India’s colonial and post-colonial government systematically denied millions of tribal and forest-dwelling communities’ rights to their forest lands and resources. As a result of protracted grassroots struggle, the Scheduled Tribes, and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, also known as the Forests Rights Act (FRA), 2006 is a remarkable piece of legislation recognizing the individual and community rights of forest-dwelling and tribal communities. It sought to correct the ‘historic injustice’ faced by these communities integrating conservation and livelihoods.
In February 2019, however, the Supreme Court directed the eviction of millions of tribal and forest-dwelling communities whose claims were rejected under the Act. This renewed a conversation about the implementation and effect of the 2006 Act. While the Act holds immense promise by granting community forest resource rights over entire forest lands, contributing to political autonomy and livelihood security, ambiguous wording and differential eligibility criteria pose hurdles for non-tribal groups in accessing forest rights, thereby reinforcing existing social hierarchies instead of challenging them. Additionally and importantly, the political apathy of the forest bureaucracy, its prioritization of commercial extractive interests over community lives and natural resources has resulted in dilution of the several provisions of the Act, leaving both the communities and their forest lands in a precarious position.
In this context, we have examined and briefly explained the various aspects of the Act and its resultant policy implications through short posts on Social Media. Additionally, we have discussed the implications and potential of the said policy at a Policy Dialogue Session featuring Dr Nitin D. Rai, Fellow, ATREE. You can refer to all the aforementioned policy awareness resources here:
- The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006: Forest Bureaucracy and the Act
- The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006: Promise and Potential
- The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006: The ‘Other’ Claims
- The Policy Dialogue: Forest Rights Act, 2006