Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Vayam call for urgent action

This is not technical but serious social issue in India. I am quoting email below from Milind Thatte of Vayam India. Please see if any one can help here!!. You may ask me [Subhash Dike] if you need any further details. Visit for details "Vayam call for urgent action Dear all, I am writing this to involve all of you in a war-footing effort that we alias Vayam are taking up in this month and the next. This is almost a war and Vayam has to fight it. We can not be bystanders and watch our forests and the communities there just vanish into deserts of barren mountains. The calamity and opportunity Government of India has passed a law that is handing over "Forest rights" to forest-dwelling communities. This law is a double-edged sword. If the community (i.e. the tribes) use it in a proper and restrained manner, it will rejuvenate all of our forests. But if the community falls prey to campaigns by mafia, political parties, and some NGOs - the forests will vanish within next six months. As of now, there is double tragedy: 1 - the community does not know how to manage forests for long-term sustainability and benefit. 2 - the anti-forest lobby is already at large Our war plan There is need to launch an awareness campaign with immediate effect (starting latest by 20th May) in all forest-dwelling villages of Jawhar-Mokhada blocks (Thane district). We have identified that 24 villages in this belt are still having some forest cover. Our team will reach these villages, conduct meetings, present a workable Forest Management model, and appeal people to join our movement. Our movement shall support both: Forest rights and Forest management by community. This campaign is proposed to be run from 20th May to 15th June. Please understand the urgency. Government has begun the implementation of this law and is bent upon completing the procedures in six months beginning April 2008. Village forest committees are already formed in most villages... and forest maps will be redrawn in next month. What YOU got to do You can volunteer for this campaign, but not for less than seven days. If you can write a streetplay (in tribal dialect), or help design/print posters, or if you can drive a car, hold a loudspeaker, fold a chaddar, take photographs, or if you can talk to villagers... You are welcome to volunteer. We need approx. 1,50,000 rupees to run this campaign. If you are not coming to the field, you have to raise this fund and empower the field team to work without worry. Some of the expenditures are as follows: 1. Printing of leaflets/handbills, posters, and stickers 2. Printing of Flex (roll-up boards) for temporary exhibition in villages 3. Vehicle hiring expenses (or fuel for motorcycles) {You can donate a motorcycle for a month} 4. Honorarium for field workers (working for one month or more) 5. Food expenses of the campaign team 6. White LED torches (10) to illuminate the stage for night meetings We have about 42k rupees contributed by our core team. (We have another 28k by donors, but we will have to seek their permission to use it for this purpose.) So we need more funds. You can drop a cheque in the name of "Amit Tillu" or "Milind Thatte" and drop it in any ICICI ATM. (Account number: 002701551755, Branch: Nashik). If you (or your friend) donates, please send a mail to and give your contact details. All contributors will get a detailed report of expenses at the end of the campaign by email. I am not going to send reminders. This is not my war, this is our fight. And we don't have too much time in hand. I am going to be in the field for this entire campaign. Two tribal karyakartas are ready to be with me. Many more will join. Even if you don't collect funds, this team will fight. But then, their families will suffer - as all of them will lose their monthly/daily wages. Feel free to fwd this mail to your friends and talk to as many people as possible.(Vayam's profile - if required - is attached.) Your contributions are can start falling in from today. Call me for all queries/questions. Ram ram, - Milind More information about this issue... What is the law all about This law and its rules were passed on 1 January 2008 and it is called as "Scheduled Tribes and Other traditional Forest-dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act". The Act gives or recognises three sets of rights: 1. Right to own/cultivate/habitat land in forest for bonafide livelihood needs. (Cultivation/habitation before 2005 is to be legalised) 2. Right to use/distribute/process all plant-based forest produce (excluding timber) and to use all grasslands and water sources in the forest for bonafide livelihood needs 3. Right to conserve/manage forest resources The law is positive in the sense that it has recognized the rights of tribes over forests that were taken away by the British government and carried forward by Indian governments. But it is dangerous - for it is quite possible - that people will destroy/cut forests to get immediate gains. Deforestation will damage the forest-dwellers to the maximum. Food-fuel-fodder everything will be lost and forest-dwelling communities will virtually become beggars if forests are finished. Assessment visit (cutting of forests has begun) Vayam's team has already been to some forest villages in Thane districts and assessed the current status of the law and the forests. Village Forest committees - as required by the law - are being formed. In some villages, certain organisations have provoked people to cut forests and we have seen cut trees (approx. 90 in one village, Bharsatmet in Taluka Jawhar). We met some forest farming persons and some Gram Panchayat Forest committee members. (See pictures attached.) After this assessment, we have chalked out the plan of a blitzkrieg campaign. Networking to increase impact We have been talking to Voluntary organisations with good grass-roots network. I and Amit have already alerted all our old contacts and friends in tribal villages and have got them activated. We have addressed two meetings of tribal volunteers and are connecting to friends in MP and 36gadh. "