Responding to the call given by the CPI(M), Party units across the country had launched a nationwide campaign to press for the tabling of the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill 2005 with the necessary amendments, in the forthcoming session of the Parliament. The Campaign culminated in an All India Demands day, which was observed in different states on the 18th and 19th November. Rallies were organized in Rajasthan, Uttaranchal, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, West Bengal, Kerala, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh and other places. These rallies were addressed by Party leaders in different states.
Addressing a massive rally of the CPI (M) in Ranchi yesterday, Brinda Karat, Polit Bureau Member reiterated the Party’s demand vis-à-vis tabling the Bill at the earliest and emphasized that the Bill requires amendments if it is to uphold the rights of tribals. The amendments, which she articulated include removal of the cut off date of 1980, which has been wrongly introduced in the Bill and which if implemented, will lead to mass evictions of tribals. She also said that the exclusion of many poor traditionally forest-dwelling communities was unacceptable. The other issue of concern is the ceiling of 2.5 hectares of land proposed in the Bill on tribal holdings, which may lead to disentitlement of adult sons/daughters who have been cultivating land but may not have legal evidence. She pointed out that the crucial issue of development of tribal habitations and provision of minimum facilities like drinking water, health care etc. has been completely ignored in the Bill.
CPI (M) Central committee Member, Gyan Mazumdar and tribal leaders like Rajender Munda, Jatin Soren and Jagmati Topno also addressed the meeting at Ranchi. They stated that the absence of state responsibility in protection of people from contractors, traders, and land mafia, is a glaring loophole in the Bill, which requires suitable modification. They urged upon the Government to table the Bill in the Winter session and bring about the changes suggested by the CPI (M).
One lakh people participated in the rallies in West Bengal. Upen Kisku, minister in the Left Front government addressed one of the rallies. In Rajasthan rallies were held in Udaipur and Dungarpur in which over 2000 people participated. They were addressed by state Secretary Amra Ram, MLA Amra Ram and others. In Maharashtra over 1,10,000 people participated in the programmes organised in Nasik, Thane, Nandurbar and other places, which were addressed by Juva Gavit, Raja Ozre, Kumar Shiralkar and others. The mobilisation in six districts of Madhya Pradesh was around 5000, while around 2,500 people participated in Kerala. Big mobilisations have also been reported from Tripura and other places.