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Forests emerging ideal road to assured living

Press Information Bureau
Many forest dwellers like Latif Mian, Anil Chakraborty have never heard of right to forests being enacted. Yet, some rights they are availing now saving the forests. Earlier, almost every day, they used to cut trees from forests by cheating the forest guards. Sometimes, they used to get caught. They used to do it of course for earning some money. They are the residents of Tatuatila under North Chandrapur Gram Panchayat of Matabari Block of South District in northeastern Tripura state. But, all these swindle are a matter of past now.

These people have learnt to earn out of the forests without cutting them as it has become the source of income of about more than 300 people of Tatuatila. In the year 1999-2000, the Joint Forest Management Committee of Tatuatila has been formed and 57 families joined with it. At the beginning, the Forest Department assisted by providing Rs. 30,000. A sum of Rs. 28,000 has also been paid as second installment. The members of committee have been appointed as workers. The former member of Chandrapur village Panchayat, as well as Joint Forest Committee member, Latif Miya was narrating about the tale of their rise. He said that the project has totally changed the lifestyle of people who used to cut trees for their livelihood in the past.

In the forest of 78 hectares area, Sal trees are spread in 50 hectors of land of a Reserved Forest area. The committee then planted teak trees in more 10 hectares and bamboo plants in another 10 hectares of land. Another four hectare of land is equally being used for plantation of Amloki trees and Bet trees. In rest four hectare of land water bodies has been created. Faizal Miya, the Secretary of the Joint Forest Management Committee and Forest Ranger informed that fish cultivation has started in the water bodies. The fishes are being sold in the local markets and also is distributed free of cost, in some occasions, amongst many poor members of the committee.  This JFM committee has started process to form self - help groups to whom these ponds will be handed over.

Namita Das, the secretary of the JFM said that they are thinking about the matter. Among 57 families 30 belong to Muslim Community, 12 to scheduled caste, 3 families to OBC and 12 families are belonging to unreserved category. They said, the 52 families of them have received job cards under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. One Anganwadi centre is also there from where the pregnant women get necessary health related advices and medicines.

The Agartala - Sabroom road which meets the North Chandrapur Gram Panchayat, just opposite of it is a brick laid road which goes towards the forest area. About 3 km. ahead, there are houses of about 35 families on both sides of the road which they got under Indira Awas Yojana. But, there is no school in the area for which a Junior Basic School is mooted to set up there under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, said Shri Anil Chakraborty, pradhan of North Chandrapur Gram Panchayat and Chairman of Joint forest management committee. The locals said, they are now getting drinking water through pipe lines. One drinking water source has been created under Swajaldharaat the Anganwadi centre which also being used by the people living of the area.

By selling wood, Bamboo hay etc. from the forest, the JFMC has earned Rs. 1 lakh of which Rs. 30,000 has been spent as wages for the forest laborers. With the rest of Rs. 70,000 they have bought 3 kani 15 ganda of land, where rice cultivation is going on. They are planning to dig a pond adding which total number of water sources will be enhance to five.  Side by side pigs and ducks will be fostered there. Along with it, food for fishes will also be managed. Such are the plans for the future. Only the members of JFM committee are allowed to collect bamboos, hay etc. from the forest area for which they need to pay a very nominal amount to the committee. And by selling these the members can cash a lot on daily basis.

On one side, the fund of the committee is increasing and on the other side the employees are getting a regular fixed income. Moreover, when trees like Sal, Teak will get matured can be sold at a high price which will add to the fund of the JFMC. That amount will be equally distributed among the Joint Forest Management Committee and the Forest Deptt. The process of earning through forest has been realized by Karim Miya, Farid Miya, Noorjahan Bibi, Bimal Dey and many more poor people who have been benefited a lot by this forest. Their gratitude has been revealing from their words. They also said that from the savings of the fund, an assistance of Rs. 500 each for 10 provided to poor students. These people received electricity at their houses. A total of 35 families got power under Kutir Jyoti scheme and 10 families have got through solar lanterns, said the Chairman of Joint Forest Management Committee. But to get the health care facility from the nearest Indira Nagar Primary Health Centre, the villagers have to walk for 8 kms for which the local people are willing to get a health centre somewhere nearby.

In the South district, so far, 629 Joint Forest Management Committee has been formed by which 70,720 families are getting benefits regularly. In future, 50 more committee are expected to be formed. Over all it can be said that the Forest Project is an absolute brilliant project for the uplift of the State. June 2008