Forest and Tribals
- source of livelihood- food, fiber, fabric, fuel, house
- source of raw materials- crafts like rope making, basket making, woodwork
- source of indigenous medicine
- source of forest product like honey, wood
- source of employment
- abode of religious belief
Development of forest policy
I. 1855- Forest policy by Lord Dalhousie
II. 1864- Establishment of Imperial Forest Department
III. Government Forest Act- 1865
IV. Indian Forest Act- 1878
V. National Forest Policy- 1894
VI. National Forest Policy- 1952
VII. National Forest Policy- 1988
Salient Features and Goals of National Forest Policy-1988
- Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and restoration of ecological balance
- Conservation of Natural Heritage(existing)
- Checking Soil Erosion and Denudation in catchment areas of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs;
- Checking extension of sand dunes in desert areas of Rajasthan and along coastal tracts;
- Substantially increasing Forest/Tree Cover through Afforestation and Social Forestry
- Taking steps to meet requirements of fuel, wood, fodder, minor forest produces, soil and timber of Rural and Tribal Population.
- Increasing the productivity of Forests to meet National Needs.
- Encouraging efficient utilization of Forest Produce and Optimum Use of Wood(Timber)
- Generation of Work Opportunities, the involvement of Women.
- No Official definition of the term “Forest”, which may comprise a “Self-Sown” area which supports a Community of Creatures dependant on the plants and Interdependent on each other.
- “Natural Heritage” should include all green cover like grasslands, wetlands, etc.
- There is no provision for the protection of degraded Land which can be good land resource.
- It does not focus on methods to check soil-erosion, denudation, Floods, etc
VII. The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Schedule Areas) Act 1996 (PESA)
- It safeguards and preserves the traditions and customs of the people, and their cultural identity, community resources, customary mode of dispute resolution.
- PESA empowers Gram Sabha/Panchayat at appropriate level with right to mandatory consultation in land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced persons.
- PESA seeks to reduce alienation in tribal areas as they will have better control over the utilisation of public resources.
- It will help minimise exploitation of tribal population as they will be able to control and manage money lending, consumption and sale of liquor and also village markets.
- PESA looks to promote cultural heritage through preservation of traditions, customs and cultural identity of tribal population.
VIII. Forest Rights Act-2006
Rights are given to
- Members or community of the Scheduled Tribes who primarily reside in and who depend on the forests or forest lands for bona fide livelihood needs.
- It can also be claimed by any member or community who has for at least three generations (75 years) prior to the 13th day of December, 2005 primarily resided in forests land for bona fide livelihood needs.
- The Gram Sabha is the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of Individual Forest Rights (IFR) or Community Forest Rights (CFR) or both that may be given to FDST and OTFD.
- 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.
- The acts looks to right the wrongs of government policies in both colonial and independent India toward forest-dwelling communities, whose claims over their resources were taken away during 1850s.
- The act also has potential of sustainably protecting forest through traditional ways along with providing tribes means of livelihood.
- It expands the mandate of the Fifth and the Sixth Schedules of the Constitution that protect the claims of indigenous communities over tracts of land or forests they inhabit.
- The alienation of tribes was one of the factors behind the Naxal movement, which affects states like Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand. The act through identifying IFR and CFR tries to provide inclusion to tribes.
- It has the potential to democratise forest governance by recognising community forest resource rights over an estimated 85.6 million acres, thereby empowering over 200 million forest dwellers in over 1,70,000 villages.
- The act will ensure that people get to manage their forest on their own which will regulate exploitation of forest resources by officials, forest governance and management as well as tribal rights etc.
- Administrative Apathy
- Implementation of the act remains the biggest challenge as acts related to the environment are not entirely compliant with the law, illegal encroachments have happened as much as that claims have been unfairly rejected.
- As tribals are not a big vote bank in most states, governments find it convenient to subvert FRA or not bother about it at all in favour of monetary gains.
- Lack of Awareness
- Unawareness at the Lower level of forest officials who are supposed to help process forest rights claims is high and majority of the aggrieved population too remains in the dark regarding their rights.
- The forest bureaucracy has misinterpreted the FRA as an instrument to regularise encroachment instead of a welfare measure for tribals.
- Dilution of Act
- Certain sections of environmentalist raise the concern that FRA bend more in the favour of individual rights, giving lesser scope for community rights.
- Community Rights effectively gives the local people the control over forest resources which remains a significant portion of forest revenue making states wary of vesting forest rights to Gram Sabha.
- Reluctance of the forest bureaucracy to give up control
- There has been deliberate sabotage by the forest bureaucracy, both at the Centre and the states, and to some extent by big corporates.
- The forest bureaucracy fears that it will lose the enormous power over land and people that it currently enjoys, while the corporates fear they may lose the cheap access to valuable natural resources.
- Institutional Roadblock
- Rough maps of community and individual claims are prepared by Gram Sabha which at times often lack technical knowhow and suffers from educational incapacity.
- Intensive process of documenting communities’ claims under the FRA makes the process both cumbersome and harrowing for illiterate tribals.
- The government of India views MFP rights as a means to curb Naxalism since the states most affected by Naxalism are also home to the maximum number of people dependent on forest produce.
- The recognition of CFR rights would shift forest governance in India towards a community conservation regime that is more food security and livelihood oriented.
- Large-scale awareness and information dissemination campaigns are required at local level informing both tribal and lower level officials.
- It is important to develop a detailed strategy of training and capacity building of people responsible for implementing the FRA, such as Panchayats, Gram Sabha, village level Forest Rights committee etc.
- The relevant maps and documents should be made available to the Forest rights committee and claimants to simplify the task of the Gram Sabha in identifying and filing claims for individual and community rights.
- Providing clarity on the time limit for settling claims the act does not specify any time limit for resolving claims. In most of the areas, both the officials and beneficiaries are unaware of this fact.
IX. Forest Policy, 2016
The draft National Forest Policy (NFP), 2016 proposed the levy of a green tax for facilitating ecologically responsible behavior and supplementing financial resources essential to address forestry woes.
X. India’s New Draft National Forest Policy, 2018
India’s new draft national forest policy, which aims to bring a minimum of one-third of India’s total geographical area under forest cover through scientific interventions and enforcing strict rules to protect the dense cover.
- Unlike the previous policies, which stressed on environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance, the 2018 policy focuses on the international challenge of climate change.
- While the ministry has done away with the environment cess that was proposed in the scrapped 2016 draft policy, it has retained several controversial clauses in its 2018 draft.
- Public-private participation models: PPP models would be developed for undertaking afforestation and reforestation activities in degraded forest areas and forest areas available with Forest Development Corporations and outside forests. The environmentalists have pointed out that this would mean the privatization of India’s natural resources and creating “private forests”.
- The ecologically sensitive catchment areas shall be stabilized with suitable soil and water conservation measures, and also by planting suitable trees and grass-like bamboo,” the draft suggests.
- It also suggests setting up of two national-level bodies—National Community Forest Management (CFM) Mission and National Board of Forestry (NBF)—for better management of the country’s forests.
- In an explanation, it says NBF needs to be headed by the central minister in charge of forests. The draft calls for state boards of forestry headed by state ministers in charge of forests to be established for ensuring inter-sectoral convergence, simplification of procedures, conflict resolution, among other things.
- Checking man-animal conflict: Quick response, dedicated teams of well equipped and trained personnel, mobility, strong interface with health and veterinary services, rescue centers, objective and speedy assessment of damage and quick payment of relief to the victims would be at the core of the short-term action.
- The new draft also says efforts will be made to achieve harmonization between policies and laws like the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.
- Participatory forest management: There is a need to further strengthen this participatory approach, for which a National Community Forest Management (CFM) Mission will be launched.
- Finances required for management of forests: The compensatory afforestation fund which is being transferred to the states would be a major source of funds for taking up afforestation and rehabilitation works in degraded forest areas as well as for bringing new areas under forest and tree cover.
- Efforts for tapping funds from other national sectors like rural development, tribal affairs, national highways, railways, coal, mines, power, etc., will be taken for appropriate implementation of linking greening with infrastructure and other development activities.
- The 2018 draft also calls for “promotion of trees outside forests and urban greens”, while stating that it will be taken up in “mission mode”.
- The policy does not discuss in detail the contentious issue of diversion of forest land for mining and other purposes.
- The policy still does not address the issue of forest rights of forest-dwelling tribal communities.