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The Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006

Topics Covered: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006:


Context:

Review petition of over 1,000 tribals from Mysore District, Karnataka for recognition of their claims over forest land under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, has been rejected by the local authorities.

Why the petitions were rejected?

They had failed to furnish evidence to substantiate the claims of their stay inside the forest.

  • Expressing concerns over such decisions, experts have said that in a country where maintaining records of evidence and documents were a recent phenomena, expecting tribals to provide records to substantiate claims that they lived inside the forest before their eviction in 1972 was ridiculous and was in contravention of the concept of natural justice.

What’s the issue?

The review of their claims followed a Karnataka government directive, which was warranted as a consequence to a Supreme Court order on a case questioning the validity of the FRA.

  • The Supreme Court in 2019 ordered the eviction of nearly a million people across India, whose claims under the forest rights acts had been rejected.
  • But the court stayed its earlier order and directed all State governments to file a review petition and submit a report.

What could have been done?

In such cases the authorities should first recognise the rights and subsequently provide alternative solutions by way of rehabilitation instead of rejecting the claims.

About the Forest Rights Act:

The Act passed in 2006 grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities.

Rights under the Act:

Title rights – i.e. ownership – to land that is being farmed by tribals or forest dwellers as on 13 December 2005, subject to a maximum of 4 hectares; ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family as on that date, meaning that no new lands are granted.

Use rights – to minor forest produce (also including ownership), to grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc.

Relief and development rights – to rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement;[15] and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection.

Forest management rights – to protect forests and wildlife.

Eligibility criteria:

According to Section 2(c) of Forest Rights Act (FRA), to qualify as Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribe (FDST) and be eligible for recognition of rights under FRA, three conditions must be satisfied by the applicant/s, who could be “members or community”:

  1. Must be a Scheduled Tribe in the area where the right is claimed; and
  2. Primarily resided in forest or forests land prior to 13-12-2005; and
  3. Depend on the forest or forests land for bonafide livelihood needs.

And to qualify as Other Traditional Forest Dweller (OTFD) and be eligible for recognition of rights under FRA, two conditions need to be fulfilled:

  1. Primarily resided in forest or forests land for three generations (75 years) prior to 13-12-2005.
  2. Depend on the forest or forests land for bonafide livelihood needs.

Critical Wildlife Habitats:

They are defined under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, as the “areas of national parks and sanctuaries where it has been specifically and clearly established, case by case, on the basis of scientific and objective criteria, that such areas are required to be kept as inviolate for the purposes of wildlife conservation…”

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Who can include or exclude areas under 5th
  2. What are scheduled areas?
  3. Forest Rights Act- key provisions.
  4. Rights under this Act.
  5. Eligibility Criteria.
  6. Role of Gram Sabha in recognizing these rights
  7. What are Critical Wildlife Habitats?

Sources: the Hindu.