CAG audit makes scathing criticism about the failure of local authorities in creating awareness on FRA provisions amongst forest dwellers


 The state has not conducted any survey to ascertain total number of beneficiaries of Forest Rights Act. Credit: Vikas Choudhary / CSE
 The state has not conducted any survey to ascertain total number of beneficiaries of Forest Rights Act. Credit: Vikas Choudhary / CSE

A recently tabled audit report from CAG of India on the government of Odisha reveals the performance of implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 during the period 2011-16 in the state. The rules for carrying out the provisions of FRA were notified in 2008 and were subsequently amended in 2012.

The performance audit sampled five districts—Deogarh, Koraput, Sundargarh, Malkangiri and Sambalpur –and pronounced a shocking finding that “even after eight years of implementation of FRA only 46 per cent of villages were fully covered in four out of five sampled districts”. More shocking was the observation that “not a single village was fully covered in Deogarh district”.

Status of coverage of villages under FRA in sampled districts 

Name of the sampled districtNo. of VillagesFRC ConstitutedFully CoveredPercentage of Villages Fully Covered
Deogarh77467900
Sambalpur1232120874360.71
Koraput18901890118862.86
Malkangiri93393330532.69
Total48294710223646.30

Source: CAG audit report on Govt of Odisha (General and Social Sector), Report 1 of 2017, page 84.

This audit exercise also brought to the fore a startling fact that “the Government had not conducted any survey to ascertain the number of forest dwellers for recognition of forest right for all eligible forest dwellers in the state”. The scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Caste Department, in its reply filed in November 2016 to this audit report, accepted non-conduct of beneficiary surveys and further stated that “the number of projected households for each districts was prepared based on a detailed assessment of forest fringe villages and ST households and were supplied to each Collector”.

When it comes to granting the claims, CAG audit scrutiny revealed that coverage was satisfactory in Malkangiri district (96 per cent of villages covered), while in Deogarh and Sundargarh only 34 per cent and 38 per cent villages were covered respectively. Audit also underlined that rejection rates were also very high in these two sampled districts (Deogarh and Sundargarh).

CAG auditors noticed 20,623 claims falling under ‘rejected’ category in the five sampled districts. While the Rule 12 A (10) stipulates that “all decisions of the SLDCs and DLCs that involve modification or rejection of a Gram Sabha resolution or recommendation of the SLDCs shall be accompanied by detailed reasons for such modifications or rejection”, the Audit found that only 13,398 rejected claims had recorded reasons. More shockingly, case records of rejected claims were not available in any of the sampled district except Deogarh. The statistical details on the rejected claims are as follows:

Reasons for rejection of Forest Rights claims at SDLC level

DistrictsNumber of Claims Rejected at SDLC levelNumbers of Rejected Claims for which
Reason for rejection is availableIndividual details availableCase records available
Malkangiri1584158400
Koraput4524524520
Deogarh5455545554555455
Sambalpur6223590759070
Sundargarh6909000
Total2062313398118145455

Source: CAG audit report on Govt of Odisha (General and Social Sector), Report 1 of 2017, page 87.

CAG audit also makes scathing criticism about the failure of District Level Committees (DLC) and Sub-Divisional Level Committees (SLDC) in creating awareness on FRA provisions amongst forest dwellers. During the audit exercise, in August 2016, representatives of SLDCs conducted interviews of 72 members of 23 Forest Rights Committees (FRC) from the five sampled districts. Following table shows details of these 72 interviews:

Responses of FRC members interviewed during audit to gauge awareness

Sl. No.ResponsesPercentage
01Not aware of FRA26.39
02Not aware about other members of FRC11.11
03Not aware of Individual Right20.83
04Not aware of Community Right79.17
05Not aware of Community Forest Resources80.56
06Not provided with translated copy of the Act and Rules in Odiya43.06
07Not aware about evidences required19.44
08Not aware about verification process26.39
09Stated that Sub-Divisional Level Committees didn’t provide forest and revenue maps.87.50
10States that Sub-Divisional Level Committees didn’t provide electoral rolls86.11
11Stated that SLDCs didn’t provide information to Gram Sabha about duties of holder of forest rights and others towards protection of wildlife, forest and biodiversity which need to be conserved and protected.81.94
12Not aware about the ownership, access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce/ conserve or manage any community forest resource81.94

Source: CAG audit report on Govt of Odisha (General and Social Sector), Report 1 of 2017, page 199.

CAG auditors were also shocked to observe “inter-district variation in application of eligibility criteria and norm for selection/ rejection”! This performance review flags off concern over the state of implementation of the Forest Rights Act, even after a decade of its promulgation. Organisations working on forest dwellers’ issues must take note of some very minute audit scrutiny and carry out the follow-up Social Audit exercise in these sampled districts, as well as other neighbouring districts.

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/rejection-of-forest-rights-claims-poor-coverage-and-missing-data-all-happening-in-odisha-59150

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