Uttarakhand Forest Rights Movement gains momentum

Deodar forest in Devalsari

Dehradun, A fifteen-member delegation of Vanadhikar Movement (Forest Rights Campaign) met Amit Negi, Secretary, Uttarakhand Government a co-convenor at the ‘Himalayan Conclave,’ which is  expected to see many Chief Ministers from the Himalayan states in attendance along with Chairman Niti Ayog and Chairman 15th Finance Commission.

Vanadhikar Movement (Forest Rights Campaign), is an amalgam of people from different walks of life advocating for the restoration of Customary and Traditional Rights of the community over a natural resource, especially forest.

The demand of the campaign is, “not only to honour or respect the Traditional and Customary Rights but involve the Community in the management of natural resources. Handout a green bonus of Rs. 10,000 crore for development of infrastructure in hills and other challenging terrain, as well as a direct incentive to the community in the form of LPG cylinder, electricity, water, construction material, etc.”

The delegation gave a memorandum in support of its demands and requested Mr. Negi to include these points in the agenda. Mr. Amit Negi assured that he would submit the demand letter at the appropriate level and make efforts to include these points in the discussion.

The delegation was jointly led by Shri Kishor Upadhyay (former minister of Uttarakhand), and Prof S.N.Sachan. Other members of the delegation were Prem Bahukhandi, Sanjay Bhatt, Amarjit Singh, Abhinav Thapar, Pranita Badoni, Renu Negi, Namchand, Ravindra Negi, Vishal Maurya, Suleiman Ali, Yakub Siddiqui, Sushil Saini, Udaybir Panwar, and Mukesh Lakhera.

Ten – Point Charter of Demands by Vanadhikar Andolan, Uttarakhand
1. Status of Forest Dwellers/ Vanvasi / Girwasi
 Uttarakhand should be declared as forest territory and its resident should be given the status of Forest Dwellers/Vanvasi/ Scheduled Tribe.
2. Forest Rights Act:
 Forest Rights Act 2006 should be implemented in letter and spirit.
3. Customary and Traditional Rights
 The government should recognize and respect our customary and traditional rights over natural resources. The government should also provide direct incentive bonus to the Forest Dwellers (citizens of the state) in lieu of conserving and protecting the flora and fauna, clean water and other natural resources;
 A direct incentive bonus should be given to the community in the form of free water (as per standard international norms), electricity (100 Unit per family per month) and construction material (one time to one family).
4. Reservation in Central Government Jobs
In view of their status as Forest Dwellers/Vanvasi/ Scheduled Tribe, residents of the hill-state should be given reservation benefits in Central Government jobs.
5. Rights Over Minor Forest Produce and Mineral
 The community at the block level should be given the rights for collecting and mining the natural resources such as clay, stone, sand, gravel and other minerals for their personal use;
 After that, allotment should be done at the district and state level. Local small business enterprises requiring raw material should be given rights to use natural resources in a sustainable and regulated manner;
 In the case of non-availability of local business entities, those enterprises from other states should be given the work which are partly owned by people of Uttarakhand origin or have some joint venture with them.
6. Planting of Nurseries
 The task of development of plant nurseries should be given to local self-help groups at panchayat /forest range level. This work should be distributed among self-help groups  in order to spread benefits to all;
 No plants should be purchased from outside District or Divisional Forest Officer territory;
 Traditional knowledge of the local community should be respected in the selection of plants/ tree/ herbs in the forest.
7. Green Bonus
 In lieu of providing freshwater and clean air to the country, a green bonus of Rs 10,000 crores should be given to the state, which should be spent on priority basis for the development of health, education, roads, etc., especially in the hills and challenging terrain.
8. Developing Green Cover:
 Tree Farming (Vrish Kheti) by the community should be encouraged providing adequate incentives;
 Farmers from the hill region should be given an incentive of Rs. 5000 per beegha (Rs.1250 per Nali / 225sq.yard) for providing an ecological social service to the country;
 Farmer should be given an incentive for planting trees (as per their choice) in their personal land; they must be allowed to take benefits of all the produces from these trees;
 Farmer should be allowed to cut/use the trees (of any nature) grown in their agriculture farm or horticulture farm. However, a clause of compensatory forestation can be associated with this provision.
9. Sustainable Development of Himalayan states
 The central government should initiate the formation of distinct and suitable policies and programs for the sustainable development across the Himalayan states. The first step in this direction can be initiated towards constitution of a separate ministry for Himalayan states for comprehensive and sustainable development of the region which can have global implications in terms of addressing the critical issues of global warming and climate change.
10. Man-Animal Conflicts
 Forest Depart should be held responsible for the man-animal conflicts. Each of the victims of man-animal conflicts should be given fair compensation. We demand rupees 25lakhs for a family of deceased and permanent government Job, 10 Lakh for serious injury plus full treatment and so on.