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Villagers’ Opposition to Declaring Orans as Deemed Forests

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Demoselle Cranes near Khichan, close to Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Photo: iStock

A recent notification by the state government of Rajasthan has sparked fear among villagers, particularly in western Rajasthan, regarding the classification of orans (sacred groves) as deemed forests. This move has raised concerns among communities regarding potential loss of access to forest resources and livelihoods.

Notification Details

  • Released on February 1, 2024, the notification proposes to classify orans, Dev-vans, and Rundhs as deemed forests, in accordance with directives from the Supreme Court.
  • The notification invites objections and issues from locals until March 3, 2024.

Villagers’ Objections

  • Community members, represented by the organization ‘Gauchar Oran Sanrakshak Sangh Rajasthan,’ have objected to this decision.
  • Orans hold cultural and religious significance for the villagers, who utilize the forest area for cattle herding, pastures, and sustenance.
  • The livelihood of many, including camel and sheep herders, depends on resources obtained from the orans.
  • Concerns include potential deprivation of forest produce, restricted access, and displacement of residents living in proximity to orans.

Lack of Consultation and Clarity

  • Villagers express discontent over the absence of government consultation before proposing these lands as deemed forests.
  • Discrepancies between the 2004 Kapoor Committee report and the recent notification raise doubts about the decision-making process.
  • Lack of clarity in guidelines or rules post-notification adds to villagers’ apprehensions.

Legal Perspective

  • Deemed forests, as per the Supreme Court’s directives, are areas with forest-like characteristics not officially recorded in government records.
  • Protection measures under Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, aim to prevent further degradation of such lands.
  • However, these measures should not restrict community access for activities like grazing or worshipping.

Clarifications and Assurance Needed

  • With the matter listed for hearing on March 11, 2024, concerns regarding rights in traditionally conserved areas need addressing.
  • Transparency and public information about the implications of deeming orans as forests are crucial.
  • The Rajasthan government must assure villagers that their rights and livelihoods will not be compromised by the proposed classification.

In conclusion, the opposition from villagers underscores the need for a balanced approach that considers both conservation efforts and community livelihoods in managing forest areas like orans.

Source: Down to Earth

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