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

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The Unmaking of the Forest Rights Act

Aimed at protecting the rights of forest dwelling tribal communities the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 promised much. However, over the years its implementation has been tardy and there have been concerted efforts to dilute it. In early October, conservation organisations and ecological scientists wrote to the government about this aspect.

In the freezing winter of 2009, a few communities of the Baiga tribe in Mungeli and Bilaspur districts of Chhattisgarh were evicted from their homes inside the forest and forced into an open area some distance away. One person among them died due to lack of access to food and shelter. The state forest department’s idea of relocation was makeshift shelters; the cement row houses would come later.

The Baiga are a primitive tribe who live close to nature and their box-like new homes without light or water felt alien. They were vulnerable to disease and could not get used to the food they got from the public distribution shops. They did not have a choice however, for their homes, deep in the forests, needed to be cleared to ensure that a perfect habitat for the tiger would be created. They lived inside the Achanakmar tiger reserve where it has been hard to spot the striped cat but the authorities were determined to clear the core area of the forest of its inhabitants.

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