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India: Workers from Indigenous Groups face further marginalisation upon return to villages a result of Govt. COVID recovery plan

"India’s COVID Recovery Plan for Indigenous Groups Is Further Marginalising Them", 4 May 2021

As India introduced countrywide lockdowns a year ago to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, the waves of distress rippled far and wide. One of the groups hit hardest were migrant workers, many of whom are from indigenous communities – Adivasis and other forest dwellers...

But when these workers eventually did make it home, their return was far from what they may have expected. They were housed in quarantine centres and found it extremely difficult to access healthcare services.

To add to their distress, access to forests was restricted. In May, in the state of Chhattisgarh, there were claims that barbed wire and cement walls were raised to restrict the entry of Adivasis. These areas were being marked for plantation activities despite the fact that villagers had already claimed community rights over the forest land, which they depend on for their survival...

The 2006 Forest Rights Act recognises the rights of forest-dwelling communities to forest resources... Under such a situation, the act makes it mandatory to get a community’s consent before any activities or projects can start in the area.

There was a fresh rush for forest clearances during the lockdown period. Analysis by a group of researchers and forest right campaigners has found that, between March and September 2020, around 500 projects were presented for approval. Of these, 266 were approved*. Many will cause large-scale deforestation, with clearances justified by saying that compensatory afforestation would be undertaken for forest lost....