15 years of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006
This report was published on December 18, 2021, by the School of Habitat Studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. It was released to mark 15 years of the passing of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 – popularly known as Forest Rights Act (FRA). The report examines the patterns and trends in the implementation of FRA across the country. It has been written by Lekshmi M, Anup Kumar Samal, Geetanjoy Sahu, affiliated to the School of Habitat Studies at TISS.
Overall, the report finds low rate of FRA implementation marked with significant regional differences. It recognises that political process is crucial in the implementation of FRA. To emphasise this, the report studies the shifts in forest rights recognition between the previous UPA and present NDA governments in the country. The report also analyses state-wise implementation of Individual Forest Rights (IFR) and Community Forest Rights (CFR) and notes key challenges in recognising forest rights claims in the country.
The report has been prepared with the help of data on the status of forest rights claims and recognition brought out by Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, in their Monthly Progress Report. The data set from 2008 – when the FRA came into force – to August 2021 has been used.
This 32-page document is divided into eight sections: Introduction & Methodology (Section 1); Minimum Potential Forest Areas for Recognition under the Forest Rights Act (Section 2); Trends in the recognition of Forest Rights Claims in India (Section 3); Year-wise Trend and Status of Forest Rights Claims for the Period of 2008-2021(Section 4); Implementation of the Forest Rights Act: UPA versus NDA (Section 5); State-wise Current Status of FRA titles in India (Section 6); Enforcement Challenges (Section 7); Key Recommendations (Section 8).
Citing a 2015 study, the report states that FRA has the potential to restore the rights of forest dwellers over at least 100 million acres of forest land in 170,000 villages across the country.
The report states that only 14.75 per cent of the minimum potential forest areas in India have their forest rights recognised since FRA came into force. “There lays a long road ahead to be achieved,” the report adds.
There are significant regional differences in the implementation of FRA across different states, the report notes. Andhra Pradesh, for instance, has recognised 23 per cent of its 29,64,000 acres of minimum potential forest areas under FRA. Jharkhand, on the other hand, has recognised only five per cent of its 52,36,400 acres of minimum potential forest area.
The number of forest rights claims filed and recognised has not seen significant change since 2018.
The gap between the number of forest rights claims filed and number of claims recognised has increased since 2014, the report states.
About 88 per cent of all forest claims have been received during the UPA government (2008-2014) and the remaining 12 per cent have been received under the NDA government (2014 to 2021).
Under the NDA government, the rate of recognition of IFR has been only 27 per cent of all the IFR claims received. For CFR, this number was noted to be 69 per cent of all claims received.
Under the NDA government, 78 per cent of all CFR claims were rejected, the report states.
The report notes a lack of enthusiasm among the administration at the district and sub-division levels in expediting the title filing and hearing process.
Another challenge in the implementation of FRA is that the arbitrary rejection of forest rights claims without explaining in writing to the claimants the reasoning behind the rejection.
Focus and Factoids by Lekshmi M.
Lekshmi M, Anup Kumar Samal, Geetanjoy Sahu
School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
18 Dec, 2021