New Delhi, 12th March: Today, a team of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM- Bimal Faction) leaders and other social activists from the Hills met with the Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda under the leadership of Darjeeling MP Raju Bista.
As per the MP, "the delegation inquired about the status of recognizing the 11 left out Gorkha sub-tribes as the Schedule Tribes." The delegation also notified Minister Arjun Munda on the non-implementation of the ST and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 [also known as Forest Rights Act, 2006] by the West Bengal government in the districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong.
MP Bista further informed that he "informed the Minsiter that the 11 Gorkha sub-tribes have waited patiently for the documentation processes to be completed, however, the process is taking too long." To which, the Minister assured of looking into the matter and take steps to expedite the process.
The Minister was also informed how the Ministry of Railways is currently in the process of developing the Sivok-Rangpo rail line that will connect West Bengal with the bordering state Sikkim. Bista maintained that the railway project will negatively impact 24 forest villages comprising around 800 households, which will have to be relocated. Despite the forest villages are protected under the Forest Rights Act of 2006, the non-implementation of this act has resulted in the forest dwellers from the villages of being deprived of their right to compensation and rehabilitation.
Bista accused the State Government of not offering any compensation and rehabilitation till date to the local villages and families despite receiving all dues from the Ministry of Railways. The MP requested the Minister to put a halt to the Sivok-Rangpo railway project construction works until all the norms and requirements under the Forest Rights Act (2006) are fulfilled to the satisfaction of local communities.
In his Twitter handle, Bista further wrote that Minister Arjun Munda assured him and his team that "Ministry of Tribal Affairs which is the executing authority of Forest Rights Act (2006) will instruct the West Bengal government to implement FRA at the earliest." The Minister further stated that he would be sending a team of experts to ascertain the difficulties being faced by the forest dwellers in the districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, and take necessary action to provide relief to the people.