Tribal Affairs Ministry’s Directive: Don’t rush forest rights, Centre tells states

Tribal Affairs Ministry’s Directive: Don’t rush forest rights, Centre tells states On April 28, the then MoTA secretary wrote to the states expressing hope that the process would be “completed within the current year”. by Jay Mazoomdaar, Indian Express, New Delhi, August 13, 2015 In “campaign mode” since April this year, when the Prime Minister set a December deadline for settling claims under the Forest Rights Act, the Tribal Affairs Ministry has now warned state governments against riding roughshod in their hurry to meet the target. “It is emphasised that the (earlier) request of the ministry that the states implement the Forest Rights Act in a proactive and time-bound manner should not be interpreted to mean bypassing the requirements of the said Act and Rules in any manner,” the ministry wrote in a directive issued on August 10. [MoTA’s letter dated Aug 10, 2015, is available here. http://tribal.nic.in/WriteReadData/CMS/Documents/201508121054481498449FRA.pdf] It went on to caution that “the Forest Rights Act implemented in haste may lead to perpetuation of the historical injustice against forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers which the Act seeks to correct”. At the second PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation) meeting on April 22, PM Narendra Modi had said that “vesting of forest rights on tribals and traditional dwellers is a critical step for empowerment and progress” and the “ministry and state governments need to work in campaign mode to cover those still deprived of their rights”. On April 28, the then MoTA secretary wrote to the states expressing hope that the process would be “completed within the current year”. Under the FRA, three types of...

MoTA issues guidelines on the use of GIS to assess claims under FRA

Ministry of tribal affairs has issued “Guidelines with regard to the use of Geo referencing for assessment of potential areas and re-examination of rejected claims under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA)”, on July 27 2015. Following are a few extracts from the letter addressed to Chief Secretaries of all the state governments. … … … 3. The Ministry had received reports which suggest that large number of claims have been rejected due to lack of evidence or incomplete evidence. It may be noted that as per Rule 6(b) of Forest Rights Rules, district administration in general and the SDLC in particular are expected to assist the Gram Sabhas and the FRCs by providing forest and revenue maps. In this context geo-referenced maps may be generated and be provided to Gram Sabhas, and FRCs. Accordingly claims rejected on the grounds of insufficient evidences or which prima-facie requires additional examination may be re-examined. 4. It is being reiterated that the use of any technology, such as, satellite imagery, should be used to supplement evidence tendered by a claimant for consideration of the claim and not to replace other evidences submitted by him in support of his claims as the only form of evidence. If rights have already been recognised in favour of a claimant, the same may not be reopened. 5. Through Geographical Information System (GIS), maps can be prepared for implementing agencies, regarding the eligible areas for the implementation of FRA where maps can be drawn at different administrative levels like nation, state, district, block and village. With the use...

New Study: Forest Dwelling Communities could have rights over half of India’s forests under FRA

New Study: Tribals and Forest Dwelling Communities could have rights over half of India’s Forests Empowering Millions and Opening Door to Largest Land Reform in Country’s History Rights and Resources Institute (RRI), July 21, 2015 http://tinyurl.com/pn6ecuj Realizing full potential of Forest Rights Act will transform land ownership, forest governance, and rural livelihoods for tens of millions of forest-dwellers on at least 40 million hectares of land NEW DELHI, INDIA (22 July 2015)—A new study has revealed that India’s 2006 Forest Rights Act (FRA) has the potential to recognize the rights of approximately 150 million forest dwellers on at least 40 million hectares of forested land. The complete report can be downloaded from here. http://www.rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/CommunityForest_July-20.pdf Conducted by Vasundhara, NRMC India, and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), the study finds that if the FRA is properly implemented, it would initiate the largest ever land reform in India, shifting forest governance from an undemocratic, colonial system to a decentralized, democratic one where Gram Sabhas are decision-makers. Such a process would also conform to the Indian State’s constitutional obligations towards its tribal citizens. Utilizing government data, the study followed a two-step process to assess forest areas that under the FRA are vested with forest-dwelling communities. The study examined the Forest Survey of India and census data to assess forests that are already listed as a land-use category within revenue village boundaries. The second step added customary forest areas of the North Eastern states which were not covered by FSI. The study then suggested additional work to assess forest area customarily used by forest-dwellers outside of revenue village boundaries and thus eligible under...

Forest bureaucracy and implementation of FRA

Let’s not miss the wood  Narendra Modi has asked for land rights to be granted quickly to tribals, but for that to happen, the forest bureaucracy’s stranglehold on power must first go, writes Arvind Khare in The Hindu, June 27, 2015 On June 23, Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) to ensure that all States implement the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and grant land rights to tribals over the next two months. Mr. Modi’s announcement is welcome, but nevertheless surprising, as his government has come under scathing criticism for removing community consent clauses for land acquisition in the ill-conceived land ordinance bill. Nearly 250 million people live in and around forests in India, of which the estimated indigenous Adivasi or tribal population stands at about 100 million. To put these numbers in perspective, if considered a nation by themselves, they would form the 13th largest country in the world, even though they cannot be depicted as representing any singular, monolithic culture. For this population, there cannot be any better news than the government’s willingness to recognise their customary rights and undo the historical injustice they have faced, as outlined in the FRA. The directive to achieve this historical transformation in the next two months, however, shows a lack of understanding of what the process entails, and the factors that have prevented the proper implementation of the FRA since its passage in 2006. One, the process of documenting communities’ claims under the FRA is intensive — rough maps of community and individual claims are prepared democratically by Gram Sabhas. These are then verified on the...

Seeds of a toilet revolution in rural India, a consequence of land rights

During a recent visit with my friends at ARCH Vahini, through remote parts of rural Gujarat in April 2015, where ARCH had been working for many years, I witnessed the seeds of a revolution in the making! For the record, Census 2011, reported that about 67% of rural households, and 53% of urban ones, did not have any toilet. In one block of Narmada district, about 3000 families spread over 20 villages are building their own toilets with great care. In another area not too far away, in one village 60 toilets have been built by government contractors, most of which were not complete, are of poor quality, and about half are not being used by the families for whose benefit these were built. This in a way illustrate the kind of change that could happen in some of these remote villages, if the communities had actively participated in their own developmental  process. Our friends at ARCH, a Gujarat based organisation, had been working in these forest communities to help them claim their rights over land and local forest resources (minor forest produce), under the Forest Rights Act 2006. In the process the local people had become aware and empowered in the process, consequently their capacities and confidence had improved. This is enabling the communities to undertake initiatives such as the effort to build toilets in their homes. Hardly anyone could have predicted such possibilities from FRA! Below are the links from dropbox, of the recent pictures of toilets being built in rural India, which I noticed during our recent travels thro’ the countryside in Gujarat. All these toilets are conventional...