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Forest Rights Act in India: Essential Info for Forest Dwellers

Forest Rights Act upsc

Context: Individual Forest Rights (IFR) claims hold significant importance for the tribal and forest-dwelling communities in India. The review process for these claims has faced various challenges, raising concerns about transparency and guideline adherence. The issues surrounding the review of rejected IFR claims and the implications for forest-dwelling communities. Forest Rights Act upsc,

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Background of IFR Claims

  • IFR claims are crucial for the tenure, livelihood, and food security of forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes (ST) and traditional forest dwellers.
  • These rights recognize their dependence on forest resources for various socio-economic needs.

Supreme Court Intervention:

  • In 2019, the Supreme Court issued an eviction order for those whose IFR claims is not met, causing widespread concern.
  • The court asked states to provide information on rejections, procedures, reasons for rejection, and if tribals had the chance to produce evidence before claim rejection.

Suo Motu Review:

  • Following the Supreme Court’s order, states initiated suo motu reviews of rejected IFR claims.
  • By February 2020, 14 states had already rejected around 543,432 claims, leading to a 50% rejection rate during the review process.

Lack of Transparency:

  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) has not released updated data on the review process since February 2020.
  • Transparency in the review process is crucial for ensuring fairness and accountability.

Chhattisgarh’s Experience:

  • Chhattisgarh conducted a review of 450,000 rejected IFR claims, approving only about 34,000, less than 10%.
  • Experts argue that many claims were rejected on invalid grounds, such as ‘claims in protected areas’ or ‘lack of documents.’

Odisha’s High Rejection Rate:

  • Odisha rejected over 94% of the 148,870 reviewed IFR claims at the district level.
  • This significant rejection rate has raised concerns about the fairness and adherence to guidelines.

Missing Records and Lapses:

  • In both Chhattisgarh and Odisha, instances of missing records and improper procedures have been reported.
  • Claimants’ names were sometimes wrongly included in the rejected list, and some claims were rejected based on caste.

The Bigger Picture:

  • Three wildlife non-profits — Bengaluru-based Wildlife First, Maharashtra-based Nature Conservation Society (NCS) and Tiger Research and Conservation Trust (TRACT) — in January 2014 had filed an application before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
  • Experts suggest that IFR claimants are being used to argue that the Forest Rights Act 2006 is detrimental to forest protection.
  • The ultimate goal may be to challenge the Community Forest Resource Rights (CFRR) that empower communities in forest management.

Way Ahead:

Challenges in the review of rejected IFR claims in India include a lack of transparency, high rejection rates, and guideline lapses. This situation has significant implications for forest-dwelling communities and broader conservation goals in the country.

Addressing these issues is vital to ensure that the Forest Rights Act 2006 serves its intended purpose and safeguards the rights of those dependent on forest resources. Empower Gram Sabha and increase their participation in decision making. This includes regular meetings of Gram Sabhas in these areas and no proxy meetings. Proper recording of forest claims. Sensitization and training of forest officials to process forest claims. Educating forest dwellers about their rights and ways to ensure its enforcement.

Read Also: Madhya Pradesh: The Tiger State’s Natural Resources, Forest Rights Act upsc

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