“Forest Fury: Nationwide Protests Ignite as Forest Rights Act Falters Across 12 States”

Context: More than 100 indigenous, forest-dwelling, and tribal delegates from 12 States across the nation spoke out against State governments and the Centre on Monday after a two-day convention on forest rights in Delhi, criticizing their failure to implement the Forest Rights Act of 2006.

About Forest Rights Act of 2006

Historical Background

• Tribals and other traditional forest dwellers have been residing in deep forests since eternity.

• Along with their stay, they have also come to develop unique mutualistic relationship with the forest in terms of their dependence on forest resources.

• As the British rule started hunting for resources, they constrained the entry of Indians, especially tribals into the forests. Hence, fury of acts and policies such as the Indian Forest Act of 1927 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.

Forest Rights Act, 2006

  • The act recognizes and vest 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 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 rehabilitate in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement and to provide 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 or 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 forests land for bona fide livelihood needs.
  • 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.


  • Recognized and provided the rights of Tribals and OTFD over forest resources.
  • The Act has also helped in the reduction of Naxal problems. Because Land (Jameen) has been one of the three demands of this movement.
  • Recognizing the community rights over forest resources paves the way for management of forest by the dwellers.


  • Administrative Apathy:
    • The existing laws related to Environment and Wildlife protection are not compliant with FRA, 2006
    • Many incidents where Supreme Court had to intervene to enforce the provisions of the act.
  • Lack of Awareness:
    •  Specially among the tribals. This creates a demand reduction for the rights.
    • The forest bureaucracy has misinterpreted the FRA as an instrument to regularize encroachment instead of a welfare measure for tribals.
  • Reluctance of the forest bureaucracy to give up control
  • As more and more people legally settle on forested lands, the forest officials fear loss of control over these lands.

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.
  •  Intensive process of documenting communities’ claims under the FRA makes the process both cumbersome and harrowing for illiterate tribals

Way forward

  • Tribals have been living in harmony with forests and the biodiversity therein. The MoU recognizes important role tribal and forest dwellers can play in protection of forests and biodiversity.
  • Government views MFP rights to curb Naxalism since states most affected by Naxalism are also home to people dependent on forest produce.
  • Recognition of CFR rights would shift forest governance towards community conservation that is more food security and livelihood oriented.
  • Large-scale awareness campaigns are required at local level informing both tribal and lower-level officials.
  • Developing a detailed strategy of training and capacity building of people responsible for implementing the FRA, such as Panchayats, Gram Sabha, village level Forest Rights committee etc.
  • Relevant maps and documents should be made available to the Forest rights committee and claimants to simplify the task of the Gram Sabha in identifying and filing claims for individual and community rights.
  • Providing clarity on the time limit for settling claims the act does not specify any time limit for resolving claims. In most of the areas, both the officials and beneficiaries are unaware of this fact.
  • Centre should take more proactive role in pushing states to honour a law that could change the lives of millions.

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