Forest Rights Act | 21 Sep 2021

Why in News

Recently, the Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to implement the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, which will elevate the socio-economic status of a sizable section of the 14-lakh-strong population of tribals and nomadic communities.

Key Points

  • About:
    • FRA enacted in 2006 recognises the rights of forest-dwelling tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers to forest resources on which these communities were dependent for a variety of needs, including livelihood, habitation and other sociocultural needs.
    • It 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.
    • 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.
  • Rights Under the Forest Rights Act:
    • 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:
    • 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.
  • Significance:
    • 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 affected states like Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand.
    • Forest Governance:
      • It has the potential to democratise forest governance by recognising community forest resource rights.
      • It will ensure that people get to manage their forest on their own, which will regulate exploitation of forest resources by officials, improve forest governance and better management of tribal rights.
  • Challenges:
    • Administrative Apathy:
      • 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 favour of monetary gains.
      • The forest bureaucracy has misinterpreted the FRA as an instrument to regularise encroachment instead of a welfare measure for tribals.
      • Corporates fear they may lose the cheap access to valuable natural resources.
    • Dilution of Act:
      • Certain sections of environmentalists raise the concern that FRA bends more in the favour of individual rights, giving lesser scope for community rights.
    • Institutional Roadblock:
      • Rough maps of community and individual claims are prepared by Gram Sabha which at times often lack technical knowhow and suffers from educational incapacity.
    • Misuse of FRA:
      • The FRA has been misused and communities have rushed to file claims. Politicians across party lines have interpreted FRA as a land distribution exercise and have fixed targets for districts.

Way Forward

  • It is important that the governments at Central and State levels are strengthened with human and financial resources to help implement FRA on a mission mode.
  • Besides leveraging modern technology to map and monitor the implementation of FRA, the forest bureaucracy must also be reformed to serve as service providers to gram sabhas.

Source: TH