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Supreme Court orders eviction of 1.1 mn forest families

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

 

Supreme Court orders eviction of 1.1 mn forest families

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Key features of FRA.
  • For Mains: Concerns over implementation of FRA, how tribes are being deprived of their rights under this law, need for reforms.

 

Context: The Supreme Court has asked the governments of 17 states to evict an estimated one million tribal and other households living in forests after their claims of the right to live in forests were rejected under the Forest Rights Act.

The court has directed the Dehradun-based Forest Survey of India to submit a satellite-image based report on the encroachments removed.

 

What’s the issue and what were the reasons for evacuation?

About 11,72,931 (1.17 million) land ownership claims made by scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act have been rejected on various grounds, including absence of proof that the land was in their possession for at least three generations.

The law provides for giving land rights to those living on forest land for at least three generations before December 31, 2005.

 

Criticisms:

The Forest Rights Law itself has been criticised by both wildlife activists and those fighting for the rights of tribespeople and forest-dwellers, albeit for different reasons.

  • The former believe giving people rights to live in forests will eventually harm the forests themselves and also wildlife.
  • The latter believe that the implementation of the law is far from perfect and that deficiencies in this have resulted in many valid claims being rejected by the states. The latter also allege that the government didn’t exactly put up an effective defence in the case, which was brought by wildlife NGOs and activists.

 

About Forest Rights Act (FRA):

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.

 

Rights under the Act:

Title rights – Ownership to land that is being 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, meaning that no new lands are granted.

Use rights – to minor forest produce (also including ownership), to 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 – to protect forests and wildlife.

 

Eligibility:

Eligibility to get rights under the Act is confined to those who “primarily reside in forests” and who depend on forests and forest land for a livelihood. Further, either the claimant must be a member of the Scheduled Tribes scheduled in that area or must have been residing in the forest for 75 years.

 

Process of recognition of rights:

  1. The Act provides that the gram sabha, or village assembly, will initially pass a resolution recommending whose rights to which resources should be recognised.
  2. This resolution is then screened and approved at the level of the sub-division (or taluka) and subsequently at the district level.
  3. The screening committees consist of three government officials (Forest, Revenue and Tribal Welfare departments) and three elected members of the local body at that level. These committees also hear appeals.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: Several wildlife groups have opposed the Forest Rights Act as being anti-conservation. Do you agree? Critically examine.