The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006
29 Dec, 2006
Who is protected by the Forest Rights Act?The Forest Rights Act protects people who have lived in forests or have been dependent on them for their livelihood. These include Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, who have lived in forested areas for three generations prior to December 13, 2005.
What does ‘forestland’ mean?Section 2(d) of the Act states that forestland is “land of any description falling within any forest area, [which] includes unclassified forests, undermarcated forests, existing or deemed forests, protected forests, reserved forests, Sanctuaries and National Parks.”
What rights does the Act provide for?
The Act aims to provide both individual and community rights, including the right to hold forestland and self-cultivate it, to live in the forest, and to own, collect, use and dispose minor forest produce.Community rights include rights over fish in water bodies, grazing lands or disputed lands; the right to convert pattas into titles and to protect or conserve forest resources; and the right to be rehabilitated if forest dwellers have been displaced prior to December 13, 2005. However, activities such as hunting and trapping are prohibited.
What is disallowed by the Act?
Forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes or other traditional forest dwellers cannot be displaced until their forest rights have been recognised through the process stipulated by the Act.
Those forced to move out of their dwellings, or leave cultivated lands because of state development projects, have the right to compensation. If the land from which they were evicted is not put to its intended use, they have the right to acquire it within five years.People living in national parks or sanctuaries cannot be displaced to protect these habitats if a resettlement package that secures their livelihood has not been communicated to them.
How can a forest dweller claim his/her forest rights?
A forest dweller can present a claim for forest rights to the gram sabha of his/her village’s jurisdiction, which will then pass a resolution.
If the person is not satisfied with this resolution, he/she can, within 60 days, take the claim to the Sub-Divisional Level Committee set up by the state.
If unsatisfied with this committee’s decision, the person can approach the District Level Committee, also set up by the state, whose decision will be final.Under this Act, state governments are required to set up State Level Monitoring Committees to monitor the “recognition and vesting of forest rights and to submit to the nodal agency such returns and reports as may be called for by that agency.”
What documents must he/she present to access these rights?According to the Rules of the Act, a person must provide at least two of the following to support his/her claim for forest rights: public documents; government records; government-authorised documents; judicial records; genealogy tracing; research studies; physical attributes such as a house; documentation of traditions that show the availing of forest rights; documents by reputed institutions like the Anthropological Survey of India; structures that establish prolonged habitation in the forest, such as wells, burial grounds or sacred places.
What does the Act consider as offences?As per Section 7, any officer, authority or committee found guilty of not following the Act’s provisions will be punished with a fine of up to Rs. 1,000.
Who is excluded from the purview of the Act?
People who depend on the forest for their livelihood but are not forest dwellers or Scheduled Tribes are excluded from the purview of the Act.
Factoids and Focus by Ashvita Singh.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act was enacted on December 29, 2006, and thereafter amended in 2012. It is often referred to as the Forest Rights Act.
This Act extends to the whole of India except for the state of Jammu & Kashmir. It aims to recognise and protect the rights of forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers.
The Act also speaks about the responsibility of traditional owners of forestland towards preserving biodiversity and maintaining the ecological balance.
Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India