Recently, review petitions of approximately 1200 tribals for recognition of their claims over forest land under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 was rejected by the local authorities in Mysuru (Karnataka).
Q. Why is FRA enacted , what is background for it?
A large number of people, especially the scheduled tribes have lived in and around forests for a long period in symbiotic relationships.
During the colonial time, the focus shifted from the forests being used as a resource base for sustenance of local communities to a State resource for commercial interests and development of land for agriculture.
Several Acts and policies such as the three Indian Forest Acts of 1865, 1894 and 1927 of the Central Govt and some state forest Acts curtailed centuries‐old, customary‐use rights of local communities.
This continued even after independence till much later until enactment of The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
The Supreme Court in 2019 ordered the eviction of nearly a million people across India whose claims under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 had been rejected.
Q. What are provisions of the Forest Rights Act?
The Act recognizes and vest the forest rights and occupation in Forest land in Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDST) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) who have been residing in such forests for generations.
Forest rights can also be claimed by any member or community who has for at least three generations (75 years) prior to the 13th day of December, 2005 primarily resided in forest land for bona fide livelihood needs.
It strengthens the conservation regime of the forests while ensuring livelihood and food security of the FDST and OTFD.
The Gram Sabha is the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of Individual Forest Rights (IFR) or Community Forest Rights (CFR) or both that may be given to FDST and OTFD.
The Act identifies four types of rights:
Title rights: It gives FDST and OTFD the right to ownership to land farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares. Ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family and no new lands will be granted.
Use rights: The rights of the dwellers extend to extracting Minor Forest Produce, grazing areas etc.
Relief and development rights: To rehabilitate in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection.
Forest management rights: It includes the right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use.
Q. What is its importance?
Constitutional Provision Expansion: It expands the mandate of the Fifth and the Sixth Schedules of the Constitution that protect the claims of indigenous communities over tracts of land or forests they inhabit.
Security Concerns: The alienation of tribes was one of the factors behind the Naxal movement, which affects states like Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand.The Act through identifying IFR and CFR tries to provide inclusion to tribes.
It has the potential to democratise forest governance by recognising community forest resource rights.