Novel Satyagraha by tribal citizens: 600 RTI applications in a day

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Jawhar, 8th April

Tribal citizens from Jawhar Taluka of Thane district have recorded their protest and demanded rightful information in an unprecedented manner filing RTI applications at the Additional Collector’s office at Jawhar. 687 tribal citizens have filed such applications today seeking information on their claims for rights over traditional land holdings under the FRA (Forest rights Act).  It is likely that more people will find similar applications in the coming days. This is an individual Satyagraha using modern legal tools.

Background:

Forest Rights Act implementation began in January 2008. Village forest rights committees (FRC) were formed and people filed their claims with these committees. The committees verified the claims by spot visits and measurements. The Gramsabhas finally approved (or rejected) these claims. The claims were then forwarded to Sub-Divisional Level Committee (SDLC) and then to District Level Committee (DLC) presided by the District Collectors. The SDLC and DLC were expected to clear the claims within 60 days each. But the tribal claimants have received their Patta (land title) only after five years. After this long wait of 5 years, people are still distraught and shocked at what the government has given on paper.

Many claimants in Jawhar and other tribal areas of the state have received a Patta that shows much lesser area of land than what the farmer is actually tilling and has claimed as a right. There are cases where the claimant had attached evidence and a verification report by FRC showing 5 to 6 acres of land holding, however the government Patta has shown only half or single acre. The government has not explained to the claimant why this unjust allocation was done.

The Satyagraha:

The people decided to file RTI application giving reference of the Forest Rights Act – Amended Rules of September 2012 and to the ‘proactive disclosure’ section of RTI. The Rules of 2012 and RTI (Sec. 4) both require that government proactively discloses to the claimant why an adverse decision was taken. More than 600 citizens from 12 villages from Jawhar and 3 villages of Vikramgad have filed RTI applications in a single day at the Upper Jilhadhikari office at Jawhar. Village wise numbers are: Anantnagar 72, Dhadhri 93, Wehelpada 153, Dohyachapada 33, Akre 39, Hateri 66, Kokanpada 47, Ozar 45, Sawarkhind 50, Palshin 6, Dapti 68, and Kayri 15.

This individual Satyagraha by tribals of Jawhar is likely to continue throughout this week.  It is reported that over 50 citizens have filed the RTI applications on the second day. Vayam has trained the people in use of RTI and FRA. And the people have resolved to assert their democratic rights.

Link to news published in Maharashtra Times: अधिकाराची क्रांती

Link to news published in The Hindu: Tribals resort to RTI fight

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