A short video that briefly summaries the ForestRightsAct2006.
Please circulate widely to spread awareness about this very important piece of legislation.
“The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act” was passed by the Central government in 2006. This Act was historical because it provided the much needed relief to those who had years of “occupations” on forest land for their bonafide livelihood need, but were under threat of evictions because of Forest legislations in the country. Provisions of central legislations like the Forest Conservation Act 1980, the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and other orders of the Supreme Court made diversion of forest land for non forest purposes impossible without permission of the Central Government. The call by the Himachal Government in 2002 to ‘regularise’ forest occupation was untenable given this legal context and any future efforts on similar line can be challenged under any court of law like 2002 regularisation policy. It is imperative for the government to note that the FRA is the only legal option available to the state government to provide relief to landi occupiers facing the threat of eviction because of the Shimla High Court Order of April 2015. However, it’s important to note that the Act this Act neither meant to distribute land nor to regularize the encroachments.
The Forest Rights Act 2006, was especially brought about to empower the local communities to be able to give permission for village development activities under Section 3 (2) of the said Act. Section 3 (2) of the Act has already been implemented by the State of Himachal Pradesh with a clear instruction from the Chief Minister in whole Himachal and guideline from MoTA with reference to HP letter dated 14th December 2015. In similar way the state government should show its commitment to deal with the cases of land occupation under section 3(1) of the Act which allows filing and settling of claims of individuals and community for their bonafide livelihood needs.
Even in a developed state like Kerala where forest area is 11309.74 sq kms, less than Himachal, 24,599 individual titles that have been issued for 33,018.12 acres of forest land. In Himachal which has a huge population of approximately more than 1.5 lakhs families of Gaddis, Gujjars, and other pastoral communities and medicinal plant collectors who are directly dependent on forest land for livelihood and 1.65 lakh families who have applied under 2002 encroachment regularisation policy of Himachal Government are possible beneficiary under this Act, there is a huge scope for the implementation of the Act. It is unfortunate that Himachal has lagged behind in the implementation of this Act so far. It is high time that the government does a course correction in the matter.
According to the Act, the State government has constituted Forest Right Committees (FRCs) in all the villages in Himachal but in the absence of any knowledge of the Act and in fear of eligibility criteria which was issued by the government in 2011which is against the provision of the Act and moreover, wherever communities have filed their claims under the Act have been pending at the SDLC and DLC level for the last 3 to 4 years.