‘1st Time’ In Odisha: 21 Single Women Get Forest Land Rights In Rayagada

Rayagada: In another step towards changing social perception through empowerment, particularly in rural and tribal areas, the Centre has granted forest land rights to 21 single women in Odisha’s Rayagada district. This is claimed to be the first instance of single women gaining such rights in Odisha.

As per the provision of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, which allows tribals and forest dwellers rights over forest resources, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs has issued the land rights to the women.

Most of the beneficiaries belong to the Kandha tribe in Boriguda under Therubali panchayat of Kolnara block in the district. They were granted the rights for 363.71 acre including 208.5 acre of forestland on August 15 last year. But they were handed over the land titles later.

While 12 of them are widows, six are unmarried and the rest destitute. They received land measuring one to three acre on an average, classified as ‘patra jangal’ or degraded grazing land in government records.

They cultivated paddy during kharif season and plan to grow vegetables during Rabi season. In the absence of irrigation facility, they face difficulties in fetching water for the crops and feel sinking a borewell can help them in a big way.

The land rights also permit them to protect and manage forest, collect non-timber forest produce and fuelwood, and graze cattle. Besides cultivation, they can procure arrowroot, turmeric and medicinal plants from the forest.

One of the beneficiaries, Sundari Huika got the forest land rights after the death of her son. Now she is able to sustain herself and her widow daughter-in-law with the income from the land.

Similarly, Rupai and son Suman Huika sustain by cultivating ‘kandula’ (toor dal) in 0.28 acre of their land. “We store some ‘kandula’ for personal consumption and sell the rest at Rs 60 per kg,” Sundari was quoted as saying by a news agency.

“At first, many of us were apprehensive. But after we applied for land titles, we felt optimistic. Land is an asset and I feel secure now,” said Raimati Hikaka, who made the claim after the death of her husband Damodara, a driver. The septuagenarian now grows ragi there.

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