Gandhinagar, India: Approximately 90 percent claims for land, made by the Gujarat state’s (in India) tribals under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006, are not genuine, claimed a document, released by Gujarat state government. The document explained that the tribals’ land title claims were verified with the “use of four-layered superimposed digitised maps and satellite imagery along with GPS-based personal digital assistant (PDA) maps”.
The document, titled “Tribal Sub-Plan: Annual Development Programme 2012-13”, brought out by the tribal development department, underlines that had the government not used the “accurate and transparent method of verification through geoinformatics technology, 90 percent of additional land through false claims could have been unjustly rewarded.” Terming the use of the technology for verifying tribals’ claims as “ground truthing exercise”, it suggests, only 10 percent of claims were “genuine”.
Marked “For Official Use”, the document revealed the government received 1.81 lakh “individual claims”, but state forest records indicated that, of these, “only 25,000 tribal families had been occupying forest land” in 2005, to be made rightful owners, as required by the FRA.
But, as there were so many claims, the government took a “policy decision by passing a resolution to the effect that the four-layered superimposition of digitised maps and satellite imagery could be legally considered as evidence for land claims.”
In order to do this, the government used “cadastral maps” created by the state-owned Bhaskaracharya Institute of Space Application and Geo-informatics (BISAG), and digitised the forest maps of villages concerned for “identifying the plots of land claimed by tribal individuals”. These maps were superimposed on archival records of satellite imagery for tribal areas of the state, obtained from the National Remote Sensing Centre, Hyderabad, for the months of December, 2005, and December, 2007.
The document claims, “This process was error free and could thus qualify for at least a three-sigma rating, signifying an accuracy rate of over 99.7 percent.” Citing a sample of four villages in Vijaynagar taluka of Sabarkantha district, it emphasises, the “highly accurate geoinformatics process to verify the claims also revealed that in some cases certain “genuine claimants” had encroached after 2005 to corner more land!
Source: Times of India