The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 – FRA – aims to correct ‘historical injustice’, which is admirable. However, the Act adversely affects the country’s natural ecosystems and wild life. Discuss.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 – FRA – aims to correct ‘historical injustice’, which is admirable. However, the Act adversely affects the country’s natural ecosystems and wild life. Discuss.

Approach:

  • Introduce with why FRA was brought in in 2006
  • Discuss the FRA provisions meant to rectify the shortcomings in the previous Forest Act
  • Explain how some FRA provisions may be harmful to environment
  • Conclude with suggestions on meeting twin objectives of justice to dwellers and conserving the ecosystem and wild life.
Model Answer :

Under the Indian Forest Act, areas were often declared to be “government forests” without recording who lived in these areas, what uses they made of the forest and so on. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 was enacted to rectify these anomalies.

FRA: Correcting historical injustice

  • The FRA provides grants of land to forest dwellers – in situ – to the extent of their present holding but not exceeding four hectares.
  • Addition of a category of people termed as Other Traditional Forest Dwellers further extends these rights to others who have been living in forests for generations.
  • Gram Sabha has been empowered to take important decisions regarding development.
  • Compensation and livelihood opportunities have been ensured by recognising rights of communities over forest resources like forest produce, waterbodies and pastures. The decision to remove bamboo from the category of tree will further help the local economy.

However, concerns have been raised that FRA might adversely affect the environment.

Effect on environment:

  • Over the last three decades, habitat fragmentation has been identified as the single largest threat to biodiversity. By granting land to forest dwellers, FRA has set the stage for another round of massive fragmentation. This will also lead to serious human–wildlife conflict.
  • Weak procedures prescribed for identifying beneficiaries will be exploited to the hilt by powerful land-grabbers. Many tribal beneficiaries will be short-changed, while mining and logging companies could enter previously protected areas piggy-backing on land given to forest dwellers.

Conclusion:

  • The act is indeed a progressive step, however, other ways to correct the ‘historical injustice’ meted out to our forest dwellers may be explored. Compensation and livelihood opportunities outside reserves and important corridors through resettlement is a good option.
  • The huge corpus of funds collected from compulsory levies imposed on mining and developmental projects can be devolved to States specifically for voluntary resettlement projects.
  • Only then, we will be able to achieve the twin objective of correcting the historical injustice and maintaining our ecosystem.

Subjects : Current Affairs

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