Agartala, June 1 (IANS) More than 200,000 tribal people in Tripura may become homeless with the state government issuing them eviction notices to immediately vacate illegally occupied forest land.
The ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) government decision to serve eviction notices to some 43,215 tribal families follows a direction by the Supreme Court to clear all forest land encroached by human settlers.
'The Forest Conservation Act, 1980, does not permit anybody to stay in the forest land and, in view of the apex court's direction, the state forest department has already served notices to vacate the forest land,' a senior forest official said.
According to estimates, there are some 215,000 tribal people settled in about 14,000 hectares of forest land for decades together.
Tribal people account for about 30 percent of Tripura's 3.1 million people.
The government's decision to evict the tribal settlers from the forest land has triggered a blazing row with the main opposition Congress party and the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), a tribal-based political front, threatening to launch a mass agitation against the move.
The Left Front government finds itself in a spot as taking such a step would amount to losing the tribal support base.
'We also want immediate vacation of the Supreme Court order as the state government is not in favour of shifting the tribal people from their present habitation. We demand immediate passing of the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Right) Bill 2005 by the Parliament,' state Forest and Tribal Welfare Minister Jitendra Chowdhury told IANS.
The Supreme Court had earlier stayed a decision of the union ministry of environment and forests to regularise all encroachments on forest land and diversion of forest land for resettlement of tribal people in some states of the country, especially in Madhya Pradesh and Tripura.
The ministry recently issued a circular to the concerned states to execute the apex court's direction.
According to union Tribal Welfare Minister P.R. Kyndiah: 'Once the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Right) Bill 2005 is passed, tribal people residing in forest areas cannot be evicted.'
Peeved at the 'inordinate and unwarranted delay' in passing the bill, the CPI-M threatened to launch a nationwide campaign to 'pressurise' the government to protect the 'legitimate' rights of over 90 million tribals in the country.
Thousands of tribal people were allotted forest land by the revenue department of the Tripura government under the Tripura Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960.
© 2006 Indo-Asian News Service