Forest land rights: Karnataka lags in approving claims | Bengaluru News

BENGALURU: Karnataka has been slow in approving applications for forest land rights filed by tribals and other locals. The records submitted to the Centre suggest that the state has one of the worst pendency levels in the country.
As of December 30, 2020, Karnataka had received more than 2.7 lakh applications from Scheduled Tribes (STs) and other forest dwellers looking to secure ownership of land tilled or held by their families for several decades. Of these, only 14,667 requests, pertaining to 20,813 acres, had been approved.
Odisha and Chhattisgarh lead in granting land forest land rights. Odisha has cleared 4.4 lakh applications for a total area of 6.5 lakh acres and Chhattisgarh has approved over 4 lakh applications for 8.4 lakh acres.
Officials in the Karnataka forest department and ST directorate say many applicants struggle to prove antecedents covering three generations of their family or 75 years of land ownership prior to 2008, and this is the biggest hurdle in approving claims. The rules for granting forest land rights were framed in 2008.
Compared to ST communities, other forest dwellers face a longer wait to know the outcome of their applications. The former are automatically listed as owners and have direct rights over land.
Some officials say a Supreme Court ruling in June 2019 had also led to high pendency. The court had asked the Karnataka government to review nearly 1.9 lakh applications that were rejected earlier.
“We have disposed of 93,000 applications from other forest dwellers and provided allotment letters to 15,322 out of 46,000 ST community claimants,” said ST welfare director PS Kanthraju.
Many applicants reportedly try to retain encroached land and avoid eviction. “The high pendency is also linked to the demand for forest area that has been encroached upon. Such pieces of land have to be cleared of encroachments if the state rejects the applications,” a forest official said.
An official in the social welfare department said that the backlog would ease drastically if the Centre relaxed the norms related to proving 75 years of antecedence.

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