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Contemporary issues and movements

Shetkari Sanghatana - Sharad Joshi

Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana - Raju Shetty

Two Maharashtra tribal villages get community rights

17 Aug 2009
Two tribal villages in Gadchriroli district in Maharashtra have been granted community rights over forest area around them under the new Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forests) Act. Now both the villages Mendha-Lekha and Marda will have legal rights to manage and utilise about 1800 and 880 hectares of land respectively.
Gadchiroli district guardian minister Ramesh Bang, in his Independence Day address, declared the decision in favour of Mendha-Lekha near Dhanora and Marda near Potegaon.

While the Act is known to bestow individual land ownership rights on people living traditionally in forests and having encroached on what is defined as forest land, it also offers virtual ownership of the forest surrounding a village to a village community.
Mendha-Lekha first hit the headlines more than a decade ago with its 'Mawa Nate Mawa Raj' (Our village, our Government) slogan, declaring itself as a self-determining village implementing its own development programmes while allowing least governmental intervention. It drew strength from provisions of the Panchayati Raj Act. It was also the first village to come out with a bio-diversity register under the Biodiversity Act.

The self-determination movement was led by Devaji Tofa. His daughter Manda and son-in-law Nitin Barsinge have been leading a similar movement in Marda village.
The Tribal Act provision allows the village community to have nistar (utilisation) rights like cattlefeed, collection and storage of minor forest produce, resource management and disposal.
The process of achieving the community right involves preparing a claim in the format given in the Act, turning it over to the village forest rights committee comprising forest and revenue officials along with village representatives, passage of the proposal by the Gram Sabha with two-third majority, sending it to the subdivisional committee led by the SDO and the district-level committee led by the Collector for their approval.

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