The Churachandpur’s Saikot AC MLA said, “The recent viral videos of small gun-wielding volunteers claiming to be BJYM members forcing their way through land-owning locals to forcibly afforest the Thangjing Hills appear to me to be the wrong approach to a noble objective of afforestation.”
TFM Kangpokpi Representative
BJP MLA from Churachandpur’s Saikot AC Paolienlal Haokip has slammed the attempt of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) Manipur Pradesh led by its president M Barish Sharma to plant trees on Thangjing Hill.
The BJP MLA said, “The recent viral videos of small gun-wielding volunteers claiming to be BJYM members forcing their way through land-owning locals to forcibly afforest the Thangjing Hills appear to me to be the wrong approach to a noble objective of afforestation.”
MLA Paolienlal Haokip made his observation in a representation submitted to the Minister for Forest, Environment and Climate Change Th. Bishwajit Singh over reserve forest issues in the state.
In the representation, MLA Paolienlal Haokip pointed out that some officials of the Forest Department are either issuing show-cause notices to villagers or taking up plantation drives without involving the local populace and creating avoidable tension in my constituency.
While appreciating the Forest Minister for his initiatives in meeting and interacting with chiefs and villagers of several hill villages and thereby soliciting their wilful participation in the government’s efforts to promote sustainable management of the State’s ecology, the BJP MLA drew the attention of the Minister toward resolving some of the issues facing the State in connection with the issues.
The bureaucrat-turned lawmaker maintained that the Indian Forest Act, 1927, imperial legislation, requires certain procedures to be followed while constituting any land as a reserved forest.
He said that the first requirement is to issue a notification in the official gazette under section 4; (a) declaring that it has been decided to constitute such land a reserved forest; (b) specifying, as nearly as possible, the situation and limits of such land; and (c) appointing an officer (hereinafter called “the Forest Settlement-officer”) to inquired into and determined the existence, nature, and extent of any rights alleged to exist in favor of any person in or over any land comprised within such limits, or in or over any forest-produce, and to deal with the same as provided in this Chapter.
He also said that Section 6 required that, after a notification has been issued under Section 4, the Forest Settlement Officer shall publish in the local vernacular in every town and village in the neighborhood of the land comprised therein, a proclamation such as specifying, as nearly as possible, the situation and limits of the proposed forest; explaining the consequences which, as hereinafter provided, will ensue on the reservation of such forest; and fixing a period of not less than three months from the date of such proclamation, and requiring every person claiming any right mentioned in Section 4 or Section 5 within such period either to present to the Forest Settlement-officer a written notice specifying or to appear before him and state, the nature of such right and the amount and particulars of the compensation (if any) claimed in respect thereof.
The MLA further said that Sections 7 to 19 further lay down several procedures relating to claims to rights and settlement of claims, appeals, commutation of rights, etc. It is only after completion of all such requirements that the government can issue a notification declaring a forest reserved, he added.
He then pointed out that in the case of the so-called Dampi Reserved Forest, such due diligence appear to be absent as Chiefs of villages in the land so constituted could not recollect the publication of the alleged notification in vernacular by the settlement officer under Section 6 and they also denied having been given any opportunity to present their claims to rights or having received any compensation for the land over which some have rights conferred by the British Government and others by the Maharaja.
The MLA said that so far as the Thangjing Hills are concerned, the Chief of Ukha (Loikhai) has clear orders of the settlement officer, excluding the land belonging to Loikhai village, which includes Thangjing Hills, from the Churachandpur Khopum Protected Forest.
While strongly considering that the government, in public interest, should cause cessation of issuing show cause and eviction notices till it can issue a white paper regarding the procedural propriety and completeness of the process of declaration of reserved forest over Dampi and Sagang villages land, the MLA said that I feel our government must control the public excitement, on communal lines, over the issue of reforestation of Thangjing Hills.
“The traditional pilgrimage rights of one religious community need not conflict with the land rights of another, merely requiring harmonious attitude and mutually respectful engagement”, asserted the MLA
He continued that as far as villages within reserved forests are concerned, the Forests Rights Act, 2006, otherwise known as The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 needs to be implemented in the State’s Reserved Forests before issuing any orders for eviction.
While putting faith in the Minister’s refined sense of justice, public harmony, and common welfare to intervene suitably and promptly, the MLA appealed to the people of Manipur to avoid the wrong approach to a noble cause.