Mizoram revokes Forest Rights Act

State government misused Article 371 (G) to revoke FRA in Mizoram, critics allege

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Wednesday 20 November 2019
K Beichhua, Minister of State at Mizoram’s social welfare. Photo:  department@airnews_aizawl / Twitter
K Beichhua, Minister of State at Mizoram’s social welfare. Photo:  department@airnews_aizawl / Twitter K Beichhua, Minister of State at Mizoram’s social welfare. Photo: department@airnews_aizawl / Twitter

The Mizoram government passed a resolution revoking the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) in its assembly session on November 19, 2019.

Under Article 371 (G) of the Constitution, Mizoram has a special provision which makes it mandatory for all legislations of Parliament pertaining to land ownership and transfer to be first passed by the state’s assembly through a resolution before it can be implemented in the state.

The state government used this provision of the Constitution to pass a resolution to revoke FRA from the state. The resolution was moved by K Beichhua, Minister of State at Mizoram’s social welfare department.

“The revoking of FRA using the special status provision of the Constitution by the Mizoram government is very similar to how the enactment of FRA was prevented in Jammu and Kashmir using Article 370, when the Bharatiya Janata Party and People’s Democratic Party-led government was in power in the state,” Tushar Dash of Community Forest Rights — Learning and Advocacy, an advocacy group of experts and activists working for creating awareness about FRA, said.

The state, according to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs’ Monthly Progress Report on FRA, has not entertained any claims under the law. However, the same report says that the state had approved of the law in 2009.

“The Act was to be approved by the state legislative assembly according to Article 371 (G) of the Constitution. In the sitting of its Fourth Session on October 29, 2009, the Sixth Legislative Assembly of Mizoram has resolved that the Forest Rights Act shall be adopted in the entire state of Mizoram with effect from December 21, 2009,” the report says.

“The Mizoram government has used Article 371 (G) as a weapon to reject the proposed amendment of Indian Forest Act, 1927. Ironically, the state government is using the same article to revoke the Forest Rights Act, 2006 within the state. This is pure misuse of Article 371 (G) by the state government, which is very sad indeed,” said David T Thawmthanga, Secretary, Lai Indigenous Cultural Heritage and Tribal Education Society in the Lai Autonomous Council, Mizoram.

A big chunk of forests in the state is owned by the Lai, Mara and Chakma Autonomous District Councils. According to the 2017 State of Forest Report by the Forest Survey of India, around 20 per cent of the total 5,641 square kilometres of the forest land in Mizoram is “Unclassed Forest” which is under Autonomous District Councils.

The area of unclassed forest is lowest in Mizoram, among all North Eastern states. This also means that the potential for FRA implementation is also the highest in the state.

“With the coming of North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy, the focus will be on getting land. With a major portion of the geographical area of states like Mizoram under forest cover, and communities having ownership on those lands, revoking FRA can be seen as a means to keep the forest land with the forest departments for later diversion. The fact that the Compensatory Afforestation fund has also been recently released must have also informed this decision,” said Dash.

Down to Earth tried but couldn’t contact K Beichhua.   

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