ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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No Rights to Live in the Forest

Van Gujjars in Rajaji National Park

Victims of ill-conceived policies governing forest resources and environmental conservation, the Van Gujjars, a pastoral nomadic community  residing in the Rajaji National Park, are struggling to get their forest rights and entitlements under the FRA Act, 2006. 

India is a green country. According to the Forest Survey of India,  forestland occupies a little over 21% of the country’s total geographical area with moderately dense to very dense forests covering approximately 13% of the landmass.(Forest Survey of India: 2011). 95% of this land is owned by the state, a practice dating back to the British rule, when the colonial regime viewed forests as a reservoir of colossal wealth, and the state had a monopoly over its resources.

Forests may be a source of wealth for the state, but for more than 10 crore forest dependents, as the Ninth Five-Year Plan noted in its mid-term appraisal, (Planning Commission: 2002)  it is a source of livelihood and sustenance, fodder, fuel-wood, small timber, honey, wax and fruits. More than 6 crore of these people are adivasis, and as most of forests are located in dry and deciduous regions these people live a very hard life.

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