Saturday, March 13, 2010

The implementation of Forest Rights Act and the forest dwellers


The Forest Rights Act is a good step towards securing and establishing the traditional forest rights of tribal communities.  In this regard, many NGOs, government departments, individuals as well as indigenous people across India are engaging in the process of claiming the legal rights to the forest dwellers.

The Recognition of Forest Rights Act – better known as the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 is to reduce historical injustice committed against forest dwellers but it remains only on paper and pen.
Millions of people live in and near forest lands, but have no legal right to their homes, lands or livelihoods. The forest dwellers also not aware about their rights.
In India 82% of forest blocks in Madhya pradesh and 40% of Odisha's reserved forests were never surveyed. Similarly 60% of India's national parks have till today (sometimes after 25 years, as in Sariska) not completed their process of inquiry and settlement of rights. As the Tiger Task Force of the Government of India put it, In the name of conservation they are doing nothing and now there have only 1411 tigers exists in India.
Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, in his 29th Report, said that "The criminalisation of the entire communities in the tribal areas is the darkest blot on the liberal tradition of our country."The Indian Forest Act, 1927, India's main forest law, had nothing to do with conservation. 
The gram sabha plays this role because it is a public body where all people participate, and  is fully democratic and transparent. The gram sabha's recommendation goes through two stages of screening committees at the taluka and district levels. 

The district level committee makes the final decision (section 6(6)). The Committees have six members - three government officers and three elected persons. At both the taluka and the district levels, any person who believes a claim is false can appeal to the Committees, and if they prove their case the right is denied sections 6(2) and 6(4). Finally, land recognised under this Act cann't be sold or transferred.
Further impact
  • The destruction of five lakh hectares of forest in the past five years alone for mines, dams and industrial projects  
  • The clearing of millions of hectares of forest for monoculture plantations by the Forest Department  
  • The loss of more than 90% of India's grasslands to commercial forest department plantations
What does the Forest Rights Act do?
  • Makes a beginning towards giving communities, aware common people and the public a voice in forest
  • Make wildlife conservation  
  • Grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities

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