[WSMDiscuss] Fwd: Urgent: Press Release: Forest Rights groups/experts urge MoTA to ensure support for forest communities impacted due to Covid 19

Ashish Kothari ashishkothari at riseup.net
Thu May 7 11:25:37 CEST 2020

Friends, a press statement about an important report on the condition of 
forest-dwelling communities in India, due to COVID19 and more due to the 
state-imposed lockdown. For a copy of the full report, pl. contact 
Sushmita or Tushar at the emails given below. Pl. do not write back on 
these lists unless there is a comment you think needs to be seen by all.


-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: 	[cfr-la] Fwd: Urgent: Press Release: Forest Rights 
groups/experts urge MoTA to ensure support for forest communities 
impacted due to Covid 19
Date: 	Thu, 7 May 2020 03:33:17 +0000
From: 	sushmita verma <sushmita.verma at hotmail.com>
Reply-To: 	sushmita.verma at hotmail.com
To: 	CFR Learning group <cfr-la at googlegroups.com>

*Press Release*

*Date: May 6, 2020*

*_Forest Rights groups, researchers and experts write to MoTA to take 
urgent steps to ensure support for tribal and forest communities 
affected due to Covid 19 outbreak and the Lockdown_*

/On Monday May 4, a group of civil society organisations, activists, 
researchers and experts working with tribals and forest dwelling 
communities has submitted a report to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs 
(MoTA) about the socio-economic distress situation in tribal areas 
arising out of //Covid19 outbreak and lockdown measures. The groups have 
demanded for urgent action by the ministry to ensure adequate awareness 
and healthcare and to protect the rights and livelihoods of the tribal 

This report is part of an ongoing assessment of COVID lockdown impact on 
tribal communities which was initiated after the announcement of the 
lockdown was made on March 24. It is based on primary information 
collected from civil society organisations working with tribals and 
forest dwellers and on secondary information from media reports.

*Some of the key findings of the preliminary assessment report are as 
listed below:*

1. *Health:* Tribal areas already suffer from a severe shortage of basic 
healthcare facilities, shortage of healthcare professionals, lack of 
information and awareness etc leading to prevalence of diseases such as 
malnutrition, malaria, leprosy, tuberculosis (TB) and others. Absence of 
healthcare facilities can severely limit the capacities to deal with any 
major COVID 19 outbreak in tribal areas posing a serious threat to the 
tribal population. COVID 19 impacts people with compromised health 
conditions and low immunity. This increases risks of infection to the 
tribal and forest communities living in deprivation. Testing and 
monitoring of the disease is inadequate and is mostly limited to urban 
areas. Providing testing facilities in tribal areas is a major challenge.

*2. Livelihood:* The lock down has affected collection, use and sale of 
minor forest produces (MFP) by tribals and forest dwellers. As per 
government’s own data, an estimated 100 million forest dwellers depend 
on MFP for food, shelter, medicines and cash income. The MFP collection 
season from April to June provides major income support to tribals 
(almost 60 percent of annual collection takes place during this period) 
and, most unfortunately, it coincides exactly with the lockdown 
impacting the communities right now, which may have a drastic and long 
term impact on their livelihood and survival. The major MFP schemes 
announced by the central govt- the Van Dhan Vikas and Minimum Support 
Price- are inadequate to address the MFP issues due to absence of 
institutional support in the tribal areas. The trading and value chain 
of non timber forest produce (NTFP)s has been completely disrupted under 
the lockdown as traders are not willing to buy NTFPs in the current 

*3. Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in severe 
distress*: The lockdown measures are reported to have affected access to 
forests and livelihood activities of the PVTGs. Baigas in MP have 
reported problems due to restrictions on their movement. There are 
distress situations being reported from PVTG areas due to lack of access 
to PDS and other entitlement.

*4. Pastoral and Nomadic communities: *The migration and seasonal access 
of pastoralists have been restricted due to the lockdown. Many pastoral 
communities are reported to be stuck in other states/districts without 
access to rations and fodder for the livestock^^[1] 
Also pastoral communities have been affected as the milk economy faces 
severe crisis as procurement and sale has been disrupted during the 

*5**. Tenurial insecurity:*Though the Forest Rights Act (FRA) recognises 
the injustices faced by communities and provides for Community Forest 
Rights (CFRs) and Individual Forest Rights (IFRs), the lack of due 
recording of existing forest rights and resultant tenurial insecurity is 
likely to increase vulnerability and more adversely impact livelihoods 
and food security of forest dwellers in the lockdown period and after.

*6**. Restriction of movement in National Parks/ Sanctuaries:*MoEFCC on 
April 6, 2020, instructed all states and union territories to ensure 
reduction in human wildlife interface through restriction of movement of 
people to National Parks/Sanctuaries/ Tiger Reserves. This advisory 
would immediately impact about 3 to 4 million people living in and 
around protected areas. These are mostly tribal communities including 
PVTGs, nomadic and pastoralist communities, fish workers, among others 
and are most dependent on the natural resources within and around the 
protected areas for their livelihoods. There is great danger of this 
advisory being misunderstood and misused to further alienate and 
restrict access of these communities to the natural resources that they 
are dependent on for their lives and livelihoods.

7. *Forest Land diversion*: Diversion of forest land without the consent 
of Gram Sabha in violation of the FRA continues even during the lock 
down. It is a matter of concern that the MoEF has been clearing forest 
diversion proposals at this time and has issued new guidelines relaxing 
forest and environmental clearance norms for mining by new leases7.

8. *Compensatory afforestation*: There are reports of Compensatory 
Afforestation (CA) plantations being carried out on forest land used by 
tribals and other traditional forest dwellers, including by fencing of 
such areas accessed for community rights. These actions are not only in 
direct violation of their rights under the FRA, but also are causing 
severe distress to the tribals and forest dwellers in the present 
situation by impacting their livelihoods and destroying agro biodiversity

9. *Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) amendments*: On March 28, 
2020, the environment ministry amended the rules for Environment Impact 
Assessment 2006^^[2] 
several categories of projects from the requirement of environment 
clearance without considering the short and long term impacts of such 
decisions on the livelihood security of the forest dwelling communities. 
The EIA amendment has also diluted the provision to obtain written 
consent of Gram Sabha under FRA. Moreover, attempts at pushing for post 
facto environment clearance^^[3] 
<https://outlook.live.com/mail/0/deeplink/compose/AQMkADAwATYwMAItYjUxNC1lZjE2LTAwAi0wMAoARgAAAzpso0Xm98hHr2PWiupXf7AHAI7XYAF4SupBk7%2FHgXi2nWoAAAIBDwAAAI7XYAF4SupBk7%2FHgXi2nWoABBpJcHUAAAA%3D?version=2020042702.14&popoutv2=1&leanbootstrap=1#_ftn3> for 
projects that already started defying environmental norms are also being 
made during this period.

*10**. Other issues*: Evictions have taken place in states such as 
Gujarat and Odisha. Mining activities have continued creating conflicts 
in many areas. There are also reports of deforestation taking place in 
many areas.

*Urgent steps recommended*

Despite the lockdowm being in force since March 24, the Central 
government is yet to come up with a comprehensive COVID response plan 
for tribals and forest dwelling communities. Apart from several other 
recommendations mentioned in the report, these are few steps that 
immediately need to be taken by the government/s

  * The MoTA to set up COVID response cell and issue specific guidelines
    to address the issues and problems of tribals and forest dwellers.
  * The central government should coordinate with the state governments
    to provide immediate relief to the tribal communities by ensuring
    information and awareness, providing health care and testing
    facilities in the tribal areas, support for MFP collection and sale.
  * The central government should look into the cases of forest rights
    violation and eviction due to mining and forest diversions,
    plantations by forest dept, restrictions on access to forest for
    livelihoods activities etc.
  * MoTA should also ensure that district and sub-district level
    officers are well informed about all relevant guidelines and orders
    related to COVID 19 and lock-down issued by the centre and the
    states from time to time and that these are complied with.
  * The MoTA and TRIFED should work with state tribal departments to
    urgently devise effective institutional mechanisms for the
    collection, storage, procurement and sale of non timber forest
    produce during the ongoing collection season. Necessary financial
    and logistical support should be provided to the Gram Sabhas and
    forest management committees constituted under FRA together with
    other PPAsfor direct procurement from the gatherers.
  * MoTA should request MoEF to release the huge compensatory
    afforestation fund to the Gram Sabhas constituted under FRA to
    support community forest management for generating livelihoods and
    wage employment for tribals and forest dwellers to deal with the
    economic crisis.
      o Ensuring support to vulnerable communities such as the PVTGs and
        pastoral communities
      o Effective implementation of FRA so that communities are more
        secure in the long run

    To receive a copy of the report and for further information, please
    contact sushmita.verma at hotmail.com
    <mailto:sushmita.verma at hotmail.com> or tushardash01 at gmail.com
    <mailto:tushardash01 at gmail.com>

*List of endorsements *

1.Madhu Sarin, Campaign for Survival & Dignity, Chandigarh

2.Shomona Khanna, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, Delhi

3.C R Bijoy, Campaign for Survival & Dignity, Tamil Nadu

4.Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Campaign for Survival & Dignity, Dehradun

5.Y Giri Rao, Vasundhara, Bhubaneswar

6.Pravin Mote, Devjit Nandi, All India Forum of Forest Movements

7.Ashish Kothari, Neema Pathak, Shruti Ajit, Kalpavriksh, Pune

8.Trupti Parikh Mehta, Ambrish Mehta, Arch Vahini, Gujarat

9.Ashok Chowdhury All India Union of Forest Working People, AIUFWP

10.Sanjay Basu Mullick, Jharkhand Jangal Bachao Andolan (JJBA) & All 
India Front for Forest Rights Struggles (AIFFRS)

11.Amitabh Bachchan Hyder, Kerala hornbill foundation

12.Kamayani Bali Mahabal , Health and Human Rights Activist  Mumbai

13.Sumi Krishnan, Researcher

14.Madhuri Krishnaswamy Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Madhya Pradesh

15.Viren lobo, Akhil Bharatiya Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti.

16.Dilip Gode, Vidharbha Nature Conservation Society, Nagpur

17.Kishor Mahadev, Gramin Samassya Mukti Trust, Yavatmal, Maharashtra

18.Shweta Tripathy, Satyam Srivastava, SRUTI, Delhi

19.Geetanjoy Sahu, Associate Professor, TISS, Mumbai

20.Dr Palla Trinadh Rao, Andhra Pradesh

21.Ramesh Bhatti, Sahjeevan, Gujarat

22.Rahul Srivastava, Advocate and Activist, MP

23.Akshay Jasrotia, Himachal GhumantuPashupalakMahasaba (Himachal Pradesh)

24.Tarun Joshi, Van PanchayatSangharshMorcha, Uttarakhand

25.Prasant Mohanty, NIRMAN,Bhubaneswar

26.Ranjan Panda, Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India

27.Dilnavaz Variava, Managing Trustee, The Sahayak Trust

28.Aruna Rodrigues, Lead Petitioner: Supreme Court PIL for a Moratorium 
on GMOs

29.Sharanya, Cultural activist, Koraput, Odisha

30.Prof Ritu Dewan, former Director & Professor, Department of 
Economics, (Autonomous), University of Mumbai

31.Alok Shukla, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan

32.Mohan Hirabai Hiralal, Convenor, Vrikshamitra, Gadchiroli-Chandrapur

33.Indu Netam, Adiwasi Jan Van Adhikar Manch-AJVAM, Chhattisgarh

34.Himdhara Collective, Himachal Pradesh

35.Sharmistha Bose-Oxfam India

36.Adv. Sonal Tiwari, Environmental Lawyer-Ranchi High Court

37.Fr. George Monippally, Jharkhand

38.Sushmita, Independent Researcher, Mumbai

39.Dr. V Rukmini Rao, Director, Gramya Resource Centre for Women

40.Ms. Yogini Dolke, Director, SRUJAN

41.Tarak Kate, Chairman, Dharamitra, Wardha, Maharashtra.

42.Sanghamitra Dubey, Independent Researcher, Bhubaneswar

43.Puja Priyadarshini, Legal Researcher, Delhi

44.Aditi Pinto, Independent Researcher and Writer

45.Archana Soren, Researcher, Vasundhara, Bhubaneswar

46.Pranav Menon, Legal Researcher, Delhi

47.Kashtkari Sanghathana, Maharashtra

48.Ankush V, Adivasi Lives Matter

49.Vaishnavi Rathore, environmental journalist

50.Pallavi Sobti Rajpal, Utthan, Gujarat

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