Campaign for gram sabhas

Kalimpong, Feb. 25: The National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers will soon conduct a country-wide campaign to form gram sabhas in every forest village.

This was decided at the three-day national committee meeting of the forum, which ended here today. There it was said the organisations should be formed according to the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

“Gram sabhas already exist in some scheduled villages, but there isn’t a single one in north Bengal,” said Soumitra Ghosh, a member of the steering committee of the forum, an organisation of forest dwellers. “The 15-day campaign will start on March 8.”

The forum has demanded that the gram sabhas should immediately replace the joint forest management mechanism used by the forest department to look after forest resources. “The new law has given the responsibility of managing forest resources to forest dwellers, thereby reducing the power of the department,” said Ghosh. The act was approved by Parliament on December 18. The members said the law would vest the forest rights with forest dwellers, who are integral part of the forest eco-systems, but whose rights could not be recorded.

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