held in Kochi a few days ago to evaluate its progress in the state found major human rights violations associated with it. Speaking to this newspaper, tribal activist M. Geethanandan pointed out that there had been a deliberate attempt on the parts of the authorities for not implementing the FRA in letter and spirit. "A report prepared to mark its progress shows that the state will have to go a long way in this direction," he said.
Major violations include illegal eviction, non-granting of Community Forest Rights status and lack of discussions with grama sabhas as mandated by the Act. “There have been illegal evictions of tribes from Wayanad district including Kattunaikka (PVTG) in 2012-15 without recognition of their rights, consent of the grama sabhas and compliance with FRA 2006 (violation of Sec 42 of the Act)”, the report said. “No habitat right of the PVTG and pre-agriculture community conferred so far in Kerala. Kadar community managed to get CFR right for half of the villages, eight in Thrissur district, but the rest in Palakkad district, including the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve area, are pending.”
The report also mentions about the pre-agriculture community like Malapandaram in the Pathanamthitta and Idukki districts not even being considered for CFR and Habitat right and the sleight of hand method used by the authorities concerned for getting the technical clearance for Athirappilly project by misrepresenting the facts. The report stated that “proposed Athirappilly Hydroelectric project got clearance two times from the ministry of environment and forests, and one of the EIA prepared by TBGRI recorded that the Vazhachal Kadar GS is 5 km away from the proposed dam site.
The ST Commission formed to enquire the complaint from Geetha, chieftain of Vazhachal Kadar GS, reported that the Vazhachal settlement is just 400 m from the dam site and will be affected. The second EIA by WAPCOS does not mention about the village. Now the government is going ahead with the same old notion and taking violators of the ST right as experts and their expert opinion have been used to obtain technical sanction and forest clearance for the project”. The report contains several such instances of violations that needed to be highlighted for the proper implementation of the FRA and the protection of the indigenous people in the state.