Keep the tribals happy: Forest-dwellers hold the key in Jharkhand elections

Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das flashes a victory sign | Photo: PTI
Tribals’ dissatisfaction with the slow implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), which offers formal recognition of forest-dwellers’ land rights, could be a deciding factor in more than 62 of the 81 Assembly constituencies in the Jharkhand state elections, an independent research group said.

The analysis is based on the fact that the number of SC/ST voters eligible for land rights under the FRA was more than the margin of victory in the last election in 58 of the 62 seats considered FRA-sensitive. Nearly 70% of the population in constituencies spread across Jharkhand —Chakradharpur, Gumla, Latehar and Simdega, for example — belong to the SC/ST category.

Analysing the results of the 2014 Assembly elections in these 62 constituencies, researchers concluded that any political party that promised effective implementation of the FRA and other laws protecting land rights of tribals could defeat the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party.

The FRA, which came into effect in 2006, is critical to the livelihoods of at least 3.8 million SC/ST voters in Jharkhand, 52% of  7.3 million voters, according to the 2014 voting statistics. 

Of the SC/ST voters, 75% (2.9 million) belong to STs, found analysts Tushar Shah and Archana Soreng, both members of the NGO network Community Forest Resource-Learning and Advocacy (CFR-LA), who conducted this analysis independent of CFR-LA.

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