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What is Forest Rights Act

What is Forest Rights Act
Highlights

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is a result of the protracted struggle by the...

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is a result of the protracted struggle by the marginal and tribal communities of our country to assert their rights over the forestland over which they were traditionally dependent. This Act is crucial to the rights of millions of tribals and other forest dwellers in different parts of our country as it provides for the restitution of deprived forest rights across India, including both individual rights to cultivated land in forestland and community rights over common property resources.

The livelihood of perhaps 100 million poorest of the poor (The Indian Forest Rights Act 2006: Communing Enclosures) stands to improve if implementation can succeed, according to fra.org.in. The Act basically does two things: Grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest laws; and Makes a beginning towards giving communities and the public a voice in forest and wildlife conservation.

For the first time, this law also gives the community the right to protect and manage the forest. Section 3(1) (i) provide a right and a power to conserve community forest resources, while section 5 gives the community a general power to protect wildlife, forests, etc. Section 6 of the Act provides a transparent three step procedure for deciding on who gets rights.

First, the gram sabha (full village assembly, NOT the gram panchayat) makes a recommendation – i.e who has been cultivating land for how long, which minor forest produce is collected, etc. The gram sabha plays this role because it is a public body where all people participate, and hence is fully democratic and transparent.

The gram sabha’s recommendation goes through two stages of screening committees at the taluka and district levels. The district level committee makes the final decision (see section 6(6)). The Committees have six members – three government officers and three elected persons.

At both the taluka and the district levels, any person who believes a claim is false can appeal to the Committees, and if they prove their case the right is denied (sections 6(2) and 6(4)). Finally, land recognised under this Act cannot be sold or transferred.

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