The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoeEFCC) and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs have issued a joint declaration to the Chief Secretaries of the States to review the implementation of the Forest Rights Act of 2006.
The letter that was published by the Environment Ministry stated, “You are requested to undertake a review of the implementation of the Act and intimate the Government of India about any clarifications that are needed to smoothen the process.”
This act aimed at recognizing the value the forest and its resources hold for the forest-dwelling tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers.
They were dependent on a variety of needs on the forest resources, including livelihood, habitation, and other socio-cultural needs. The main objectives of the Forest Rights Act 2006 according to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs were:
- To undo the historical injustice that occurred to the forest-dwelling communities
- To ensure land tenure, livelihood, and food security of the forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers
- To strengthen the conservation regime of the forests by including the responsibilities and authority of Forest Rights holders for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity, and maintenance of ecological balance.
Even after a decade and a half of the Act coming into force, due diligence has still not been given to the rights of the forest dwellers completely.
Several forest communities still lay at the backdrop and do not have acknowledged rights. And this has caused troubles and conflicts over the years.
The initiation of Section 5 of the Act has been an area of deliberation. It deals with the duties of recognized forest dwellers such as protecting wildlife, forest, and biodiversity; ensuring that catchments area, water sources, and other ecologically sensitive areas are adequately protected, etc.
However, the Ministries are keen on solving the issues. RP Gupta, secretary, MoEFCC, and Anil Kumar Jha, MoTA said in the circular released, “Issues related to the implementation of the Act need to be resolved at the state level in terms of statutory provisions.”
All the states have been asked to review the implementation of the Forest Rights Act at their own levels and inform the Centre about any problems or clarification required about the same so that implementation can happen without delay.
According to the analysis of the circular by HT Times, it emphasizes the significance of the support from the forest departments and state governments for the following activities among others:
- Speculating the authenticity of the claims
- Mapping of forest lands involved
- necessary evidence required for recognition of rights
This joint effort of the ministries is also to tell the frontline staff of State forest departments to extend help to institutions and committees in regard to conservation and management plans.
This will help ensure the sustainable management of the forest community resources says The Hindu.
Moreover, it added the need of undertaking projects which adds value and is good utilization of forest resources on part of the state governments, particularly non-timber products.
Also, it is significant to plan the utilization of the products in a way that the economic value of the products is protected and ensures benefit for both the tribal and forest communities.
However, according to Tushar Dash, member of the Community Forest Rights Learning and Advocacy (CFR-LA) group this circular has been just a diversion of responsibility.
He said, “The joint statement was supposed to address substantive issues of implementation of the Act on the ground but It doesn’t address those. It has instead shifted the onus on state governments.”