Saturday, 27 June 2015

Forest Rights Act | Challenges in Implementation

Why in news?
On June 23 2015, PM Modi directed the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) to ensure that all States implement the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and grant land rights to tribals over the next two months. 

Background

  • Nearly 250 million people live in and around forests in India, of which the estimated indigenous Adivasi or tribal population about 100 million. 
    • If considered a nation by themselves, they would form the 13th largest country in the world.
  • Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006: The Act recognises and vests individual forest-dwellers with forest rights to live in and cultivate forest land that was occupied by tribals before 13 Dec 2005(has to be 75 years before this date or 3 generations).
  • FRA came to correct the 'historical injustice' meted out to these people since British era.
  • It has provisions of both individual and community rights
    • All forest lands within revenue village boundaries would be eligible for recognition as community forest resources (CFR) under the FRA, and brought under the jurisdiction of Gram Sabhas

  • Types of rights under this act:
    • Right to live in forest
    • Right to self-cultivation for livelihood
    • Community right to use minor forest produce, grazing, fish and other products of water bodies
    • Right to in situ rehabilitation (even in alternative land) where they have been illegally evicted or displaced
    • Right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resources  
    • Please notice that it does not include right to ownership of land
What are the challenges in proper implementation of FRA?
  • Intensive process of documenting communities’ claims under the FRA — 
    • Rough maps of community and individual claims are prepared democratically by Gram Sabhas. 
    • These are then verified on the ground with annotated evidence, before being submitted to relevant authorities. 
    • The Gram Sabha is treated as a public authority under the FRA, and if the higher authorities under the law reject its claims, substantive reasons have to be provided for doing so. 
  • Reluctance of the forest bureaucracy to give up control -
    • The forest bureaucracy has misinterpreted the FRA as an instrument to regularise encroachment. 
    • This is seen in its emphasis on recognising individual claims while ignoring collective claims — Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights as promised under the FRA — by tribal communities. 

[Sources: The Hindu, Wikipedia]

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