ORANGE AREAS

 EXAMINING THE ORIGIN AND STATUS

 

 Anil Garg

  

National Centre for Advocacy Studies, Pune

 


First Published in January 2005 

Published by:

 

                        National Centre for Advocacy Studies,

                        Serenity Complex, Ramnagar Colony,

                        Pashan, Pune  411 021,

Maharashtra.  INDIA

 

                        Tel/Fax: +91+20- 22952003 / 22952004

                        E-mail  :  ncas@vsnl.com

                        Website: www.ncasindia.org

 

 

The contents of this book may be reproduced by voluntary organisations, social action groups, people’s organisations, public interest professionals and citizens for non-commercial purposes with due acknowledgement of the source.  Any other form of reproduction, storage in retrieval system or transmission by any means requires prior permission from the publisher.

 

Editors:

            Amitabh Behar, Pankajkumar Bedi and Rifat Mumtaz

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

FOREWORD                                                                                     

 

  1. INTRODUCTION                                                    
  2. ORANGE AREAS: GENESIS AND PRESENT STATUS
  3. EMERGING ISSUES

 

  


FOREWORD

 

What happens when it is discovered that two departments of the government namely the Forest Department and the Revenue Department have committed grave errors in discharging their duties, especially when the error has led to the denial of rights enshrined in the Constitution to thousands of people? The Orange Area land dispute is a classic example of such a case and has policy and legal implications in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

 

The “Orange Area” is disputed and claimed by both, the Revenue and the Forest Departments. As a result of its ambiguous status, thousands of tribals have lost their homes and lands since 1958. On the whole, the Forest Department has been tardy in completing the de-notification proceedings as per section 34 A of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and the Revenue Department has been lazy in updating its records pertaining to the transfer and re-tranfer of the said land.

 

In current times the emphasis on environment protection, wild life protection and protection of bio-diversity is fairly visible in the policies and laws of the country. However what is not visible is the neglect and contempt with which forest dwellers (mainly tribals) have been (mis) treated by the government under the garb of protecting the environment. Notwithstanding the fact that forests have been the primary source of livelihood for tribes dwelling in the forests, it is these tribes which are branded as ‘encroachers’ on forest land. Their  right to life and livelihood are seriously threatened by the growing hegemony of the industry and the state on the one hand, and the forest department on the other.

 

It is a well documented fact that the Forest Department was created by the British with the express purpose of harvesting the wealth of the forests. The Indian Government further strengthened laws and regulations which alienated forest dwellers from their livelihood sources. In the face off between the self proclaimed protector of forests, namely the Forest Department, and the people dependent on the forests, namely the tribal communities, it is often the tribal community that has been denied its rights to life, livelihood and the right to reside. The question here is whether the rights enshrined in and guaranteed by the Constitution have any validity when they are flouted and go unchallenged by the haphazard application of laws like the Indian Forest Act, 1927, Conservation of Forest Act, 1980 and biased Supreme Court decisions as given in the Godhavarman Case?

 

This small publication is aimed at presenting the “error” committed by the two departments leading to the dispute regarding the status of 12,274 sq. km of land also known as “Orange Area”. The information provided herein is based on years of research and is pertinent to the State of Madhya Pradesh. Documents and correspondence proof of all matters raised and presented are available with the authors.

 

Hope this publication will provide an insight into the issue, generate support and enable others in the field to examine land and forest issues in this light.

 

Anil Garg

Amitabh Behar

 

 


ORANGE AREAS

EXAMINING THE ORIGINS & STATUS

 

 

I.  Introduction

The states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh[1] are home to 60,385,118 (19.94% tribals) and 20,795,956 (27.49% tribals) people respectively. While Madhya Pradesh has an area of 308,144 sq. km, the state of Chhattisgarh is spread in an area of 135,191 sq. km. Madhya Pradesh with 77,265 sq. km of forest cover has the maximum forest cover amongst all states/UTs and Chhattisgarh has the third largest with 56,448 sq. km.

 

Taken together both these states have the highest number of national parks and wild life sanctuaries in the country. Madhya Pradesh has 9 National Parks and 25 Wildlife Sanctuaries and Chhattisgarh has 3 National Parks and 9 Wildlife Sanctuaries. This has led to the alienation of the tribal population whose livelihood depends upon forest and forestland while thousands more continue to live in abject poverty in the so called “forest villages”. Under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, only land can be compensated whereas livelihoods are not taken care of.

 

Forest villages are a constitutional anomaly and a hangover of the British-established labour colonies in the then abundant forests of the country for the express purpose of harvesting forest wealth. Today the dwellers of these villages wage a constant war of survival with the forest department. They are prisoners in their homes and awaiting legitimate settlement. Currently there are 923 forest villages in Madhya Pradesh and 422 in Chhattisgarh. Scheduled tribes predominantly inhabit these villages.

 

There are over 60,00,000 landless people in these two states most of them belonging to Schedule Tribes and Schedule Caste. Most of these people (specially those belonging to the Schedule Tribes) became landless with the enactment and haphazard application of the Indian Forest Act 1927, Wild Life Protection Act 1972 and Forest Conservation Act 1980. In 1990 the Government of Madhya Pradesh made a policy decision for regularisation of encroachments on forestland. As a result some eligible encroaches were regularized prior to 3.12.76. Proposals for regularisation of remaining encroachers and eligible encroachers prior to 24.10.80 are still under consideration with the Government of India (GoI).

 

It is important to note that the dwellers of forest villages were not included in either of the two surveys undertaken for regularisation. The Government of Madhya Pradesh is unable to regularise the encroached land due to non-clearance by the GoI.[2] The GoI has no qualms about diverting forestland for non-forestry purposes such as mining and irrigation, but has great reservations on regularising landholdings and homesteads of people dwelling on forestland since hundreds of years. This is clear from the data presented in Table 1 and 2.

 

Table-1

Details of forest land diverted for different user agencies since 1980

User Agency

Number of Cases

Forest Area diverted (in hectares)

Irrigation

149

67155.362

Major mining

106

9793.132

Minor mining

48

701.537

MPEB/NTPC/DTPL

179

3268.100

Miscellaneous

79

40105.938

Total

561

121024.069

Source: Forest Survey of India – State of Forest Report 2001 (Forests of Madhya Pradesh)

 

Table-2

Settlement of Encroachments

Category

No. of Persons

Forest Area (in hectares)

Settlement of encroachments upto 31.12.76 undertaken in 1990

41530

53342.758

Left out encroachers of 1976 survey and eligible encroachers prior to 24.10.80 still awaiting settlement

70141

90560.824

Source: Forest Survey of India – State of Forests Report 2001

 

Forests have been the source of sustenance and livelihood for people since times immemorial and more so for the tribal communities. Tribals have been struggling to assert and retain their rights over their forests more so in current times when environmental protection weighs heavily on the minds of both the developed and developing nations. It is easy to ask a pertinent question – Why is it that only the tribals and the marginalised get ousted from their lands and homes in the name of protection of environment and or development?

 

There is no doubt that in the denial of the rights of a large number of tribal and schedule caste communities some basic tenets of the Indian Constitution have been flouted:

 

Article 14Equality before law. This provides that legally every individual or group of people such as the tribals, local forest dwellers, industries and others who use the forest resources must be treated equally. But its often the tribals who loose their rights to forests and land.

 

Article 21Right to life and livelihood. This provides that the people have a basic right to natural resources on which their life and livelihood are dependent. Yet the story of most tribal communities in the country, whether it’s the Sehrias in Madhya Pradesh, the Baigas in Chattisgarh, the Mundas in Orissa, the Musahars in Bihar, or any other tribal community in any other part of the country, is a case of denial of this right.

 

Article 19Right to reside. This provides that people have a fundamental right to reside in an area in which people have domiciled for long. Yet the ousting of tribals in the name of national parks and sanctuaries, big power projects and mining, all for a vague common good, is a clear denial of this right.

 

The Forest and land laws in India have combined to produce a situation where the tribals find themselves on shifting grounds. Land laws have been codified since the British came to India and have undergone various changes. Mahesh Rangrajan, in his book “Fencing the Forest” states that few wooded lots were owned by the British government. In 1854 the government reserved rights to ‘large tracts of forest’ but left patches of jungles to the local landholders. The village forest were left open to the public. Jungles and woodlots in the control of zamindars and malguzars continued to be managed under varying rules and regulations.

 

The land and revenue department has been in existence since the British created the forest department in 1865 with the passage of the first Indian Forest Act[3]. It was amended in 1878 when a comprehensive law, the Indian Forest Law Act VII came into force. The provision of this Act established a virtual state monoply over the forests in a legal sense[4]. The Act also attempted to establish that the customary use of forests by the villagers was not a ‘right’ but a ‘privilege’ that could be withdrawn at will. It should be noted that it was on the basis of such Acts that the British were, through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, unquestionably the world leaders in deforestation decimating the forests of north-eastern United States, Southern Africa and the Western Ghats of India.

 

The historical context of laws relating to forests seems to present two distinct views on their objectives. One view, which is held by the state is that forests were reserved to restrict use and enable sustainable harvesting, which would meet the objectives of both conservation and livelihood requirements of the people. Another view is that ‘for the colonial government, the Forest Acts were a mere instrument of controlling and exploiting common property land’ by restricting peoples access to forest resources and securing exclusive control over the forests.

 

Post independence, the state only moved to strengthen its monopoly, and the global movement for protection of the environment gave a further impetus to fortify its claims. The rights of the people that had already been turned to privileges were now further eroded and termed concessions. In a hurry to catch up with the west defined environmentalism, we can be seen to have “skipped a whole stage of environmentalism so to say – where environmentalism is principally a question social justice, of allowing the poor to have as much claim on the fruits of nature as the rich and the powerful [5]”.

 

Inspite of Gandhi’s vehement opposition to industrialisation and the wide spread movements by tribal communities against forest laws, the Indian state continued exercising its monopoly over natural resources.  New laws and Acts such as the Wild life Protection Act were passed leading to the ousting of tribals all over the country. Here one is not contending the need for wild life protection and environmental protection but wondering at why all the protection has to be done at the cost of those who eke out their living from the forest and natural resources of the land. How is it that the concern for the environment does not prevent the government from ignoring the existing laws but even enacting new laws for enabling industrial houses to acquire forestlands for mining and power projects? Why doesn’t this concern prevent the state itself from submerging and destroying thousands of hectares of forest land for power projects, dams, highways, mining and so on?

 

In post independent India, both the Department of Revenue and Department of Forests grew into huge bureaucratic machineries. Both evolved a plethora of laws, records and regulations to govern their respective resources-land and forests. While both departments were meant to work in consultation and in instances jointly for the protection, management and enhancement of their resources, the truth is that it didn’t really happen. No frameworks or processes were created to facilitate their collective functioning even though their resources are entangled. A large number of lands that are today forest lands were earlier revenue lands. And even though land settlement and forest settlement processes have been carried out by both departments their records are in spectacular disarray.

 

This case is aimed at bringing to fore this confusion and disarray of both the departments that has far and wide reaching impacts upon the lives and livelihoods of people and specifically the tribal communities. The data and information provided pertain to one state – Madhya Pradesh but the overall implications of the case are relevant to the whole country post independence. It is not the aim of this paper to provide information for the whole country but it is hoped that the case will enable others in the field to examine the land and forest issues in this light.

 


II. Orange Areas: Gensis and Present Status

 

Consider the sequence of events and processes presented in Table-3. Each event and process has a larger backdrop of the laws and Acts pertaining to the forest and land issues in the country. Add to this the complex interplay of state specific laws and Acts governing land and forests and the stage for utter chaos and confusion is set. The confusion is not exactly a state secret as its implications and repercussions are evident in most cases that are raging against the two departments in various judicial courts of the country.

 

Madhya Pradesh is currently battling a case in the Supreme Court as a result of confusions and ill maintained records of the two departments. There are a number of Supreme Court judgments in cases pertaining to peoples’ fight for their rights to natural resources namely land and forests. There are various cases pending before various judicial courts, tribunals and committees about peoples rights vis-à-vis increasing state and industrial monopoly over natural resources.

 

Table-3 presents the story of 12,374 square kilometers of disputed land. This land is recorded as forest land in the records of the Department of Forests and as revenue land in the records of the Department of Revenue. This disputed land is also known as the “Orange Area” since on the maps it has been marked in orange color. It is proposed that if this dispute is resolved then the pending regularisations of land and distribution of land to the landless can be undertaken smoothly.

 

At the time of creation of the state of Madhya Pradesh in 1956, 94.781 lakh hectares of common land were declared as protected forest under section 29 of the Indian Forest Act 1927. The last notification for this purpose was made on 10 July 1958.

 

In 1959 the same land was considered as “dakhal rahit bhoomi” (land free from all encumbrances) and set aside for nistar rights of the people as per the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code 1959. [6] Since then this land has been the cause of immense confusion and strife not only among the two departments but also for the people who were distributed land under various schemes of the government. If the records have to be set right and if the government is serious about its commitment to land distribution and land settlement, then it is imperative that this dispute must be settled once for all.

 

Table-3 explains the origin of the dispute and thereafter the increase in the confusion and strife due to the conflicting and simultaneous proceedings initiated and undertaken by the two departments on the same lands.

 

Table-3

 

              REVENUE DEPT                                                        

FOREST DEPT

1910

In the undivided Madhya Pradesh during the process of settlement (bandobast) of different types of villages such as malguzari, zamindari and ryotwadi villages, a plan was made and the missal bandobast was undertaken on the basis of this plan. Similarly, wajib-ul-urz (settlement record of public rights in private lands) was also prepared for the nistar lands of these villages and lands were reserved for this purpose. The above settlement process is recorded in the settlement record of the Revenue Department (missal) and a Record of Rights (missal haqaiyat) and the usufruct rights records (nistar patrak) of each village was prepared mentioning the kind of activities and the land use in future.  This settlement was also accepted as community settlement/public settlement for the villages.

 

Lands classified as Nistari van, malguzari/zamindari van, revenue van, bade jhad ke jungle, chote jhad ke jungle, ghas, charnoi, charagah, etc. were reserved according to their usage and settled on a similar basis in all the villages. Provisions for gothan, khalihan, kabristan, shamshan, skinning of hides, play ground, padav, bazaar, etc. were determined on these lands.

 

This entire settlement has been mentioned in the missal, and nistar patrak of each village was prepared mentioning these facilities.

 

This settlement was also accepted as community settlement, public settlement for the villages.

 

In the malguzari and zamindari villages the control of this system was handed over to the malguzars and zamindars but in the ryotwadi villages this control was handed over to the revenue officials.

 

In order to limit the usage of wood, forest produce by the village community; land blocks of sometimes as much as 500 acre were included and reserved within the boundaries of the revenue village. This was done so that villagers would stop entry into reserved forest areas and the said areas would come into the control of the British government for commercial use.

 

1950

After independence the Abolition of malguzari and zamindari Act came into force [Abolition of Proprietary Rights (Estates, Mahals, Alienated Lands) Act, 1950 (No.1 of 1951) was enacted which among other things vested all Proprietary Rights in such Estate, Mahal, Alienated Village or Alienated Land (as the case may be) with the State free from all encumbrances.] Under this, acquisition proceedings were started for the nistar lands so far in the control of malguzars and zamindars. After acquisition of these nistar lands, the control was handed over to the revenue department.

 

1954

The above mentioned dakhal rahit/nistar lands passed into the lawful control of the forest department but no changes were made in the revenue records to reflect the changed status of these lands.

The then state governments passed orders to the effect that the management of the nistar lands thus acquired should be handed over to the forest department. The forest department thus considered all the lands registered in the nistar patrak and wajib-ul-arz of the revenue villages as within their mandate and started proceedings of survey and demarcation. These proceedings were carried so that the appropriate lands for forest use could be notified as reserved forest and given legal status.

 

It is pertinent to mention that in the survey and demarcation work which was started at that time, it has been categorically mentioned that “a number of areas though transferred on account of their being recorded as bada jhad ka jungle, grass land or pahar chattan were actually under cultivation or remained so even then”.

1956: The states within the country were reorganized bringing into fold many independent riyasats and on 1st November 1956 the new state of Madhya Pradesh came into existence. This new state included many riyasats that had earlier had their own laws and practices vis-à-vis management and control of land.

1958

The revenue department, made no changes in its records or procedures even after these nistar lands were notified by the forest department and these lands continued to be registered as dakhalrahit bhoomi (land free from all encumbrances) in the revenue records. Now a situation was created where by a twofold control over the same land was established: one the land seen within the control of the forest Department as per the notifications made in 1958 and two the control over the same lands as dakhal rahit bhoomi or land free from all encumbrances   in the control of the Revenue Department as seen within the provisions of the M.P. Land Revenue Code, 1959. 

 

 

In order to strengthen the management procedures for the lands handed over to the forest department in 1954, the state governments made notifications in their respective state gazettes.

 

In 1958, vide Notification No. 9-X-50 dated 10th July 1958, the State Government considered it necessary to make the provisions of Chapter IV of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (XVI of 1927) applicable to all such forest land which has been vested in the State by virtue of the provisions contained in the Madhya Pradesh Abolition of Proprietary Rights (Estates, Mahals, Alienated Lands) Act, 1950 (No.1 of 1951) and transfer it to the forest department for management. Such forestlands were denoted as undemarcated Protected Forests and thus were neither Reserve Forest nor Protected Forest. The said notification also assured that pending the enquiry for recording of rights  (as required by Sub section 3 of Section 29 of the Indian Forest Act) existing rights of individuals or Community in such land shall not be abridged or effected in any manner except in so far as they may be modified by the State Government from time to time.

 

For some districts in Mahakaushal region notifications were made for each village according to the khasra details. In Reeva region, all lands other than reserved forest, personal land and land included in urban territories were notified. In Gwalior region lands adjoining reserved forest were notified as protected forest. In most other regions the notifications so made did not give details of the land and were thus open to varied interpretations (chayawadi). In this manner the forest department managed to provide a one sided lawful status to all these lands by declaring them as protected forest under section 29 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

1959

After the formation of the new state of M.P. all previous revenue laws and practices were considered null and void and the new M.P. Land Revenue Code, 1959 was deemed applicable in the entire state. In chapter 18 (aabadi tatha dakhalrahit bhoomi mein adhikar aur uski upaj) of the Code, provisions were laid down – section 233: description of dakhalrahit land; section 234: preparation of the nistar patrak; section 235: subjects that will be covered in the nistar patrak; section 236: other subjects in the nistar patrak; section 237: land set aside by the collector for use of nistar rights; section 238: rights in the banjar land of another village; section 239: rights to the produce of fruitbearing trees planted in the dakhalrahit land and responsibilities and powers of the revenue officials were laid down. 

 

 

1960

The Revenue Department’s total silence in the face of the 1960 Rules clearly suggests that it accepted the full control of the Forest Department on the nistar rights. Despite this implicit acceptance, the Revenue Department did not make any changes in the records of the lands registered as nistar lands under its own control thus continuing the old system and the confusion over the status of these lands.

 

A notification was made in the state gazette on 2.09.1960 under section 32 and 76 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 in order to bring in the Protected Forest Rules, 1960. As per these rules the nistar rights so far enjoyed by the communities were given in the control of the forest department and were henceforth to be seen as nistar concessions/facilities (suvidha) given by the forest department.

 

 

1962-63

However no corrections were made on this basis in the existing revenue land records thus these lands continued to be recorded as dakhal rahit bhoomi in the land records.

That to overcome all the above uncertainties, a decision was taken in 1963 where demarcation, survey proceedings and mapping were initiated by the Forest Department for the lands declared as protected forest under various notifications. Under the demarcation proceedings encroachment on small pieces of land were to be left out of the Forest Compartments. In addition to this, attention was to be given to set aside land for village nistar future expansion and cultivation.  A strip of land was to be left between the forest compartments and the village lands kept aside for future village expansion, nistar and agriculture land of the villages. At the same time, instructions were given that if in the areas that were not transferred to the Forest Department, land was found that had a standing forest or that or that was surrounded by forest area then it was to be  included in  the  forest compartment.    This entire exercise was time bound and   special groups were constituted to undertake this exercise.    For the purpose of  demarcation of protected forest compartments maps were prepared by the patwaries indicating  all  the  khasra  areas  that  were handed over to  the forest department. Then forest compartments were drawn on the maps  based on  the  earlier khasra indications. Thereafter based on the ground survey and directives, steeples were made on the sites and the boundaries drawn. After  these activities a survey was undertaken and the boundaries drawn on the maps.    In the patwari maps the areas that were included in the protected forest compartment   were shown in the colour green and the   areas that were left outside the protected forest compartments were depicted in orange colour.

 

Eventually   these areas that were left outside the forest compartments came to be known as the orange area lands. Further at the time of creation of forest compartments there were lands that were cultivated and owned by people as personal property but that were surrounded by forest. Thus it was included within the compartments with the intention that it would be later acquired. 

 

The above said position has been unequivocally accepted by the State through its letter dated January 24th, 1994 by the then Additional Secretary, Department of Forests, Government of Madhya Pradesh.

 

On completion of the demarcation and survey proceedings, the forest compartments were indicated on the patwari maps. In addition to this, a proceeding completion application was made which indicated

a) the khasra numbers pertaining to land (within each village) transferred to the forest department,

b)land included in the forest compartment, 

c)land excluded  (left out) from the forest compartments, and

d)land included within   the forest compartment but belonging to  the revenue department or owned by people as personal cultivation land. 

 

A copy of   these completion applications and   maps was handed over to the District Magistrates with the belief that based on these relevant changes, corrections would be made in the revenue records.

 

In a number   of   private land  holdings  that were included  in   the  forest  compartments;  initial  notifications for proposed Reserve Forests were   issued  under section  4  of  the  Indian  Forest  Act,   1927.                                    

The process of settlement under the Indian Forest Act has an a elaborate procedure for settlement of rights (Sections 5-19). Only after such a due process of settlement a final notification is issued which concludes the process   of   reservation of a Forest Land as a Reserve Forest.  In the present case, these initially notified areas form a substantial portion of the forest land where the settlement process is not complete. Even in such lands, pattas were given to individuals pending the process of settlement.

 

During the process of settlement, the Forest Department and the Revenue Department jointly reviewed the cultivable forest land (including left out Area) and after enquiry, prepared reconciliation statements (Samadhan Patrak).  In such statements details of the village including both old and new survey number, total area, amount of land transferred, reserve forest and village forests within the control of Forest Department etc. were recorded.

1965

Lands recorded as nistar lands, chote jhad ke jungle, bade jhad ke jungle, jungle khurd, jungle janla, sarna, karat, jhudpi jungle, nistar jungles, etc. were taken in control by the forest department and notified as protected forest under section 4 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 but due to lack of amendments in the MP Revenue Land Code, 1957 these same lands continued to be recorded as dakhalrahit bhoomi.

The disputes that came into existence as a result of transfer of control (of chote-bade jhad ke jungle, jungle khurd, junglre janla, etc.) to the forest department led to an acceptance by the government that for the resolution of these disputes provisions will have to be made in the law. Thereafter on 20.03.1965, sub-section 20 A was added to the existing section 20 and sub section 34 A was added to the existing section 34 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

 

Section 20 A. Forest–Land or Waste Land deemed to be reserved forests – (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this act or any other law for the time being in force, any forest land or waste land in the territories comprised within an Indian State immediately before the date of its merger in any of the integrating states now forming part of this state….. [7].

 

Section 34 A. Power to declare forests no longer protected – (1) the state government may, by notification, direct that from a date fixed in that behalf by such notification, any forest or portion thereof protected under this Act, shall cease to be a protected forest. (2) from the date so fixed, such forest or portion thereof shall cease to be protected by the rights, if any, which have been extinguished therein shall not revive in consequence of such cessation.[8]

1966

Madhya Pradesh Padat Bhoomi Cultivation Act, 1966 was brought into force with the publication of a notification in the government gazette on 3.10.1966. Under the provisions of this Act, revenue officials were given responsibilities for distribution of pattas to land controlled by the department prior to 30.05.1966. Therefore, for the first time lands recorded in section 237 of the MP Land Revenue Code were distributed as pattas to the landless people.

 

Section 237. Collector to set aside land for exercise of Nistar rights. – (1) subject to the rules made under this code, the Collector may set apart unoccupied land for the following purposes, namely –

For timber or fuel reserve;

1)       For pasture, grass, bir or fodder reserve;

2)       For burial ground and cremation ground;

3)       For gaothan;

4)       For encamping ground;

5)       For threshing floor;

6)       For bazaar;

7)       For skinning ground;

8)       For manure pits

9)       For public purposes such as schools, play grounds, parks, road, lanes, drains and the like; and

10)    For any other purposes which may be prescribed for the exercise of right of nistar….[9]

 

1967

Agriculture Co-operative Committees were formed by the state for the people belonging to the schedule castes under the ‘Grow More Food’ scheme of the Government of India. It was decided that government land would be distributed to these committees for agriculture. The land that was given to these committees was the same land that was transferred by the forest department to the revenue department without the required denotification proceedings (section 34 A).

 

2339 agriculture cooperative committees were formed after the orders of the state government and land transferred by the forest department to the revenue department (land found inappropriate for forest use after the survey) was given to them. In some areas this land was declared as kabil kasht by the Collector prior to its distribution. But in most places it was distributed without similar proceedings. In the revenue land records, the land was recorded as registered in the name of the cooperative committees. 

 

It is pertinent to mention here that the land given to these committees was the same that was transferred by the forest department to the revenue department without the required de-notification proceedings (section 34 A).  This is brought out by the fact that detailed formats were prepared for the transfer of Forestland from the Forest Department to the Revenue Department for the ‘Grow More Food’ scheme.

The State Government gave directives to the Forest Department that the lands which were found inappropriate for forest use during the demarcation survey should be handed over to the revenue department under the ‘Grow More Food’ scheme so that these lands could be distributed to the samuhik krishi sehkari samiti.

1968

As per the process laid down in chapter 18 of the MP Land Revenue Code, 1959, Revenue Department carried out a bandobast. The lands that were recorded as nistar lands in the revenue land records and handed over in the control of the forest department in 1954 were then notified in 1958 and then in 1965 after an amendment (20A) declared as protected forest. Nistar patrak were made for all these lands (even those notified under section 4 and included in the working plans of the forest department) during the bandobast as well as the record of rights.

The Forest Deaprtment continued to be engaged in the process of settlement of Section 4 notified forests.

1969

10 revenue department officials were appointed as forest settlement officers for hearing of disputes, complaints, etc. related with the lands notified under section 4 for declaration as reserved forest by the forest department. Inspite of the appointment of these 10 deputy collectors as forest settlement officers, no progress was made in the direction of rectifying the revenue records.

 

Tree felling was undertaken on the nistar lands within the control of revenue department but the revenue records make no mention of these activities nor is it reflected in the revenue maps.

The lands that were found inappropriate for forest use by the forest department and therefore given back to the revenue department were included in the forest-working scheme for clearance by felling of trees (imarati vrikshon ki katai). The working schemes were known as 10 lakh patan and 25 lakh patan working scheme and khasra wise records were made for the lands on which felling was to take place.

 

1970

A notification was issued in the government gazette on 24.10.1970 vis-à-vis dakhalrahit boomi in the villages of Madhya Pradesh and the Vishesh Upbandh Adhiniyam, 1970 came into existence. By virtue of this, rules were made for the distribution of land specified under section 237 of the MP Land Revenue Code, 1959. This land was to be distributed to the occupants on land prior to 26.05.1970.

 

Distribution of lands described under section 3, subsections a, b, and c were stalled.  Section 3 – a) lands at a specified distance from    city limits, national and state highways

b) lands reserved for burial ground, cremation ground, gaothan, khalihan, skinning, bazaar and other   public interests

c) lands reserved for special purposes by the central or state government.

 

Under section 5 it was stated that the land declared as protected forest land under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 will not be distributed till it is denotified under section 34 A.

 

Despite a clear legal mandate to prohibit the issuance of patta in the forest lands without de-notification, the revenue officials distributed lands under the Vishesh Upbandh Adhiniyam, 1970 without de-notification proceedings under 34 A. These lands were the ones recorded as chote jhad ke jungle, bade jhad ke jungle, jungle  janla, jungle khurd, sarna, karat, etc.

 

1974

All the revenue department offices at the tehsil level and the land record offices in the district received the details of the lands transferred to the revenue department by the forest department after the survey. However no changes were made in the revenue records based on this information.

The forest department issued the following statistics in its departmental report after the survey, demarcation proceedings, tree felling as included in the working scheme and transfer to the revenue department till 31.01.1974:

  • 3 districts in the Balaghat Forest Circle,   169114.71 acres
  • 6 districts in the Reeva Forest Circle,       1016075.66 acres
  • 3 districts in the Raipur Forest Circle,      245804.60 acres
  • 4 districts in the Central Forest Circle,     134659.18 acres
  • 3 districts in Indore Forest Circle,            172414.15 acres
  • 4 districts in Gwalior Forest Circle,         92668.03 acres
  • 7 districts in Bhopal Forest Circle,          42504.98 acres
  • 3 districts in Bilaspur Forest Circle,        1013381.02 acres
  • 2 districts in Shehdhol Forest Circle,      671237.68 acres
  • 3 districts in Hoshangabad Forest Circle, 96113.28 acres
  • districts in Bastar Forest Circle,            55381.06 acres

 

A total of 3789030.48 acres of land was transferred to the revenue department after receiving the joint signatures of the Collector and Forest Mandal Officers. This is enumerated by a Government document titled “20 years of forestry in M.P” which is a statistical souvenir issued to commemorate the 20th year of forestry in M.P.

 

A list of khasra numbers as against these lands was made available in all the tehsil offices of the revenue department and the district land record offices. However no changes or corrections were made in the column 12 of the land records.

1975: A decision was taken by the Madhya Pradesh Cabinet on 8.08.1975. Till this time 47 lakh acre land had been transferred to the revenue department by the forest department. Regarding the distribution of these transferred land for agriculture, it was stated in the decision that – patta distribution for these lands should be started by the Collector without waiting for the completion of de-notification proceedings under section 34 A.

 

After this decision the proceedings for denotification under section 34 A were not done in the speedy manner required. The revenue department started the patta distribution proceedings to this land but even this was not done in a systematic manner and most of the land that was to have been distributed was not distributed.

1976: That amidst the uncertainty of the land and who should have control over it, unscrupulous elements indulged in large scale felling. For example, in 1976, it was brought to the notice of the state government that in district Hoshangabad large scale illegal felling of trees was undertaken on revenue land. Thus, it was felt that some areas were left out of the forest compartments and on 20.05.1976 the Cabinet took the following decisions:

 

The lands that were excluded from state forest after the survey and demarcation of protected forest should be re-examined by the forest department. If areas covered with valuable forests were left out of the proceedings, they should be declared as reserved forest after appropriate proceedings by the forest department. In those protected forest areas where the proceedings regarding survey, demarcation and settlement were still incomplete, unregulated tree felling should be stopped immediately and the settlement proceedings for the same should be completed.

 

If a large forest area is bordering any revenue village, it should be taken into the control of the forest department after leaving a small area for village nistar.

 

There are certain areas bordering Bhopal and other regions that are in the control of revenue department but these have valuable forests. The revenue department should immediately begin appropriate proceedings for transfer of such lands to the forest department.  According to a previous decision of the Cabinet, the 47 lakh acre of government forest land that was to be distributed as cultivable land after transfer to the revenue department, should be examined and the areas that are appropriate for forest use or that which are covered with forest should be retaken in the control of the forest department.

               

A detailed reference of the above has been made in the letter dated January 24th, 1994.

1979

The Revenue department did not make any changes or corrections in the revenue records vis-à-vis the khasra numbers of the land transferred by the forest department.

On completion of the survey and demarcation proceedings by the forest department for the declaration of protected forest compartments, “work completion applications” (karya smapati prativedan) were prepared. Under this, lists were prepared describing land (khasrawise for each village) found appropriate for reserved forest, land transferred to the revenue department and land kept in the control of the forest department as village forest. These were then signed by the forest mandal officers, district land records officer and collector. Copies of this were made available to all concerned.

1980

An amendment vide MP Act No. 1 of 1980 was introduced whereby Section 5 of the Madhya Pradesh Gramo Mein Ki Dakhal Rahit Bhumi (Vishesh Upbandh) Adhiniyam, 1970 was amended to state that the said Act would apply to only those forest lands which are denotified under Section 34A of the Indian Forest Act as on 23-06-1980.  Thus, the applicability of the above Act was restricted to the coming into force of the Forest Conservation Act.  Consequently, land distribution proceedings were started by the revenue officials for distribution of lands described as chhote jhad ke jungle, bade jhad ke jungle, jhudpi jungle, jungle khurd, jungle janla, sarna, karat, padat, banjar, etc. to the occupants and landless persons in the state. Ironically these distributed lands also included such lands that were not denotified.

In 1980 the most significant Act relating to forestry, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 came into force on 24.10.1984 and by this all forest land subjects also came within the purview of the Central Government. At the state level (Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh in this case) all rights with regard to decisions on the use of lands under section 20 and 29 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 were revoked and it became essential for the states to seek permission from the Central Government for use of forest land for non forest purpose among other things. 

1984

On 21.10.1984, Vishesh Upbandh Adhiniyam, 1984 was published in the government gazette for granting bhooswami rights to people occupant on the dakhalrahit bhoomi.

 

Proceedings were begun for providing bhooswami rights to the occupants on land prior to 21.10.1984. Distribution of lands described under sub-section (a) of section 3 of the Vishesh Upbandh Adhiniyam (lands set aside for cemetery, cremation, gothan, khalihan, tanning, school, playground and any other purpose by the state and central governments) were stopped.  An amendment was introduced in section 3 of the Vishesh Upbandh Adhiniyam on 31.12.1985 to stop the distribution of land to people occupant on ghas, charagah and beed categories of land.

 

Lands reserved for fuel and nistar purposes under sub section (a) of section 237 were distributed to people under this Act. These distributed lands are also classified as chote jhad ke jungle, bade jhad ke jungle etc.

 

1986

Action proceedings were initiated in the whole state for enabling the conversion of distributed pattas on the government land to bhooswami rights and getting occupancy for those whose land was encroached upon. This entire process came to be known as Adhikar Abhiyan.

 

The lands that were taken control of by the forest department and included in the protected forest compartments and the working plan, and in many places land that was notified under section 4 but still not taken control of by the forest department, pattas to such lands were given by the revenue department and people took possession of many such lands but no protest or complaint were registered by the forest department.

 

1988

 

Notifications were made for the appointment of ‘forest settlement officers’.

 

10 forest settlement officers were appointed by the forest department but they did not perform as expected. Therefore the forest department once again issued notices for the appointment of Sub Divisional Officer (civil) as forest settlement officer for each of their departments. Records were made available to these officers as per the notifications made under section 4.

 

The Sub Divisional Officers (revenue) appointed as forest settlement officers were supposed to listen to the disputes and objections raised by the occupants, village communities, gram sabhas and other farmers, related to the revenue nistar lands notified under section 4. This process is yet to be completed.

1990

For the first time the state revenue department issued a paripatra stating that the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 would be applicable on the lands recorded as chote-bade jhad ke jungle in the revenue records.

 

In order to provide pattas to those who were the occupants on forest land prior to 31.12.1976, proceedings were started for the denotification (nirvanikaran) of forest land. As part of this process only those lands were put up for denotification under section 34 A that earlier had been notified under section 4 after the order of 1954, notifications of 1958 and amendment in 1965. However the lands that were handed over to the revenue department by the forest department were still not denotified under section 34A.

 

Pattas were distributed and denotification process carried out for the lands recorded as bade jhad ke jungle, chote jhad ke jungle, jungle janla, jungle khurd, sarna, karat, etc. in the revenue records.

 

Instead of making corrections in the revenue land records after the denotification proceedings, the revenue department continued to register the pattas given to these lands in the same manner as pattas given to any other government land.

On 18 Sept. 1990, directives were issued by the Forest Department to all the state governments. These directives stated that boundary disputes and claims made during the process of demarcation survey of undemarcated protected forest land were not entertained or heard. Therefore necessary action should be taken for the hearing and settlement of these disputes.

 

The state forest departments did not undertake any action even after these directives and refused to accept this directive.

1991

On 13.08.1991, the revenue department of Madhya Pradesh issued a paripatra releasing the chote jhad ke jungle, bade jhad ke jungle categories of land from the purview of the forest protection laws. This further complicated the status of these lands.

 

The Government of India through Ministry of Environment & Forest, Department of Environment, Forest and Wildlife recognised several contentious issues related to forestry and its interface with people. A set of six circulars on various aspects of forestry and wildlife including interalia disputed claims over forest land arising out of forest settlement, disputes regarding pattas, leases, grants, involving forest land, encroachments on forest land, payment of fare wages to forest workers, conversion of forest villages into revenue villages and settlement of old habitation, payment of compensation for loss of life and property on 18.09.1990. What is significant in these circulars is the recognition by the Govt. of India that there are bonafide claims over forest land and they are being “persistently over looked causing wide spread discontentment among the aggrieved persons. Such instances ultimately, erode the credibility of the forest administration and sanctity of the forest laws especially in the tracts inhabited by tribals”. 

 

The Government had actually got these issues critically examined through an inter ministerial committee. The committee after prolonged deliberation and due consultations stressed the need to resolve such disputes with utmost urgency.  Among several courses of action suggested the committee suggested that the states should review the cases of disputed claims over forest land and identify three broad categories of claims:

a) Claims in respect of forest areas notified as ‘Deemed Reserved Forests’ without observing the due process of settlement as provided in Forest Acts provided that these pertain to:

                i)              Tribal areas, or affect a whole cross section of rural / poor in non-tribal areas: and

                ii)             The claimants are in the possession of the ‘disputed land’.

b) Claims in tribal areas wherever there is prima facie evidence that the process of forest settlement has been vitiated by incomplete or incorrect records / maps or lack of information to the affected persons as prescribed by law provided that:

                i)              Such forest settlement pertains to period after 1947; and

                ii)             The claimants are in possession of the ‘disputed land’.

c) Claims in tribal areas wherever the process of settlement is over but notification under Section 20 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (or corresponding section of the relevant Act) is yet to be issued, particularly where considerable delay has occurred in the issuance of notification under Section 20, provided that the claimants are still in possession of ‘disputed land’. Such disputed claims were required to be identified through proper authorities after examining all available evidence and efforts were to be made to restore titles to the bonafide claimants after necessary approval by the Ministry under the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act 1980. (See Circular No.13-1/90-FP (2)) Govt. of India, Ministry of Environmental Forest, Dept. of Environment, Forest & Wildlife).  

An inter ministerial committee were set up to look into the various aspects of tribal forest interface regarding disputes of pattas, leases, grants involving forest land. Vide Circular No.13-1/90-FP (3) Govt. of India, Ministry of Environment and Forest, Dept. of Environment, Forest & Wildlife specifically recognise the contentious issue of protected forests in Madhya Pradesh (the Orange Area dispute), which according to the State Government decision were to be transferred to Revenue Department after demarcation for issuing pattas to the beneficiaries. It was observed that “pattas were issued to the individuals but transfer of the land from forest to revenue department which should have preceded allotment of pattas was not effected.”   All such cases of pattas, leases, grants etc., involving forest land whether by intent, omission, oversight or accident should be reviewed by the State Government and especially those cases where patta, leases, grants, etc. given by the State Government to schedule tribes or rural poor, either individually or collectively, such pattas, leases and grants should be honoured and inter departmental disputes should not affect right of the lessees provided they are in physical possession of the land.  It was also suggested that a district level committee consisting of forest and revenue officials including a representative of tribal welfare department should be constituted and such disputes should be resolved at the district level wherever it is possible.  With regard to leases of a period prior to 25-10-1980, which were granted to the scheduled tribes or other rural poor, such cases should be examined expeditiously, and pending final decision “the lessees   should not be dispossessed of the land”.   Section 2A of the above said Circular specifically suggests that in cases “where Forest (Conservation) Act is attracted, proposals for de-notification of forest land should be accompanied by proposals for compensatory afforestation.  This Ministry may be kept informed of the action taken / proposed to be taken in this connection”. 

 

Despite such progressive circulars recognising the bonafide claims of scheduled tribes and rural poor, the Government of Madhya Pradesh or its forest department did not start any proceedings for hearing and solving the disputes and claims related to these lands. In fact on 13.08.1991, the revenue department of Madhya Pradesh issued a letter releasing the chote  jhad ke jungle, bade jhad ke jungle categories of land from the purview of the forest protection laws. This was on more categorical affirmation by the State department of taking out the chote and bade jhad ke jungle from the purview of forestlands so as to recognise the reality on the ground. However, operative directions even in this letter were ignored. 

 

In addition to this, several notifications were issued between November 1990 and Sept. 1991 by the State Government in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section 1 of Section 34A of the Indian Forest Act 1927 in its application to the State of Madhya Pradesh where the State Government de-notified such protected forests which were protected by the forest department notification number 9X58 dated the 10th July 1958. 

1994

The state revenue department had a minimal role during the survey process undertaken by the forest department for the determination of occupants on forest land prior to 24.10.1980. The department did not furnish any information related to the distribution of lands (chote-bade jhad ke jungle) as pattas and distribution of land to the samuhik krishi sehkari samities. The revenue department did not make any attempts for the inclusion of these patta holders in the survey.

Additional Secretary of Department of Forests, Mr Ashok Masih prepared and presented a summary on 24.01.1994 with regard to the status of these lands and the claims therein. In this summary it has been admitted by the State that the statistics of the forest department place the forest area as 1, 54,505.09 square km; approximately 35% of the total land area. At the same time the Revenue Department and Commissioner of Land Records claim that the total forest area in the state is 1, 42,110.32 square kms. This in effect means that the status of an area of 12,394.77 square kms (approximately 3062871.6 acre) is not clear at the highest level of the governments of the respective states. Whether this disputed land includes Orange Areas, and within it, the transferred land to the Revenue Department or whether it includes within it the proposed Section 4 areas of forest lands or whether it excludes the two categories mentioned above is not clear at all. However, the forest department took no notice of this summary and continued with business as usual.

 

The case of Banwasi Sewa Ashram Vs Government of Uttar Pradesh was pending before the Supreme Court. In this application a case had been presented emphasizing the discrepancies in the survey and demarcation proceedings, disputes and claims by occupants, etc. on the lands declared as protected forests. In order to arrive at a decision in this case, the Supreme Court constituted a high level committee vis-à-vis investigation into realities on the ground. The facts presented in this case were representative of the situation prevalent in the whole country regarding the lands known as unclassed and or unsurveyed forest lands. However the GoI did not take into account the decision in this case and therefore did not issue any orders for the resolution of the conflict related to these lands.

 

On 18.09.1990, the GoI issued a paripatra. On the basis of the directives given in this paripatra, the MP state government started the process of determining the eligibility of occupants on forest land prior to 24.10.1980. During this survey only the occupants on forest land under the management of the forest department were considered. This was the reason why only occupants on land notified under section 4 and included in the Working Plans in merely 5 districts of the state were surveyed and found eligible.

 

In the paripatra issued by the GoI, it was stated that registration of a forest offence should be a criteria for determining the eligibility of occupants on forestland. This led to a disqualification of lots of people who were otherwise eligible for inclusion. A large number of occupants were made ineligible by the criteria further added by the state government such as people occupant on forest lands within urban areas, occupants on forest land within sanctuaries and parks, occupants on slopes and enclaves, etc. The revenue department played a very limited role in the survey carried out by the forest department. They failed in providing the facts related to lands recorded as chote jhad ke jungle and bade jhad ke jungle, lands not in the control of the forest department and lands returned to the revenue department by the forest department. This was the reason why occupants on lands that were given to agriculture cooperatives under the Grow More Food Scheme (1976-68) were not included in the survey.

1996

The revenue department did not make any objections on the basis of the facts that many of the lands included in the orange area survey were given back to the revenue department and that pattas had been issued to landless people and that this land had also been given for various development projects.

 

On December 12, 1996, the Supreme Court in its decision in the Godavarman case (application number 202/95) gave importance to the dictionary definition of forest thus defining the lands falling in the purview of Forest Conservation. On the basis of this decision, the forest department once again started its attempts for regaining lands described in the revenue records as chote, bade jhad ke jungle.

 

As a result of the December 12th 1996 order in CWP no. 202 of 1995 the government of Madhya Pradesh also considered to move an intervention application in order to exclude the areas recorded as “chote bade jhad ke jungle” in the revenue land as well as the private land. A letter no. F16-10/90/7-2A dated 29th October 2001, was specifically written by the then Principal Secretary (Revenue) Department as well as Principal Secretary (Forest) to all the Collectors as well as Divisional Forest Officers to collate information regarding such “chote bade jhad ke jungle” in order that such areas may be excluded from the purview of the Forest Conservation Act especially in the wake of the new definition of “forest” as interpreted by the Supreme Court in CWP no. 202/95.

The forest department of Madhya Pradesh once again began the survey proceedings in orange area lands in some districts of the state. As part of this survey record of rights pertaining to lands registered for revenue villages as chote-bade jhad ke jungle, orchards and gardens were called in.

 

In Betul district alone, 1.32 lakh hectare of such lands (belonging to revenue villages) was included in the orange area. Orange area survey proceedings (in Betul) were carried out on land denotified and released from being declared reserved forest (for rehabilitation of 32 villages), lands taken in the control by the forest department after notification under section 4, lands in the management of forest department, lands outside the control and management of the forest department and lands returned to the revenue department.

 

In 2001, the forest officials realized that many of these lands had already been in the control of the forest department and declared protected forest but instead of accepting these anomalies and mistakes in the process, the survey continues without any changes.

 

1997

The Madhya Pradesh state government announced its intention of making a notification for providing pattas to the tribals occupant on notified land by taking recourse to the rights given in the 5th Schedule of the Constitution because the GoI did not give its permission for granting land to the people found eligible after the survey of 1994.

 

Immediately after the announcement, a number of objections and appeals were made to the Governor and officials of the revenue and forest department vis-à-vis the exclusion (from the survey) of occupants on chote jhad ke jungle, bade jhad ke jungle, etc. category of land and exclusion of a large number of occupants for one reason or another. But none of these objections/appeals were investigated.

 

1998

The Madhya Pradesh Forest Settlement Regulations, 1998 (Madhya Pradesh Van Vyavasthapan Viniyaman, 1998) were endorsed in an Adivasi Mantarana Meeting called in August 1998 for the purpose of giving rights to tribal occupants on land in notified areas. The Tribal Welfare Department was not able to provide any clarifications regarding the source of the statistics given in this document. 

 

In December 1998, a complete copy of the proceedings of the above meeting was sought by the Director National Commission for Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes in Bhopal from the Chief Secretary of the State Aadim Jaati Kalyan Board on the basis of an objection application submitted by Anil Garg to the President of India. But the state government did not give any response to the directives given by the Commission.

 

In December 1998, a meeting was held under the chairmanship of Sharandchand Behar. Extensive facts and documents were presented by people’s organizations pertaining to the anomalies in the survey, exclusion of a large number of occupants on forest land and those found ineligible during the 1994 survey. Nevertheless the forest department officials did not budge from their position and decided to ignore the presentations made by the people’s organizations.

 

1999

A padyatra was undertaken from Sheopur to Raigadh covering 3000 kms under the leadership of P.V. Rajgopal, National Convenor of Ekta Parishad (a people’s organization functional in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and other states)[10].

The state department of forest once again organized a meeting in the state administrative academy. People’s organizations presented facts and documents pertaining to occupants on forest land and the anomalies committed during the surveys. Nevertheless the forest department officials continued to deny the facts and refused to understand the issues at hand.

 

2000: A task force was constituted by the state government to look into the issues related to land. P.V. Rajgopal was a member of this task force. Many facts and problems related to land and forests within the state were brought before the task force. Written documents and information were made available before the officials but no action was initiated at the field level or at the level of comparing forest and revenue facts.

2001   A hearing was held in the Raj Bhawan premises by the Committee of Governors appointed by the President of the country. Many senior forest and revenue officials were present during this hearing where presentations focusing on the discrepancies and issues emerging from the Supreme Court decision in the Godavarman case were made. But they refused to comment on the issues raised by the presenters.

 

Another hearing was held in the administrative academy before the committee constituted by the GoI under the chairmanship of Shri Yugandhar. People’s organizations and NGOs made their presentations before this committee but nothing came out of it.

 

Another meeting was organized by the forest department in the premise of the State Administrative Academy. On the facts and information presented before the forest officials pertaining to the chote jhad ke jungle and bade jhad ke jungle category of lands; the then Chief Secretary of Department of Forests admitted to mistakes being made and gave information on the attempts of the department at filing a review petition in the Godavarman case.

 

The chief secretaries of the department of forest and revenue issued a letter. Through this letter they called for information related to column 12 of the revenue records for the purpose of presenting facts and information before the Empowered Committee. Information related to column 12, chote-bade jhad ke jungle were collected at village level but still neither the revenue officials nor the forest officials made any attempt to present the information related to these lands and the processes carried out by the department since 1958.

2002   Shri Anil Garg presented all facts and information related to the processes carried out by the forest and revenue department vis-à-vis the chote-bade jhad ke jungle category of lands before the Empowered Committee. A copy of this application was also sent to the state revenue and forest departments.

 

On 18.02.2002, the Chief Secretaries of forest and revenue department once again issued a joint paripatra asking for information on column 14 pertaining to chote-bade jhad ke jungle category of lands. However even this time, no attempt was made at presenting the proceedings undertaken by the two departments on these lands since 1954.

 

A meeting of senior forest officials and Ekta Parishad representatives was convened at the residence of the State Minister for Forests on 22.03.2002. Representatives of Ekta Parishad presented the case regarding the status of the orange area lands stating that a demarcation survey had been undertaken, land found inappropriate for forest use had been given back to the revenue department but denotification proceedings under section 34 A had not been done, etc. Inspite of documentary proof, the forest department officials did not accept that such proceedings had taken place in the past.

 

2002

The Government of Madhya Pradesh through the Revenue Department filed a review petition in the C.W.P. No 202 of 1995 on 2.10.2002, stating that the 10.91 lakh hectares of chote-bade jhad ke jungle category lands recorded in the revenue records as nistar lands of the villages should be released from the purview of forest protection laws. However, even in this review petition no mention has been made of the land returned by the forest department to the revenue department and neither about the decision taken by the Cabinet regarding these lands way back on 8.08.1975. 

 

On 2.10.2002, Ekta Parishad once again sent out a comprehensive 10 page note on the status of forest lands to the governments of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, People’s representatives and people’s organizations. Still no attempts were forthcoming from the state governments at understanding the issue.

 

 

 

 

A paripatra was issued by the Department of Forests on 3.05.2002. In this paripatra, directions were given for the removal of occupants on forest land by 30th September 2002. A letter to the Department of Forests, was written by Ekta Parishad stating all the facts and information related to the forest lands in MP.

 

Another paripatra was issued by the Department of Forests on 30.10.2002. In this paripatra, directives were given vis-à-vis the orders issued in 1990 and the survey carried out in 1994, and the occupants found ineligible there in. Neither the state cabinet nor the state forest head quarter was aware of the contents of this paripatra and it was made available by Ekta Parishad.

 

A meeting was convened in the leadership of the Chief Minister on 30.11.2002. This meeting was attended by the Forest Minister, senior revenue and forest department officials and representatives of Ekta Parishad. An attempt was made to present the facts regarding the lands falling within the purview of the forest protection laws. The Forest Department gave a written reply to the questions raised by Ekta Parishad one hour before the start of the meeting and in this reply they rejected all the documentary proof presented by Ekta Parishad.

 

Many MLAs raised questions in the state legislative assembly seeking clarity and information vis-à-vis the status of the lands falling within the purview of forest protection laws. However little or no clarity was obtained on the subject.

2003

 

The Chief Secretary of Forest Department issued a directive to all District Collectors and Forest Conservators for the verification of protected forest compartments within a time period of 16 months.

 

On May 20, a meeting of officials of the Forest Department of Government of India and Forest officials and Revenue officials of Government of Madhya Pradesh was held vis-à-vis the procedure for verification of the protected forest compartments. On 15th September the directives for carrying out the process of verification were issued. As per the statement of the Forest Department, currently in the state of Madhya Pradesh (after the formation of the state of Chhattisgarh) there are 6048 protected forest compartments. These have to be verified as per the process laid down in the Forest Act (section 5 to 19) and their final notification as reserved forest under section 20 of the Act.

 


III. Emerging issues:

 

Several surveys and settlement procedures relating to settlement of rights in undemarcated protected forests in the years 1966, 1988 by the Forest Department, and simultaneous survey and settlement processes under the Land Revenue Code by the Revenue Department around 1968, including joint surveys by both Departments of the States and further surveys of 1990 and 1994 have resulted in total confusion regarding the exact legal status as well as the total area of lands that were once malguzari and zamindari forest lands especially used for bonafide requirements of the local population. In these areas maximum pattas have been given to the tribal people. The difference of interpretation and lack of submission of correct facts relating to the status of the land between the forest department and the revenue department is in total disregard of the Constitutional provisions under Article 14 where arbitrary decisions based on incorrect and incomplete facts are threatening the existence of both the tribal people and at the same time affecting the sustainability of forests of Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh. 

 

The statistics of the forest department place the forest area as 1,54,505.09 square kms  (approximately 35% of the total land area). At the same time the Revenue department and Commissioner of Land Records claim that the total forest area in the state is 1, 42,110.32 square kms. This in effect means that the status of an area of 12,394.77 square kms (approximately 3062871.6 acres) is not clear. Whether this disputed land includes Orange Areas and within it the transferred land to the Revenue Department or whether it includes within it the proposed Section 4 areas of forest lands or whether it excludes the two categories mentioned above is not clear at all. It must be recognised that the exact figure relating to the quantum of forests in the respective states is a necessary condition for management of forests and meeting the livelihood requirements of the people. Any further delay in this process affects the right to life of the people under Article 21 of the Constitution of India as well as violates the Constitutional mandate of the duty of the state to protect the forests of our country under Article 48-A of the Constitution of India.

 

Since the states unequivocally admit the unavailability of records of forest lands (through various letters at the highest level and clear diverse opinions and actions of both the Revenue and Forest Department) regarding the status of Orange Area lands as well those lands  under proposed Reserve Forest,  it would be totally appropriate that evictions of people from their present occupancy in such lands whether in various sub categories of Orange Areas or in proposed reserve forests where settlement of rights is still not complete should be prohibited.

 

The ongoing drive for evicting inhabitants of such lands clearly violates the fundamental right to reside on validly acquired patta lands under Article 19 of the Constitution.

 

It is a known fact that the livelihood needs of a large number of people are met by the minor forest produce and resources in large tracts of what is called the chote bade jhad ke jungle amongst others. It has been pointed out that even prior to independence spaces were created adjacent to forest areas which could help enable the subsistence of the local populace. By keeping the status of these areas perpetually in doubt, the ability of the people to meet their bonafide needs from these areas have always been in jeopardy.   Even security of tenure in the areas which is critical for people to invest in these areas, and to derive their sustenance needs therefrom has not been possible.

 

The contrary claims of the forest department and the revenue department in undemarcated forest areas has meant that the State Government has not been able to speak in one voice with the people when it comes to the status  of the disputed Orange Areas  in the state. Issuing of a valid patta and then revocation of it represents total inconsistency in the stance of the state on the issue. While the state has not been held accountable for its lapses in the past, it is the people who continuously bear the brunt of the changing postures of the two concerned departments.  Thus, settling the disputed Orange Areas is not only a dire necessity for the affected people but also a mandatory requirement for the state to address the society with well defined policies and laws.

 

The lack of clarity in legal status of forest lands now under the disputed Orange Areas category and various subcategories under it; especially those lands where there are pristine forests but may be owned by private individuals; or those forests which are now in the process of being categorised as Reserve Forests and where the settlement process is not complete; and those forests which were traditionally used as Nistari Forests including bade and chote jhad ke jungle are prime natural resource maintaining watersheds and carbon sinks for the states would clearly threaten its existence and thus violate the fundamental right to healthful environment ensured under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. This also violates the states duty to protect forests under Article 48-A as well as under the forest laws including the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

 

Currently the Forest Department in Madhya Pradesh is unable to provide information on:

  • The lands that were declared as protected forest either in 1958 or before
  • The lands that were included in the demarcation survey carried out in 1958
  • How much land in how many villages was found to be inappropriate for forest use in the first round of demarcation survey
  • How much land in how many villages was found inappropriate for forest use in following surveys
  • Lands that were included in protected forest compartments
  • Private lands that were included in the protected forest compartments
  • Land that was in the possession of people but to which they did not have entitlement and was included in the protected forest compartments
  • Land that was included in the working schemes of the forest department and on which felling was undertaken
  • The lands that were transferred by the forest department to the revenue department after the surveys
  • Lands that were de-notified before and after 1965
  • Lands that are being considered as orange areas
  • Land that has been distributed by the forest department and de-notified
  • Land on which various government departments have staked their claim without being given its possession
  • Land that has been kept aside for nistar needs of villages
  • Lands that have been verified and declared as reserved forest
  • Lands that were included in the working plans of the forest department prior to verification process
  • Land that is being used by the forest department or any other agency for non-forestry purposes such as mining, highways, etc.

 

If the dispute between the two departments has to be settled and justice delivered to the hundreds of thousands of people awaiting land entitlements for generations then:

 

The officials responsible for the demarcation and survey proceedings in the two departments must be made aware of the processes and events that have led to the current impasse.

 

Processes and surveys that have been undertaken by the two departments since 1958 must be jointly reviewed and a working plan be prepared for its resolution within a fixed time period.

 

The administrative machinery of the state (read states since Chhattisgarh was also part of this problem) should be made responsible for working on the issue with Panchayati Raj Institutions, NGOs and other institutions that will enable a resolution to the problem.

 

Latest Update on the Issue

 

On 23 April 2003 the Chief secretary of department of forests issued a letter to all district collectors asking for details of land that was handed over by the forest department to the revenue department.

 

 

 

 


ABOUT NCAS

 

National Centre for Advocacy Studies (NCAS) is a social change resource centre working with social action groups, public interest professionals and citizens from all over South Asia. NCAS began its work in 1992. It was set up with the aim of empowering people working towards changing the social fabric of our country for a just and humane society. It is an autonomous membership based organisation registered under the Society Registration Act, 1860 and the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950.  The centre has been promoted by more than fifty credible grassroots organisations and social action groups from different regions of India.

NCAS is a pro-active learning organisation that works

·         towards a participatory, rights-based and people-centred policy environment and

·         a transparent and accountable governance;

·         so as to advance  human rights, equitable social change and distributive justice.

The mission of NCAS is to create an enabling environment for social action groups, social change agents and citizens

·         to get access to democratic institutions and

·         to effectively advocate the rights of the marginalised sections so as

·         to empower them (The marginalised sections include especially women, tribals, dalits and labourers in the unorganised sector).

As a social change resource centre, NCAS endeavours

·         to strengthen the capacity of people and social action groups to advocate on issues of  basic rights and public interest and to facilitate democratic process,

·         by extending capacity building, information, research and campaign inputs.

A group of committed social activists guide the working of NCAS. They have vast experience and expertise in the fields of social action, communication, law, human rights, social justice and consumer action. They work for advancing the rights of women, children, tribals, dalits, bonded labourers, agricultural labourers, unorganised workers and the underprivileged in general.

The centre’s headquarters is in Pune with a branch office in New Delhi. It is equipped with modest library and documentation facilities. It collects, collates and disseminates information on topics like human rights, rights of women, children, unorganised labour and the marginalised sections of society. Process documentation of advocacy campaigns is one of its areas of priority.

Executive Committee of NCAS

* Mr. Vijay Tendulkar         President                 * Ms. Mari Theckaekera    Vice President

* Mr. Martin Macwan         Secretary                 * Mr. Pravin Mahajan         Treasurer

* Mr. Josanthony Joseph     Member                   * Mr. Anil Singh                             Member

* Mr. Milind Kokje              Member                   * Ms. Pramila Swain          Member

* Mr. Amitabh Behar          Executive Director

 

We believe in learning from past experience and improving upon the knowledge, methods, skills and strategies used in India and elsewhere. NCAS is the first organisation of its kind in this part of the world to treat advocacy with the professional attention it deserves.  We strive to do this by working in collaboration with social action groups and citizens across the world. If you are interested in our work or involved in public advocacy, please do get in touch with us.

 



[1] The State of Chattisgarh was carved out of the state of Madhya Pradesh on 1 Nov 2000. The total area of the state is 135,191 sq. km.

[2] In 31 districts of Madhya Pradesh (prior to formation of the state of Chattisgarh) there existed a total of 1345 Forest Villages. In 1975 the State Government took a decision to convert the forest villages into revenue villages but before this could be done, the Forest Conservation Act 1980 came into existence and the matter had to be refferred to the Government of India for its permission”…excerpts from a letter of the Chief Conservator of Forests, Madhya Pradesh to Secretary, Human Rights Commission (letter No 979/M.A.A./4/95, dated 13.6.95).

[3] Dietrich Brandis, a German Botanist was responsible for setting up the Forest Department in India, perhaps the largest and most influential of natural resources bureaucracies in the history of conservation. Brandis was concerned with the pace of deforestation and an abiding faith in the powers of scientific expertise to reverse it. By the turn of the nineteenth century the Indian Forest department came to control a little over a fifth of India’s land area. It was by far the biggest landlord in a very large country, a status it continues to enjoy to this day.

[4] British ships were built of Burma teak, their sailors were wearing clothes of cotton grown in India, drinking Kenyan coffee sweetened with sugar planted in the Carribean. Decimating the forests of north-eastern United States, southern Africa and the Western Ghats of India – to name only three such regions – the British were, through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, unquestinably the world leaders in deforestation. Guha Ramchandra: Environmentalism – A Global History, Oxford University Press 2000.

[5] Guha R. 2000, Environmentalism :A Global History, Oxford University Press.

[6] Like other parts of India, land reform was initiated in M.P. after independence. Madhya Pradesh had intermediary system like other provinces of India, which was abolished by enacting the Zamindari Abolition Act (No 13 of 1051) and the Abolition of Jagir Act 1951. The Zamindari Abolition Act was introduced to ameliorate the condition of the agriculturists by eliminating the zamindars who were working as intermediaries between the state and the tenants. Under the Abolition of the Jagir Act, every tenant of Jagirdar was deemed to be the pucca tenant of the land cultivated by him personally. The revenue laws prevalent in all the five regions of M.P. were different when the new state was created. So to bring uniformity in the land revenue system, a common code of revenue law for the entire state was framed known as the M.P. Land Revenue Code 1959.

[7]pages 14-15, Forest Laws in M.P., ML Jindal, 1997, Rajkamal Publications, Indore.

[8] (page 25, Forest Laws in M.P., ML Jindal, 1997, Rajkamal Publications, Indore).

[9] (pages 167-68, MP Land Revenue Code, 1959, India Publishing, Indore, 1999).

[10] The issues and facts collected during this padyatra have been documented in a book “Padyatra ke Sandharbh”.