Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Maharashtra modifies Forest Rights Act

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Fifth Schedule

Mains level : Forest dwellers role in its conservation

Maharashtra government has issued a notification modifying the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 that will enable tribals and other traditional forest dwelling families to build houses in the neighbourhood forest areas.

Try this question for mains:

Q.Forest dwellers are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem. Analyse.

Historical Background

1878: The Forest Act of 1878 was introduced and it truncated the centuries-old traditional use by communities of their forests and secured the colonial governments control over the forestry. The provision of this Act established a virtual State monopoly over the forests in a legal sense on one hand, and attempted to establish, on the other, that the customary use of the forests by the villagers was not a ‘right’, but a ‘privilege’ that could be withdrawn at will.

1927:  The Indian Forest Act, 1927. In continuance with the forest use policy of 1878, this landmark law – India’s main forest law, had nothing to do with conservation. It was created to serve the British need for timber. It sought to override customary rights and forest management systems by declaring forests state property and exploiting their timber.

1952: ‘National interests’ overrode all interests and forests were viewed as a national asset. It was made clear that local priorities and interests and claims of the communities around forest areas should be subservient to larger national interests

About the FRA, 2006

  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, is a key piece of forest legislation in India.
  • It has also been called the Forest Rights Act, the Tribal Rights Act, the Tribal Bill, and the Tribal Land Act. In the colonial era, the British diverted abundant forest wealth of the nation to meet their economic needs.
  • While the procedure for settlement of rights was provided under statutes such as the Indian Forest Act, 1927, these were hardly followed.
  • As a result, tribal and forest-dwelling communities, who had been living within the forests in harmony with the environment and the ecosystem, continued to live inside the forests in tenurial insecurity, a situation which continued even after independence as they were marginalised.
  • The symbiotic relationship between forests and forest-dwelling communities found recognition in the National Forest Policy, 1988.
  • The FRA, 2006, was enacted to protect the marginalised socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to the environment with their right to life and livelihood.

What empowers the Governor?

  • The notification has been issued by the Governor using his powers under subparagraph (1) of paragraph 5 of the Schedule V of the Constitution, according to a statement issued by Raj Bhavan.
  • PESA rules in the State have given recognition to many habitations as villages, but there is no provision for land for house-building.

Significance of the move

  • The decision is likely to provide a major relief to Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest-dwelling families residing in the scheduled areas of the State.
  • The urban areas get increased FSI, the rural areas (on revenue lands) get the same too, but tribal villages (on forest lands) have no legal space for building houses.
  • The move aims to prevent the migration of forest-dwelling families outside their native villages and provide them with housing areas by extending the village site into forest land in their neighbourhood.

Back2Basics: Fifth Schedule of the Constitution

  • It deals with the administration and control of Scheduled Areas as well as of Scheduled Tribes residing in any State other than the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram (ATM2).
  • In Article 244(1) of the Constitution, expression Scheduled Areas means such areas as the President may by order declare to be Scheduled Areas (SA).

The President may at any time by order-

  1. direct that the whole or any specified part of SA shall cease to be a SA or a part of such an area;
  2. increase the area of any SA in a State after consultation with the Governor of that State;
  3. alter, but only by way of rectification of boundaries, any Scheduled Area;
  4. on any alteration of the boundaries of a State on the admission into the Union or the establishment of a new State, declare any territory not previously included in any State to be, or to form part of, a SA;
  5. rescind, in relation to any State of States, any order or orders made under these provisions and in consultation with the Governor of the State concerned, make fresh orders redefining the areas which are to be SA.
  • The Governor may, by public notification, direct that any particular Act of Parliament or of the Legislature of the State shall or shall not apply to a SA or any part thereof in the State, subject to such exceptions and modifications, as specified.
  • The Governor may make regulations for the peace and good government of any area in the State which is for the time being a SA. Such regulations may
  1. prohibit or restrict the transfer of land by or among members of the Scheduled Tribes in such area;
  2. regulate the allotment of land to members of the STs in such area;
  3. regulate the carrying on of business as money-lender by persons who lend money to members of the STs in such area.

In making such regulations, the Governor may repeal or amend any Act of Parliament or of Legislature of the State or any existing law after obtaining the assent of the President.

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