FOREST RIGHTS ACT and Role of NASC
IMPORTANCE IN IMPLEMENTATION OF FOREST RIGHTS ACT FOR ADIVASI’S EMPOWERMENT:
Land and forest resources are the traditional rights and livelihood identity of Adivasis of India. About 8.5% of the Indian population belongs to adivasi communities and among them 90% are living in extreme poverty. Due to several reasons over 50% of the adivasis are forced for displacement which leaded to several problems. Right to forest resources and customary livelihood base are denied for many decades by the state and it forced adivasis to live in starvation, food shortage, culture erosion, disintegration and loss of identity and dignity. Several years; the adivasi movements along with various civil society organizations together with National Adivasi Solidarity Council continuously struggled and enacted the Forest Rights Act (FRA) for adivasi development. This Act provides opportunity for the development of tribal communities and it is recognizing right to forest resources and scope for livelihoods promotion. To promote land and property rights for adivasi communities we need to implement this Act with people’s participation. It will create desirable changes among the tribal communities by accessing land for agricultural production, forest resources for livelihood development, opportunity for enhancing indigenous values and scope for regeneration of biodiversity. With this Forest Rights Act, the adivasi people can get land and property rights. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is providing support to develop tribal lands with irrigation for cultivation and for land reforming work. We can educate and mobilise people towards empowerment by using these laws and will ensure their rights and development. We are planning to organise adivasi communalities in 740 villages in four states for implementing this FRA act with democracy values. This will support adivasi communities in accessing traditional rights over common property resources, land rights, forest collections and will improve their standard of living with indigenous identity and values. We need to strength this process for constant and sustainable action by implementing following activities.
NASC OBJECTIVES IN ENFORCING THE FOREST RIGHTS ACT:
- Educating adivasi communities on the constitutional provisions and on socio-economic rights;
- Implementing Forest Rights Act (FRA) with people’s participation and with government collaboration;
- Empowering adivasi people with eco-based livelihoods for economic development and reducing poverty and adapting climate change process by revitalizing community-based resources protections;
- Enhancing skills and capacities of the grass-root organizations of the NASC network.
- Participatory Resource Mapping program in 740 villages with the involvement of local community. Organizing village-level meetings to do Participatory Resource Mapping on socio-economic needs of the people such as present status, available basic amenities, govt services, health & school facilities, ration shops, level of implementation of laws and scope for forest land rights, available resources, scope for promoting community properties, livelihood supported forest resources and on others.
- Formation and strengthening of People’s Associations/Forest Rights Committees in 740 villages. Development of community-based forest rights committees along with self-help groups and Adivasi Federations and promotion of leadership capacities among adivasis to claim forest rights.
- Translation and distribution of booklets with land rights claim forms on the Forest Rights Act and on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to 20000 copies. Translating in local languages on the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and on National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) – with publication of key points, posters, pamphlets, booklets and organising distribution meetings
- Organizing workshops & seminars on Forest Rights Act (FRA), Prevention of Atrocities Act (PoA), National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), United Nations’ Convention of Rights of Child (UNCRC) for increasing rights of the tribal children and education and promoting livelihood security. This will enhance the skills & capacities of the people to claim legal rights for their community.
- Conducting trainings & meetings at each village level on implementation of FRA, NREGA and survey of community rights, individual land rights, selection of members, recording traditional rights, preparing claim forms, submission of request, activation of gram-shabas (local self-government), passing resolutions, following with sub-divisional committees, advocacy with district authorities (DC, DFO, DWO) for land titles, utilizing NREGA provisions for tribal land development, collection of Non-Timber Forest Produces (NTFP) for livelihoods development and continue process. This will help the community to fill the claim forms to get land and forest rights as per Form A and Form B of the FRA. Also this whole process will promote eco-based livelihoods development programmes among the adivasi women and will empower the community towards sustainable development.
- State-wise programs in Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Karnataka on the importance of the FRA for adivasi empowerment, awareness raising, speedy implementation process, monitoring and supporting activity for land and property rights. This will help the public, government officials for understanding the relevance of the Forest Rights Act and gearing for proper implementation. We are planning to reach minimum of 50,000 people directly through this type of networking and linkages.
- Implementing community-based livelihood activity which will increase income of the tribal women and will protect the environment as eco-friendly income generation programme. This will be promoted among the tribal women with cooperative approach to challenge poverty and to increase income sources at village level. Initially it will be initiated in 4 locations as model economic activity. This type of activity will address poverty issues as well as will adapt climate change process.
- Exchange and exposure programmes for cross learning, sharing of experiences from other areas. This will gain confident and cooperation through sharing of all types of experiences including success and failures and will help the community leaders to prepare action plan for future accomplishments.
- Advocacy and policy influence with collective action of the adivasi organizations through regional and national level meetings of adivasi organisations, concern government officers, ministers & involving other stake holders to formulate strategies, steps to implement Forest Rights Act for adivasi land and livelihood rights and forcing the government to bring status paper on adivasi’s developmen
- Documentation, publication and dissemination. This will help the staff, leaders and project coordinators to plan with people on the process, progress, success and lessons as well as sustainability strategies for duplicating work in other parts of the country/areas.
- Review, Monitoring & Reporting. Monitoring the process of implementation of the Forest Rights Act in all the adivasis areas and districts. Reviewing the existing livelihood activities, land records that they obtain for their development, process of ensuring traditional identity and increasing people’s concern over usage of forest for sustainable activities. Reviewing and replicating the success strategies to other adivasi areas for reclaiming livelihoods rights. Motivating suitable livelihood activities which can reduce starvation deaths. Reporting the results, successful stories and case studies for the knowledge of the donors, governments, like–minded civil society organizations and to the community for understanding the outcomes of the project.
Campaign for implementation of Forest Rights Act:-
One of the main outcome of the NASC is implementation of Forest Rights Act. Booklet and posters on FRA was prepared and distributed to all the adivasi groups and organizations including government departments. We have trained the community members along with concern NGOs and People’s Organizations to implement the FRA for the land and livelihoods rights of adivasis. Several meetings were conducted on FRA implementation mainly in the areas of Sathiyamangalam Hills, Denkanikottai Hills, Jawadhu Hills, Naickaneri Hills, Kalvarayan Hills, Anamalai Hills, Pachamalai Hills, Sitheri hills, Palani Hills, Uttiramerur, Thiruvallur, Coimatore, Thirunelveli, Chengam, Ginjee, Chennai, Waynad, Mysore, Nellore, Vizakapatnam, Berhampur, Dornala, Thirupathi, Bangalore and in many other areas with the involvement of NASC member organizations. All these meetings have arranged by the local organizations and campaigned on implementation on forest rights act with translation version of the act in the local languages. Tribal People have involved in formation of forest rights committees and filling resolutions through gram-sabha meetings and demanding title deed, forest rights and right to non-timber forest products as per the rules of the FRA 2006. Till March 2012, about 29483 claim forms have been submitted by our NASC working areas to the concern government and acquired 35803.16 acres of land for adivasi communities. And the process is continuing in every village. Similarly, there are several community based programmes are organised for implementing the Forest Rights Act. One of the programs was held in Nilgiris with Thoda Tribes in Muthunadumandu. In this meeting the community members, local leaders, self-help group members and also government representatives participated. The meeting focused on the history of FRA, scope for adivasis’ development and other traditional forest dwellers to get recognition to forests and to get land rights. There were also highlights on the steps taken by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in making the FRA in reality with all states. People also asked questions related to formation of Forest Rights Committee, strategy for adivasis to acquire 10 acres of land, how to restore and revitalize their tradition and culture, role of adivasis to protect the forest and wild life. At the end of meeting, the representatives met the District Collector and requested to help adivasis for their development and land rights.
We also had similar programmes in places like Vellore, Mysore, Bhubaneswar, Udaipur, Ranchi, Pune, Dornala, Banjar, New Delhi. There were many steps and strategies for implementation of Forest Rights Act. We got collective strategies for speedy FRA implementation and we organised national level programs and presented memorandum to the Ministers at New Delhi. NASC network members, other NGO Directors, staffs from Southern states namely Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Pondicherry have attended at these meetings and demanded for FRA in each village level. The main objectives of the meetings are how to overcome these challenges in implementation of FRA for Adivasis. Field reality on forest rights act and other matters are discussed. There are many activities similar to this are going on.
Workshop on Challenges in implementation of Forest Rights Act for Adivasi Development:-
People at ground level are facing problems in implementing the Forest Rights Act. Therefore, the NASC along with the regional and national adivasi forums have organised several workshops and mass meetings from Chennai to New Delhi to discuss this issues and demand the government to enforce the Act. The main objectives of these programmes are ensuring the Forest Rights is given to the tribal people because they are the traditional owners and safe-guarders in protecting these natural resources. Due to continue struggles, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs of the Government of India has passed an order to all state government to implement the act in its true spirit. This special order guides the state authorities for implementation of FRA with the following lines.
Ministry of Tribal Affairs of the Government of India’s Guidelines on the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006
The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 seeks to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forest for generations but whose rights could not be recorded. The Act was notified for operation with effect from 31.12.2007 and the scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Rules, 2008 for implementing the provisions of the Act were notified on 1.1.2008.
Over a period of last four years of implementation of the Act, some problems impeding the implementation of the Act in its letter and spirit have come to the notice of the ministry of Tribes Affairs, such as, convening of Gram Sabha meetings at the panchayat level resulting in exclusion of smaller habitations not formally part of any village; non-recognition of un-hindered rights over the minor forest produce(MFP) to forest dwellers; non-recognition of other community rights; harassment and eviction of forest dwellers without settlement of their forest rights; rejection of claims by insisting on certain types of evidences, inadequate awareness about the provisions of the Act and the Rules etc.
In order to address above concerns and with a view to ensure effective implementation of the Act, the guidelines are issued on various aspects of implementation of the Act for compliance by all the state governments/ UT Administrations on different matters including the Process of Recognition of Rights, Minor Forest Produce, Community Rights, Community Forest Resource Rights, Protection Against Eviction, Diversion of Forest Lands and Forced Relocation, Awareness-Raising, Monitoring and Grievance Redressal system and other instructions are given to each state government.