From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Forest Rights Act
Mains level : Read the attached story
- Districts with sizeable tribal populations saw several protests and demonstrations.
- The protests were organised by the Bhumi Adhikar Andolan. There were two issues that the demonstrators were decrying.
- One, the proposed amendments to the Indian Forest Act (IFA), 1927; the concerned amendments to the IFA have been sent to states for consultation.
- Two, a move to oust forest-dwellers from forest land; a case to this effect concerning the Forest Rights Act (FRA) comes up for its next hearing before the Supreme Court.
What is the FRA case before the Supreme Court?
- In Feb this year, the Supreme Court ordered the eviction of lakhs of tribals and other traditional forest dwellers whose claims under The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (or FRA), 2006, had been rejected following a three-tier process.
- Later, the SC temporarily put on hold the eviction by an order giving state governments time to file affidavits on whether due process was followed before claims were rejected.
- In the next hearing the Centre and states are expected to file affidavits regarding the implementation of the FRA.
What are the proposed amendments to the IFA?
- The FRA, enacted in 2006, envisions the forest rights committee of a village as the central unit in managing forest resources.
- The proposed IFA amendments will revert to giving overriding powers to Forest Department officials.
- The greater policing powers to the Forest Department include the use of firearms, and veto power to override the FRA.
- Further, if rights under FRA are seen as hampering forest conservation efforts, the state may commute such rights through compensation to the tribals.
- The changes also propose to open up forest land specifically for commercial exploitation of timber or non-timber forest produce.
- Across India, tribal rights activists are of the view that the proposed IFA amendments will divest tribals and other forest-dwelling communities of their rights over forest land and resources.
Who are the petitioners, and what is their contention?
- The petitioners are Wildlife First, Nature Conservation Society, and Tiger Research and Conservation Trust.
- They contend that the protection of forests has been severely affected due to bogus claims under the FRA.
- The bogus claimants continue to occupy large areas of forest lands, including inside national parks and sanctuaries, despite their applications being rejected under the appeals process of the FRA.