Ten years of FRA

Down to Earth - - FOREST -

A re­port card OF THE 4.4 mil­lion claims con­sist­ing of in­di­vid­ual and com­mu­nity for­est rights filed, only 2 mil­lion ti­tles were given in 19 states till Oc­to­ber 2015, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial data. This means close to 47 per cent of the claims were re­jected. Ex­cept As­sam, north-east­ern states say the FRA has min­i­mal rel­e­vance in view of the cus­tom­ary laws that pro­tect their peo­ple and forests. Ut­tarak­hand and Goa have not been able to im­ple­ment the law. The Ut­tarak­hand govern­ment has an amus­ing ex­cuse: the state had elec­tions in 2012, so it could not no­tify any mea­sure as "there was a model con­duct of elec­tions in force". Goa blamed op­po­si­tion from Other Back­ward Castes.

Ac­cord­ing to a pre­lim­i­nary as­sess­ment of com­mu­nity and in­di­vid­ual for­est rights by the US group Rights and Re­sources Ini­tia­tive and Odisha-based non-profit Va­sund­hara in July 2015, at least 150 mil­lion for­est-dwelling peo­ple have had their rights recog­nised over at least 40 mil­lion hectares (ha) of for­est land in over 170,000 vil­lages.

Com­mu­nity for­est rights (CFR), which also re­flect tribal land-own­ing pat­terns, have not re­ceived much thrust. For th­ese rights, 40,269 gram pan­chay­ats have re­ceived ti­tles for 870,711 ha till Oc­to­ber 2015. This in­cludes 2,148 ti­tles for 28,438 ha to col­lect com­mu­nity for­est re­source.

This is when the na­tional census and the For­est Sur­vey of In­dia show that half of In­dia's forests fall within the def­i­ni­tion of CFR un­der FRA. "But barely 1.2 per cent of this area has been recorded and (rights) recog­nised," says Arvind Khare, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Rights and Re­sources Ini­tia­tive work­ing on for­est rights. Po­ten­tial CFR recog­ni­tion could be from 7.72 mil­lion ha to 11.4 mil­lion ha. In con­trast, since 1980 1.2 mil­lion ha of for­est area has been di­verted for min­ing, dams and other in­dus­trial projects, says en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Prakash Javadekar.

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