Forest Rights Act 2006

Forest Rights Act 2006 – UPSC

In this article, You will read Forest Rights Act 2006 for UPSC IAS Exam.

Forest Rights Act 2006

The Forest Rights Act, India or the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act is also known by other names like the Tribal Rights Act or the Tribal Land Act.

It deals with the rights of the communities that dwell in the forests (including Scheduled Tribes), over land and other resources, which have been denied to them over the years because of the continuation of forest laws from the colonial era in the country.

The act was passed in December 2006. It deals with the rights of forest-dwelling communities over land and other resources. The Act grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest-dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest laws.

Historical Background

  • A large number of people especially the scheduled tribes have lived in and around forests for a long period in a symbiotic relationship.
  • This relationship has led to formalized or informal customary rules of use and extraction, often governed by ethical beliefs and practices that have ensured that forests are not too degraded.
  • During the colonial time, the focus shifted from the forests being used as a resource base for the sustenance of local communities to a State resource for commercial interests and development of land for agriculture.
  • Several Acts and policies such as the 3 Indian Forest Acts of 1865, 1894, and 1927 of 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 the enactment of The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

Provisions of the Forest Rights Act:

  • The Act recognizes and vests 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 the 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.

Who can claim these Rights?

  • Members of the community of the Scheduled Tribes who primarily reside in and who depend on the forests or forest lands for bona fide livelihood needs.
  • It 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.
  • 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.
  • Procedure
    • First, the gram sabha (full village assembly, NOT the gram panchayat) makes a recommendation – i.e who has been cultivating land for how long, which minor forest produce is collected, etc. The gram sabha plays this role because it is a public body where all people participate, and hence 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 (see 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 recognized under this Act cannot be sold or transferred.

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.
  • Forest Governance:
    • It has the potential to democratize forest governance by recognizing community forest resource rights.
    • The act will ensure that people get to manage their forest on their own which will regulate the exploitation of forest resources by officials, improve forest governance, and better management of tribal rights.

Challenges

  • Administrative Apathy
    • Implementation of the act remains the biggest challenge as acts related to the environment are not entirely compliant with the law, illegal encroachments have happened as much as that claims have been unfairly rejected.
    • As tribals are not a big vote bank in most states, governments find it convenient to subvert FRA or not bother about it at all in favor of monetary gains.
  • Lack of Awareness
    • Unawareness at the Lower level of forest officials who are supposed to help process forest rights claims is high and the majority of the aggrieved population too remains in the dark regarding their rights.
    • The forest bureaucracy has misinterpreted the FRA as an instrument to regularise encroachment instead of a welfare measure for tribals.
  • Dilution of Act
    • Certain sections of environmentalists raise the concern that FRA bend more in the favour of individual rights, giving lesser scope for community rights.
    • Community Rights effectively gives the local people control over forest resources which remains a significant portion of forest revenue-making states wary of vesting forest rights to Gram Sabha.
  • Reluctance of the forest bureaucracy to give up control
    • There has been deliberate sabotage by the forest bureaucracy, both at the Centre and the states and to some extent by big corporates.
    • The forest bureaucracy fears that it will lose the enormous power over land and people that it currently enjoys, while the corporates fear they may lose the cheap access to valuable natural resources.
  • Institutional Roadblock
    • Rough maps of community and individual claims are prepared by Gram Sabha which at times often lack the technical know-how and suffer from educational incapacity.
    • Intensive process of documenting communities’ claims under the FRA makes the process both cumbersome and harrowing for illiterate tribals.
  • There are a lot of bureaucratic hassles in the approval of claims. N.C. Saxena committee has also stressed on it. In the case of forest diversion, rights of tribals have not been defined in compensatory afforestation in the CAMPA Act.

Safeguards to ensure Forest Conservation

  1. Land title is given in the joint family.
  2. Land claim cannot be sold, rented, or leased.
  3. Land use can be restricted by the forest department.
  4. Land can only be inherited.
  5. The act is not applicable in reserved forests and national parks.
  6. An area can be declared Critical Wildlife Habitat where forest-related rights ceases to exist.


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