General Studies IIACTS AND AMENDMENTSEnvironment and Ecology

Forest Rights Act 2006


Tribal Affairs Minister Shri Arjun Munda inaugurates ‘Virtual Training of Trainers Programme on Forest Rights Act, 2006

About Forest Rights Act 2006:

  • The symbiotic relationship between forests and forest-dwelling communities found recognition in the National Forest Policy, 1988.
  • The policy called for the need to associate tribal people in the protection, regeneration and development of forests.
  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, was enacted to protect the marginalised socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to environment with their right to life and livelihood.

Provisions of the 2006 Act

  • The Act recognizes that tribal and other traditional forest-dwelling communities would be hard put to provide documentary evidence for their claims.
  • Rule 13 of the Act, therefore, stipulates that the gram sabhas should consider more than one evidence in determining forest rights.
  • The rule sanctions a wide range of evidence, including “statements by village elders”, “community rights” and “physical attributes such as houses, huts and permanent improvements made to land such as levelling, bunds and check dams”.

Historical Background

  • A large number of people especially the scheduled tribes have lived in and around forests for a long period in 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 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 enactment of The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

Features of the Act

  • The act recognize 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.
  • The act also establishes the responsibilities and authority for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological balance of FDST and OTFD.
  • It strengthens the conservation regime of the forests while ensuring livelihood and food security of the FDST and OTFD.
  • It seeks to rectify colonial injustice to the FDST and OTFD who are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem.
  • The act identify 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, to pastoralist routes, etc.
    • Relief and development rights
      • To rehabilitation 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.

Significance of Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006

The act is significant for the following reasons:

  1. Community rights and rights over common property resources (CPR) have been recognized for the first time
  2. Individual rights of the tribal and marginal communities have been highlighted by this act along with other rights too
  3. The concept of revenue villages have surfaced as the act talks about the conversion of all forest villages, old habitation, un-surveyed villages and other villages into these.
  4. It ensures the livelihood and food security of the Forest Dwellers Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers and strengthens the conservation regime of the forest.
  5. Community Forest Resources are monitored and managed in a way that protects marginal communities’ traditional linkages with these. it is known how these communities have always traditionally utilized the forest resource for sustainable development.
  6. This act in a way protects intellectual property rights and the traditional knowledge related to cultural diversity and biodiversity
  7. It expands the mandate of the 5th & 6th Schedules of the Constitution that protect the claims of indigenous communities over tracts of land or forests they inhabit.
  8. The displaced communities’ rights are secured by the forest rights act 2006.  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. Read more about the Status of the Tribal populations in India on the linked page.
  9. The rights of marginal and tribal communities over developmental activities are also recognized and secured by FRA 2006
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

Land and its management fall under the exclusive legislative and administrative jurisdiction of States as provided under the Constitution of India. The land reforms are monitored by the Ministry of Rural Development(MoRD) and Department of Land Resources (DoLR) which is the nodal Ministry at the Centre.

Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 Criticism

The act has been criticized on the following lines:

  1. The debate on the issue of the act leading to even more encroachment of already troubled forest lands has started.
  2. Though the act tries to focus on the needs of the forest dwellers, it defeats the purpose when the eviction rate of families from these lands increases as their claims on these lands are not accepted by the government.
  3. The role of the sub-divisional level committee is always questioned as they have been given the important right to make a decision on the needs and claims of the marginal communities on the piece of forest lands.
  4. Issues have arisen from the part of forest departments who have been seen unwilling to give their forest lands. Role of forest department to let the forest dwellers sow in the forest the reap the benefits is criticized as tribes like Baigas have blamed the department to not support their claim over the land.
  5. The tribes and communities also lack the capability to prove their occupancy over the forest land and the law turns out to be weak to strengthen their claim.
  6. Government’s role of allowing commercial plantations in degraded land is also debated and questioned as the degraded land makes 40% of forests.

Related Acts and Provisions

  • Wildlife protection Act 1972
    • This act prohibits the capturing, killing, poisoning or trapping of wild animals.
    • It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir
    • It also regulates and controls trade in parts and products derived from wildlife.
  • 1988 National Forest Policy
    • The policy aims at maintaining of environmental stability.
    • It looks at conserving the natural heritage of the country by preserving the remaining natural forests.
    • Increasing forest/tree cover in the country through massive afforestation and social forestry programmes.
    • Creating a massive people’s movement for achieving these objectives and to minimise pressure on existing forests.
  • The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Schedule Areas) Act 1996 (PESA)
    • It safeguards and preserves the traditions and customs of the people, and their cultural identity, community resources, customary mode of dispute resolution.
    • PESA empowers Gram Sabha/Panchayat at appropriate level with right to mandatory consultation in land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced persons.
    • PESA seeks to reduce alienation in tribal areas as they will have better control over the utilisation of public resources.
    • It will help minimise exploitation of tribal population as they will be able to control and manage money lending, consumption and sale of liquor and also village markets.
    • PESA looks to promote cultural heritage through preservation of traditions, customs and cultural identity of tribal population.

The Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005

Highlights of the Bill The Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005 seeks to recognize forest rights of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDSTs) who have been occupying the land before October 25, 1980. An FDST nuclear family would be entitled to the land currently occupied subject to a maximum of 2.5 hectares. The land may be allocated in all forests including core areas of National Parks and Sanctuaries. In core areas, an FDST would be given provisional land rights for five years, within which period he would be relocated and compensated. If the relocation does not take place within five years, he gets permanent right over the land. The Bill outlines 12 forest rights which include the right to live in the forest, to self cultivate, and to use minor forest produce. Activities such as hunting and trapping are prohibited.
The Gram Sabha is empowered to initiate the process of determining the extent of forest rights that may be given to each eligible individual or family. Key Issues and Analysis There are no reliable estimates of the likely number of eligible families although the Bill proposes to vest forest land rights to FDSTs. Therefore, it is not known whether there could be significant risk to existing forest cover. If FDSTs in core areas are not relocated within five years, it could lead to loss of forests, which are crucial to the survival of certain species of wildlife. Large-scale relocation, on the other hand, could result in possible harassment of FDSTs. Communities who depend on the forest for survival and livelihood reasons, but are not forest dwellers or Scheduled Tribes, are excluded from the purview of the Bill. The Bill specifies October 25, 1980 as the cut-off date to determine eligibility. However, it does not clarify the kind of evidence that would be required by FDSTs to prove their occupancy. Terms such as “livelihood needs” have not been defined. This could lead to litigation and delay in implementation.    

Source: PIB

You can find many articles on  ACTS AND AMENDMENTS (part of GS II) and ENVIRONMENT (part of GS III)  in our website. Go through these articles share with your friends and post your views in comment section.

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