‘Dilution of forest rights, interference by environment ministry unconstitutional’

Friday 20 March 2015

Tribal groups raise concerns regarding delay in recognition of Community Forest Rights

Dongria Kondh tribals in Niyamgiri

Accusing the environment ministry of trying to deprive forest dwellers of their rights, Adivasi Janajati Adhikar Mancha (AJAM) said dilution of the “consent” clause of Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 was “highly unconstitutional”. AJAM also said the environment ministry was “interfering and encroaching upon the affairs of MoTA (Ministry of Tribal Affairs) with the sole objective of denying and depriving the rights of adivasis forest dwellers”.

AJAM, a national level organisation of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), raised these issues in a letter to tribal affairs minister, Jual Oram, on March 19. AJAM wrote that it admired the stand taken by MoTA on growing attempts to dilute laws meant for protection of tribes and forest dwellers.

“AJAM is opposing any such move for dilution of the law in the strongest term and request the ministry to continue to protect such legislation and ensure that the rights of the adivasi forest dwellers are recognised and secured through effective implementation,” says the letter to Oram. “The government should proactively monitor for better and effective implementation of FRA in recognition of rights of forest dwellers. In no case, the power of gram sabha should be curtailed.”

The letter also draws attention to the delay in recognition of Community Forest Rights (CFR) in some states. AJAM highlights instances, in which CFR titles have been prepared without the involvement of gram sabhas and diverse procedures have been followed in different districts within a single state.

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Rights without benefits

Rights without benefits

Over 1.3 million tribals and forest dwellers have got rights over the land they had been using for years under the Forest Rights Act. This can, in some way, be called contemporary India’s largest land regime change—from the forest administration to the rightful owners of forestland. The Act promises another bounty—access to government schemes. But six years after the Act was enforced, lives of the forest dwellers have not changed much. Not one state has initiated concrete steps to officially register the title holders in the state land records. Without this they remain what they used to be—officially non-existent. Ahead of the general elections in 2014, Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava, Aparna Pallavi, M Suchitra and Richard Mahapatra travel to the forest districts of Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh to assess the impact of the landmark legislation

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