Friday, May 07, 2021 07:00 [IST]
Last Update: Friday, May 07, 2021 01:30 [IST]
DARJEELING,: Even as the Himalayan Forest Villagers Organization (HFVO) thanked the Bengal government for finally 'publishing' a gazzette notification converting 64 forest villages of Kalimpong into revenue villages, Darjeeling MP Raju Bista questioned the intention of the State for not making the document public until now as the notification was issued in September last year.
Addressing a press meet, HFVO general secretary Lila Gurung said, "For places like Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar such a gazzette notification was out in the year 2014 itself for the forest villages there and the process of giving them parcha patta is on. At that time it did not happen for Kalimpong and Darjeeling.”
The HFVO has been raising this demand for some time now with them organizing different programmes for it.
"On September 18 last year the State government made a gazzette notification ready on this but could not be published due to the coronavirus pandemic. Then the model code of conduct for the elections was enforced due to which it did not take place. Now that it has been published that 64 forest villages out of 70 will be converted into revenue villages. People living in these areas will get a lot of benefit and will come under the Land & Land Reforms department," said Gurung. He added that the organisation will continue to demand the same for forest villages under Darjeeling district.
While the HFVO took credit for this gazzette notification and maintained the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (Bimal faction) and different organizations were behind it, Bista claimed that it was due to his intervention.
“In the mid-months of 2020, the Kalimpong District Magistrate under instructions from the State government had issued an illegal notice to the villagers in Melli and other areas of Kalimpong district stating that their claims to be forest dwellers have been rejected since they did not have any documentary proof needed,” said the Darjeeling MP.
Bista stressed that due to his intervention by taking up the matter with the Centre, the State government had finally extended the Forest Rights Act to Kalimpong district.
“The State government had done it on September last year itself. However, they had kept this fact hidden from the general public. Though FRA 2006 was finally extended to Kalimpong district on September 2020, not a single forest dweller has been granted parcha patta rights to date," Bista said. He added that most of the people living in forest villages from Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri too have been denied what is rightfully theirs. There was no clarity on whether the FRA has been extended to the Darjeeling district or not, he said.
Bista also questioned as to why the document of the extension of FRA to Kalimpong district was being done only after the Bengal elections. He also asked who had suppressed this document till now and was the State or those running the GTA behind it.
Meanwhile, Darjeeling GNLF general secretary Sandeep Limbu appealed to the State government that the same should be done for the forest villagers living in Darjeeling, Mirik and Kurseong along with parcha patta be granted to people living in D.I. Fund area, cinchona plantation and tea gardens.