Sunday, November 8, 2009

Forest Rights Act

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, is a key piece of forest legislation passed in India on December 18, 2006. It has also been called the "Forest Rights Act", the "Tribal Rights Act", the "Tribal Bill", and the "Tribal Land Act." The law concerns the rights of forest dwelling communities to land and other resources, denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws in India.

Supporters of the Act claim that it will redress the "historical injustice" committed against forest dwellers, while including provisions for making conservation more effective and more transparent. The demand for the law has seen massive national demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people.

However, the law has also been the subject of considerable controversy in the English press in India. Opponents of the law claim it will lead to massive forest destruction and should be repealed (see below).

A little over one year after it was passed, the Act was notified into force on December 31, 2007. On January 1, 2008, this was followed by the notification of the Rules framed by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to supplement the procedural aspects of the Act

Types of Rights

The Act grants four types of rights:

  • Title rights - i.e. ownership - to land that is being farmed by tribals or forest dwellers as on December 13, 2005, subject to a maximum of 4 hectares; ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family as on that date, meaning that no new lands are granted [10];
  • Use rights - to minor forest produce (also including ownership), to grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc.[11];
  • Relief and development rights - to rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement[12] and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection [13];
  • Forest management rights - to protect forests and wildlife

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