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

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Forest Rights Act

Is There an Underlying Pattern in Implementation?

The implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 has been opaque and there is serious lack of awareness about its provisions not only among the benefi ciaries but also among the officials in charge of implementing it. Given the complaints from either side, it is time the government reviewed the law and also looked at the objections raised when it was first tabled as a bill.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, popularly known as the Forest Rights Act (FRA), is known to be a contentious legislation. It was debated widely in the Parliament as well outside before being enacted during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance regime (Bose 2010). It is projected as a landmark legislation concerning tribals, one of the most deprived sections in the country on multiple counts (GoI 2014). Justifying the importance of the legislation, the act acknowledges in its preamble the “historical injustices” suffered by the tribals (The Gazette of India Extraordinary 2007). However, when it was enacted, the bill received criticism from several quarters, including the Ministry of Environment and Forests, conservationists, wildlife activists and non-governmental organisations. The forest department’s opposition was mainly on grounds of the inevitable destruction of forest cover and wildlife (Bhullar 2008). Nevertheless, it came into force by 2008 across states.

The FRA provides for individual forest rights to tribals and other forest dwellers (those residing for over 75 years or three generations in the respective area are eligible under it) over the dwelling and cultivation lands under their occupation. The community tenure/rights over “community forest resources” on common forestland within the traditional and customary boundaries of the village are recognised too. The rights are further extended to such lands that fall under reserved forests, protected forests, and protected areas, such as sanctuaries and national parks, to which the community had traditional access (The Gazette of India Extraordinary 2007). In brief the three types of rights recognised under the act are: land rights, the right to use and collect, and the right to protect and conserve.

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