Indian Forest Act, 1927
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This article is written by Saurav Narayan and Oishika Banerji. This article provides a detailed analysis of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The article has been edited by Smriti Katiyar (Associate, LawSikho).

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 protects the rights of forest-dwelling tribal groups and other traditional forest dwellers to forest resources, which these communities rely on for a range of purposes, including subsistence, housing, and other socio-cultural requirements. Forest management policies in both colonial and post-colonial India, including Acts, Rules, and Forest Policies of Participatory Forest Management policies, did not recognise the STs’ symbiotic relationship with the forests, reflect on their reliance on the forest as well as their traditional wisdom regarding forest conservation, until the enactment of this Act.

The Act covers individual rights such as self-cultivation and habitat, as well as community rights such as grazing, fishing, and access to water bodies in forests, habitat rights for PVTGs, traditional seasonal resource access for Nomadic and Pastoral communities, biodiversity, community right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge, recognition of traditional customary rights, and the right to protect, regenerate, conserve, or manage natural resources. It also grants rights to the distribution of forest areas for development activities in order to meet the community’s basic infrastructure needs. 

The Act also places a responsibility on the Gram Sabha and right holders to conserve and protect biodiversity, wildlife, forests, adjoining catchment areas, water sources, and other ecologically sensitive areas, as well as to stop any destructive practises that harm these resources or the tribals’ cultural and natural heritage. Under the Act, the Gram Sabha is a highly empowered body that allows the indigenous community to have a decisive say in the development of local policies and initiatives that affect them.

Why is this law required

The British diverted the nation’s enormous forest wealth to fulfil their economic demands during the colonial era. While legislation such as the Indian Forest Act of 1927 provided for the settlement of rights, they were rarely implemented. As a result, tribal and forest-dwellers, who had previously lived in harmony with forests, began to live in tenurial insecurity instead; a scenario that persisted even after independence as they were marginalised. The National Forest Policy of 1988 recognised the symbiotic link between forests and forest-dwelling inhabitants. The strategy emphasised the need for including tribal people in forest conservation, regeneration, and development. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006 was designed to safeguard marginalised persons and strike a balance between their right to the environment and their right to life and livelihood.

Need for Forest Rights Act, 2006 (extra information, topic there in published article)

  1. To address the poor living conditions of many tribal families living in forests as a result of non-recognition and vesting of pre-existing rights, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, was enacted to recognize and vest forest rights and occupation of forest land in forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forested areas for many years.
  2. This Act not only recognizes the rights to hold and live in forest land under individual or common occupation for habitation or self-cultivation for livelihood, but also grants several other rights to ensure their control over forest resources, including the right of ownership, access to the collection, use, and dispose of minor forest produce, community rights such as nistar, habitat rights for primitive tribal groups and pre-agricultural communities; and rights for primitive tribal groups and pre-agricultural communities.
  3. On the advice of Gram Sabhas, the Act also allows for the diversion of forest areas for government-managed public utility facilities like schools, dispensaries, fair pricing shops, electricity and telephone lines, water tanks, and so on. In addition, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs has developed numerous schemes for tribal people’s benefit, including those in the forest, such as Mechanism for selling of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) through Minimum Support Price (MSP) and creation of Value Chain for MFP.” Infrastructure projects linked to basic services and facilities, such as approach roads, healthcare, primary education, minor irrigation, rainwater harvesting, drinking water, sanitation, community halls, and so on, are funded through the Special Central Assistance to Tribal Sub Plan, for development of forest villages. 

An overview of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006

The forest right connected to the conversion of forest villages into revenue villages is adjudicated by the Gram Sabha, Sub-Divisional Level Committee, and District Level Committee as per the provisions of the Act and the rules adopted thereunder, much like any other forest right stated in the Act. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs published recommendations on November 8, 2013, urging all state/UT governments to convert all such former forest villages, un-recorded settlements, and historic habitations into revenue villages as soon as possible. The conversion would incorporate the village’s full land use, including land required for present or future community uses such as schools, health facilities, public spaces, and so on.

Section 3: Rights available under the Forest Act, 2006

The rights of settlement and conversion of all forest villages, old habitations, un-surveyed villages, and other villages in the forest, whether recorded, notified, or not, into revenue villages have been recognised as one of the forest rights of forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers on all forest lands under Section 3(1)(h) of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

Recognition, restoration and vesting of forest rights and related matters

  • Chapter III of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 talks about the ambit of people covered under the scope of rights recognized under the 2006 Act. Section 4 of the Act states that the Central Government recognizes and vests forest rights in:
  1. The forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes in States or areas in States where they are declared as Scheduled Tribes in respect of all forest rights mentioned in Section 3.
  2. The other traditional forest dwellers in respect of all forest rights are mentioned in Section 3.
  • Further, Clause 2 of the Section 3 states that no forest rights holder shall be relocated or have their rights in any way affected for the purpose of establishing inviolate areas for wildlife conservation. However, the forest rights recognized under this Act in critical wildlife habitats of national parks and sanctuaries may later be modified or resettled. The conditions that need to be abided by in this regard have been provided hereunder:
  1. All the areas under consideration have undergone the procedure for recognition and vesting of rights described in Section 6.
  2. The state government’s concerned authorities have determined, in the course of their duties under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, that the actions or effects of the presence of rights holders on wild animals are sufficient to endanger the survival of the aforementioned species and its habitat.
  3. The state government has determined that there are no other viable possibilities, such as coexistence;
  4. A resettlement or alternatives package that offers a stable way of life for the affected people and communities and satisfies their needs as specified in the applicable legislation and the Central Government’s policy has been prepared and presented.
  5. The gram sabhas in the affected areas have given their written permission to the proposed resettlement and the package is a free and informed manner;
  6. No relocation shall occur until the promised facilities and land allocation are finished at the resettlement site. The state government, the Central Government, or any other entity may not thereafter divert the essential wildlife habitats from which rights holders are thus transferred for purposes of wildlife conservation.
  • The Scheduled Tribes or tribal communities or other traditional forest dwellers shall be subject to the requirement that such Scheduled Tribes or tribal communities or other traditional forest dwellers had occupied forest land before the thirteenth day of December 2005, in order for such Scheduled Tribes or tribal communities or other traditional forest dwellers to be recognized and vesting of forest rights under this Act in relation to any state or Union Territory in respect of forest land and their habitat.
  • A right granted by sub-section (1) of Section 3 is heritable but not alienable or transferable. It must be registered jointly in the names of the married couple in the case of a household headed by two people. And in the case of a household headed by one person, it must be registered in the name of the single head. If there is no direct heir, the heritable right will pass to the next-of-kin.
  • Clause 7 of Section 4 provides that except as otherwise provided in this Act, the forest rights shall be granted free from all encumbrances and procedural requirements, including clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, the requirement to pay the ‘net present value,’ and ‘compensatory afforestation’ for the diversion of forest land.
  • Clause 8 clarifies that the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who can demonstrate that they were forced to move out from their homes and places of cultivation due to state development interventions and where the land has not been used for the purpose for which it was acquired within five years of the said acquisition shall have the right to land under the recognition and vesting provisions of this Act.
  • Section 5 of the Act states that the holders of any forest right, gram sabha and village level institutions in areas where there are holders of any forest right under this Act are empowered to have the following duties: 
  1. Safeguard the forest, wildlife, and biodiversity.
  2. Guaranty adequate protection for adjacent catchments, water supplies, and other ecologically vulnerable areas.
  3. Guarantee that detrimental actions affecting their cultural and ecological heritage are avoided in the habitat of Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest inhabitants.
  4. Make sure that the gram sabha’s decisions to control access to community forest resources and to halt any activity that has a negative impact on wild animals, the forest, or biodiversity are followed.

Authorities involved in vesting rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006

Chapter IV of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 lays down the authorities and the procedure involved in vesting rights under the aforementioned legislation. Section 6 lays down the list of authorities and their related procedure which have been listed hereunder: 

  1. Within its jurisdiction, the gram sabha has the ability to begin the process of deciding the kind and extent of individual or communal forest rights, or both, that may be granted to forest living Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest inhabitants. Receiving claims, consolidating and verifying them, and preparing a map delineating the area of each recommended claim in such a manner as may be prescribed for the exercise of such rights shall be done, and the gram sabha shall then pass a resolution to that effect, and a copy of the same shall be forwarded to the Sub-Divisional Level Committee.
  2. The state government shall appoint a Sub-Divisional Level Committee to evaluate the gram sabha’s resolution, prepare a record of forest rights, and transmit it to the District Level Committee for a final determination.
  3. Any person who is aggrieved by the Sub-Divisional Level Committee’s decision may file a petition with the District Level Committee within sixty days of the Sub-Divisional Level Committee’s decision, and the District Level Committee will consider and decide the petition.
  4. The state government will appoint a District Level Committee to review and ultimately approve the Sub-Divisional Level Committee’s forest rights record. The District Level Committee’s judgment on the record of forest rights is to be considered final and binding.
  5. The state government shall establish a State Level Monitoring Committee to oversee the process of forest rights recognition and vesting, as well as to submit any returns or reports requested by the nodal agency.
  6. The Sub-Divisional Level Committee, District Level Committee, and State Level Monitoring Committee shall be composed of officers from the State Government’s Department of Revenue, Forest, and Tribal Affairs, as well as three members of the Panchayati Raj Institutions at the appropriate level, appointed by the respective Panchayati Raj Institutions, two of whom shall be Scheduled Tribe members and at least one of whom shall be a woman, as may be prescribed.
  7. The Sub-Divisional Level Committee, the District Level Committee, and the State Level Monitoring Committee shall have such composition and functions as may be defined, as well as the procedure to be followed by them in carrying out their functions.

Format for claiming rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006

There are different formats by means of which rights that are available under Chapter II of the Forest Act, 2006 can be claimed. In order to claim the statutory rights, formats need to be abided by. The same has been laid down hereunder. 

Claim form for rights to forest land (Rule 11(1)(a) of the Forest Rights Amendment Rules, 2012) 

  1. Name of the claimant(s)
  2. Name of the spouse
  3. Name of father/ mother
  4. Address
  5. Village
  6. Gram Panchayat
  7. Tehsil/ Taluka
  8. District:
  9. (a) Scheduled Tribe: Yes/ No (Attach an authenticated copy of Certificate)

(b) Other Traditional Forest Dweller: Yes/ No (If a spouse is a Scheduled Tribe (attach an authenticated copy of certificate)

  1. Name of other members in the family with age: (including children and adult dependents)

Signature/ Thumb Impression of the Claimant(s):

Claim form for community rights (Rule 11(1) (a) and (4) of the Amendment Rules, 2012) 

  1. Name of the claimant(s): FDST community: Yes/ No OTFD community: Yes/ No
  2. Village:
  3. Gram Panchayat:
  4. Tehsil/ Taluka:
  5. District:

Signature/ Thumb Impression of the Claimant (s):

Claim form for rights to community forest resource (Section 3(1) (i) of Act, 2006 and Rules 11(1) and 4(a) of Amendment Rules, 2012)

  1. Village/Gram Sabha:
  2. Gram Panchayat:
  3. Tehsil / Taluka:
  4. District:
  5. Name(s) of members of the gram sabha [Attach as a separate sheet, with the status of Scheduled Tribes / Other Traditional Forest Dwellers indicated next to each member].

Presence of few Scheduled Tribes / Other Traditional forest Dwellers is sufficient to make the claim.

We, the undersigned residents of this Gram Sabha hereby resolve that the area detailed below and in the attached map comprises our Community Forest Resource over which we are claiming recognition of our forest rights under Section 3(1)(i).

(Attach a map of the community forest resource, showing location, landmarks within the traditional or customary boundaries of the village or seasonal use of landscape in the case of pastoral communities to which the community had traditional access and which they have been traditionally protecting, regenerating, conserving and managing for sustainable use. Please note that this need not correspond to existing legal boundaries.)

  1. Khasra / Compartment No.(s), if any and if known:
  2. Bordering Villages:

(This may also include information regarding sharing of resources and responsibilities with any other villages.)

  1. List of Evidence in Support (Please see Rule 13)

Signature / Thumb impression of the Claimant(s):

Supreme Court’s view in Wildlife First v. Ministry of Forest (2019)

  1. The Supreme Court ordered the eviction of lakhs of Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Traditional Forest Residents (OTFDs) across 16 States on February 13 after the Forest Rights Act, 2006 rejected their claim to be forest dwellers. The Chief Secretaries of many of these states were instructed to evict people whose petitions were ultimately dismissed by a bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Navin Sinha, and Indira Banerjee. According to a court order, the eviction must take place by July 24, 2019.
  2. The Order from February 13 is supported by affidavits that the states submitted. However, it is unclear from the affidavits if the requirements of the law were followed before the claims were denied. The Centre contended that the rejection of claims was especially strong in states where there was a high tribal population and left-wing extremism. The states typically denied the forest land claims made by these tribes and forest inhabitants. They did not know the proper procedure for making claims because they are underprivileged, illiterate, and live in rural places. The gram sabhas, which are in charge of verifying their claims, lack knowledge of how to handle them. These communities were not even informed of the rejection orders.
  3. The court’s order was stayed on February 28 but warned that “the mighty and the undeserving” who had encroached on forest land would not be spared. It has made the decision to investigate whether the gram sabhas and the states complied with the Forest Rights Act’s requirements for due process before rejecting the applications or not.

Offences and penalties recognized under the Forest Rights Act, 2006

  1. Any authority or Committee, or any officer or member of such authority or Committee, who violates any provision of this Act or any rule made thereunder relating to the recognition of forest rights, shall be deemed guilty of an offence under this Act and subject to prosecution and a fine of up to one thousand rupees. 
  2. Any authority or Committee, or any officer or member of such authority or Committee, who violates any provision of this Act or any regulation established thereunder relating to the acknowledgment of forest rights, is guilty of an offence under this Act and may be prosecuted and fined up to one thousand rupees.

Protection of action taken in good faith under the Forest Rights Act, 2006

Section 10 of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 lays down provisions for the protection of action taken in good faith. The same has been listed hereunder: 

  1. Any official or another employee of the Central Government or the state government shall not be subject to any litigation, prosecution, or other legal action for anything done or intended to be done by or according to this Act in good faith.
  2. Nothing done or intended to be done in good faith under this Act shall give rise to a claim or other legal action against the Central Government, the state government, or any of their officers or other employees for any harm caused or likely to be caused.
  3. No authority mentioned in Chapter IV, including its Chairperson, members, member-secretary, officers, and other staff, shall be subject to a lawsuit or other legal action for anything done or intended to be done in good faith in accordance with this Act.

Central Government’s power to make rules under the Forest Rights Act, 2006

Section 14 of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 lays down the power vested on the Central Government to make rules for effective implementation of the provisions of the legislation, which are provided hereunder:

  1. Procedural details for the implementation of the procedure are specified in Section 6.
  2. The method of submitting a petition to the Sub-Divisional Committee under subsection (2) of Section 6, as well as the process for accepting claims, combining and confirming them, and creating a map showing the area of each approved claim for the exercise of forest rights.
  3. The rank of officers who will be appointed to the Sub-Divisional Level Committee, District Level Committee, and State Level Monitoring Committee under paragraph (8) of Section 6 from the state government’s departments of Revenue, Forest, and Tribal Affairs.
  4. The make-up, duties, and method by which the Sub-Divisional Level Committee, District Level Committee, and State Level Monitoring Committee are to carry out their responsibilities under Section 6 (9).
  5. Any other matter which is required to be, or maybe, prescribed.

Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 under the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) administration

  1. Many populations in Jammu and Kashmir, including the Gujjars, Bakarwals, Nengroo, and others, are native forest dwellers. For many years, their way of life had remained mostly unaltered. However, since October 31, 2019, when the Union Government expanded the Forest Rights Act, 2006 to J&K, a progressive piece of legislation that guarantees the land tenure, food security, and livelihoods of traditional forest dwellers, the majority of communities, like that of the Nengroos, have actually been treated more harshly than they ever had been before.
  2. Mum Nengroo, a member of the Nengroo family, and his unwell wife are concerned that they won’t be given the kind of burial that the J&K communities who live in the forests deem appropriate when they pass away. The former, outraged by this assault on his community’s way of life, claims that the forest officials have completely fenced off their entire habitation. Mum Nengroo hence questions the authorities as to why they haven’t given them land for a respectable graveyard, which is indeed their duty to give the forest-dwellers.

The 2006 Act recognizes the rights of tribal groups and other traditional forest dwellers (OTFDs) that live in forests to the forest resources on which they rely for a variety of needs, including residence, a means of subsistence, and other socio-cultural requirements. This includes the right to land for cemeteries, temples, schools, community centers, buildings for panchayats (village self-governing organisations), clinics, and other structures. The Act grants certain individual rights, such as the ability to self-cultivate, live in a place, graze animals, go fishing, and have access to water sources in forested areas. Intellectual property, traditional knowledge, and other rights are examples of community rights in general. 

Thus, the FRA gives forest dwellers the authority to access and utilise forest resources in the manner to which they are customarily accustomed, as well as to manage, conserve, and safeguard forests and themselves against forcible evictions. The Act also includes provisions for communities of forest dwellers to have access to infrastructure, food, health, and other essential development services. Hence, the actions of the authorities are immensely grave by nature. 

  1. However, the citizens of Nengroo Basti, which is located in the Charar Sharief Tehsil of central Kashmir’s Budgam district, had rejoiced, along with many other communities of forest-dwelling people, in January 2021 when a public outcry to implement the 2006 Act in J&K ensured that the legislation was finally put into effect.
  2. The expansion of the 2006 Act to J&K has not only failed to bring the promised benefits to the nomadic groups, but has also made their lives more difficult because the employees of the Union Territory’s Forest Department seem to believe that the law undermines their authority.
  3. The Union Territory’s vast woodland regions have been tightly cordoned off by the forest department over the past few years. People who live in villages close to forests claim that the forest department is fencing off state-owned territory, including grazing land (khahcharai). Six kilometres from Nengroo Basti, in the village of Kanidajan, forest officials cut down 8,000 apple trees that they said were cultivated on forest property. Several domestic and foreign media outlets, including the BBC, covered this story.

Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 under Odisha’s administration

  1. The situation is entirely different for the people who live in the forests of Odisha, while J&K’s forest officials appear to be having difficulty comprehending the 2006 Act. Twelve villages in the Ranpur block of the Nayagarh district of Odisha have obtained roughly 14 community forest right titles from the government. These communities’ inhabitants are not considered to be members of any scheduled tribe. The Act instead classifies them as OTFD.
  2. The majority of states have prioritized giving their scheduled tribes the advantages of the Act throughout the legislation’s implementation, leaving the OTFDs out in the cold. Therefore, it was a momentous event, celebrated with a ceremony on November 22, when Odisha granted around 24 villages with community forest rights.
  3. The 24 villages received community rights that included a joint title for a group of villages to gather and use household items like firewood both inside and outside the customary confines of the nearby forests. The rights to gather, prepare, use, and sell small forest products including bamboo, kendu leaves, tubers, and so on have now been granted to the locals. Additionally, they are allowed to store, transport, and add value to the produce. Along with fishing and grazing privileges, the 24 settlements now have access to the water sources within the forests. The Indian Forest Act of 1927 has previously resulted in the imprisonment of numerous citizens of these communities for trespassing on forest land which was now welcoming the 2006 legislation’s pros.
  4. None of the 24 village residents want to use the privileges that were just recently given to them. Under the leadership of Maa Maninag Jangal Suraksha Parishad (MMJSP), a federation of 132 community-based forest protection groups from 132 villages in the area, the residents of the Ranpur forest area in Nayagarh district have been working for the conservation and protection of their forests and forest resources, including wildlife, for the past 24 years.
  5. The secretary of the MMJSP, Arkito Sahu, who is 73 years old, has known for a long time that India’s forests need to be protected. Instead, he had encouraged the 132 communities in the Nayagarh district to cooperate in protecting the trees they rely on.
  6. V. Giri Rao, the director of the Bhubaneswar-based NGO Vasundhara, made sure that the outstanding work carried out by the MMJSP was documented and that women were involved in the forest committees in order to provide them with institutional support. Vasundhara and the MMJSP have been working harder since the Act was passed in 2006 to make sure that the forest dwellers of the Ranpur block receive all the benefits of this legislation.

After getting to know the scenarios in two different topography, it is evident that the question as to what Odisha did was that J&K couldn’t implement the provisions of the progressive piece of legislation. Let us have a look concerning the same, hereunder. 

Odisha management towards Forest Rights Act, 2006 vis-a-vis Jammu and Kashmir’s way

  1. The answer to the question as to how Odisha managed to use the 2006 Act so effectively while the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir does what seems to be the very opposite, lies in the agency that oversees the implementation of the legislation in J&K vis-a-vis the one in Odisha.
  2. The Act’s implementation is supervised at the federal level by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Several states have designated their Tribal Affairs Departments as the central organisations for carrying out the 2006 Act. But in J&K, the Union Government’s administration has designated the forest department as the nodal organization for carrying out this law.
  3. The J&K Forest Department’s actions since the 2006 Act was extended to the UT have been so at odds with the goals of the legislation that it is almost comical. While J&K’s Forest Department denies them these rights, the Act of 2006 recognizes the rights of tribal communities that live in the forest and other traditional forest dwellers to forest resources.

Manoj Sinha, the Lt. Governor of J&K, stated that the Act of 2006 has given the people of J&K new hope in his speech for the show ‘Agenda,’ which was hosted by the India Today media group. But the situation on the ground at this time tells a story of no hope.

Aim of the Forest Right Act

  • To make up for the past injustices that have been committed against the forest-dwelling communities.
  • To safeguard the forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers’ land tenure, livelihood, and food security.
  • To enhance the forest conservation regime by assigning obligations and authorities to Forest Rights holders for sustainable use, biodiversity protection, and ecological balance.

Forest rights of forest-dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers

  • Right to hold and live in forest land for habitation or self-cultivation for a living by a member or members of a group. For example, Scheduled Tribes or other people who live in the forests.
  • Community rights, such as nistar, by any name, including those employed in the former Princely States, Zamindari, or similar intermediate regimes.
  • Right of ownership, access to acquire, use, and dispose of minor forest produce collected inside or beyond village limits.
  • Other communal rights of use or entitlements include fish and other aquatic resources, grazing (both settled and transhumant), and nomadic or pastoralist populations’ customary seasonal resource usage.
  • For primitive tribal groups and preagricultural cultures, rights include community tenures of habitat and dwelling.
  • Rights to convert pattas, leases, or grants on forest property provided by any local body or state government to titles.
  • All forest villages, old settlements, unsurveyed villages, and other villages in forests, whether documented, notified, or not, have the right of settlement in revenue villages. 
  • Any community forest resource that has been historically protected and conserved for sustainable use has the right to be protected, regenerated, conserved, or managed.
  • Rights recognised by any State legislation or by the statutes of an Autonomous District Council or Autonomous Regional Council, or rights recognised as tribal rights by any traditional or customary law of the affected tribes of any State.
  • Community right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge connected to biodiversity and cultural variety, as well as access to biodiversity.
  • It allows FDSTs (Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes) and OTFDs (Other Traditional Forest Dwellers) the right to possess land cultivated by tribals or forest dwellers up to 4 hectares.
  • No additional lands will be awarded, only land that is currently being farmed by the concerned family.
  • In cases where Scheduled Tribes or other traditional forest dwellers have been illegally evicted or displaced from forest land of any description without receiving their legal entitlement to rehabilitation prior to December 13, 2005, they have the right to in situ rehabilitation, including alternative land.

Who is eligible to claim these rights?

Scheduled Tribes members or communities who predominantly reside in and rely on forests or forest areas for bona fide livelihood needs. It can also be claimed by any member or community that has lived on the forest land for at least three generations (75 years) prior to December 13, 2005, for bona fide livelihood needs. The Gram Sabha has the power to begin the process of deciding the type and scope of Individual Forest Rights (IFR), Community Forest Rights (CFR), or both, that may be granted to FDST and OTFD.

Process 

  • First, the gram sabha (the entire village assembly, not just the gram panchayat) makes a suggestion – for example, who has been cultivating land for how long, what minor forest produce is gathered, and so on. The gram sabha fulfils this purpose since it is a democratic and transparent public body in which everyone participates.
  • The gram sabha’s suggestion passes through two steps of taluka and district screening committees.
  • The ultimate decision is made by the district level committee (see section 6(6)). The Committees are made up of six people: three government officials and three elected officials.
  • Anyone who feels a claim is false can appeal to the Committees at both the taluka and district levels, and if they show their case, the right is refused (sections 6(2) and 6(4)).
  • Land that is once recognised under this act cannot be sold or transferred.

Why is this act full of challenges?

The implementation of the act remains the most difficult task, as environmental activities are not always in compliance with the law, unlawful encroachments have occurred, and claims have been wrongly denied because tribals do not constitute a significant block of voters in most states.  Governments find it convenient to violate this act or ignore it entirely in favour of monetary rewards. 

The forest bureaucracy, both at the central and state levels, as well as huge corporations, have engaged in purposeful destruction. The forest bureaucracy is concerned that it will lose its vast control over land and people, while corporations are concerned that they will lose their low-cost access to precious natural resources. Apart from that,  the Gram Sabha creates rough maps of community and individual claims, but it typically lacks technical know-how and is educationally incompetent. For illiterate tribals, the intensive process of documenting groups’ claims under the Act is both tedious and terrifying.

Conclusion

Even though the implementation of the act remains the most difficult task, the importance of this act cannot be neglected. At the local level, large-scale public awareness and information efforts are necessary, informing both tribe and lower-level officials.

To make it easier for Gram Sabha to identify and file claims for individual and community rights, the appropriate maps and records should be made available to the Forest Rights Committee and claimants. The statute specifies no time restriction for resolving claims, providing clarity on the time limit for settling claims. Both authorities and recipients are generally unaware of this truth in most regions. The government should take a more active role in pressuring states to comply with legislation that has the potential to affect millions of people’s lives.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the complete name of the Forest Rights Act, 2006?

The full name of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 is Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. 

What are the other names of Forest Act 2006?

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, can also be called the Forest Rights Act, the Tribal Rights Act, the Tribal Bill, and the Tribal Land Act.

Who is eligible for the Forest Rights Act, 2006?

To qualify as OTFD and be eligible for recognition of rights under FRA, two conditions need to be fulfilled: 

Primarily resided in forest or forest land for three generations (75 years) prior to 13-12-2005, and 

Depend on the forest or forest land for bonafide livelihood needs.

How does the Forest Rights Act, 2006 help tribals and forest dwellers?

The Forest Act of 2006 gives forest dwellers the authority to access and use forest resources as they have in the past, to protect, conserve, and manage forests, and shield them from forcible evictions.

What are the reasons for enacting the Forest Rights Act 2006?

It aims to right historical wrongs committed against the OTFD and FDST, who are crucial to the sustainability and survival of the forest ecosystem. It grants FDST and OTFD ownership rights over land used for farming by tribal people or forest residents, up to a maximum of 4 hectares.

What are the provisions in the Forest Rights Act to protect people’s rights?

The 2006 Act’s Section 3(1)(i) contains provisions for the right and power to conserve and safeguard community woodlands. Different communities that live in forests are granted rights under Section 5 of the Act to protect their habitats, wildlife, etc.

What is FRA clearance?

According to Down to Earth (DTE), many mining projects received approvals without resolving the FRA rights of the project’s impacted individuals. As a result, tribal peoples and other forest inhabitants had their potential forest land rights under the FRA rejected as a result of the forest clearances for the mines.

References


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