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Forest Rights Act_Background: By Madhu Sarin

Forest Rights Act_Background: By Madhu Sarin






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    Forest Rights Act_Background: By Madhu Sarin Forest Rights Act_Background: By Madhu Sarin Presentation Transcript

    • Why the Tribal Forest Rights Bill?
    • Recent roots: Spate of brutal evictions
      • MoEF’s May 3, 2002 order
      • Evict all ‘encroachers’ by September 30
      • Cited Supreme Court’s concerns
      • Bet May 02 & Aug 04, evictions from 1.52 lakh ha. – still continuing
      • At 1 ha/hshld, 1.52 lakh families or 7.5 lakh impoverished people brutally evicted.
      • No evidence of powerful land grabbers being targeted
    • Nature of brutality and illegality
      • Use of elephants to raze huts during drought
      • Beatings, including some killings, children burnt alive in huts
      • In many cases, people had evidence of longstanding occupation
      • Total non-accountability of state landlord in remote areas (ref Endangered Symbiosis)
    • Outrage & birth of Campaign
      • Protests and demonstrations in several states.
      • Lobbying with MPs, MLAs, state governments.
      • Letters to PMO by Commissioner, STs.
      • Issue reached Parliament
      • Birth of CSD
    • MoEF and GoI response
      • Clarification order of 30.10.02 saying all forest dwellers are not ‘encroachers’
      • February 2004 orders
      • Affidavit in S Ct about ‘historical injustice’
      • 2 letters to states to stop evictions
      • Stopping evictions in UPA’s CMP
      • CSD’s lobbying with NAC
      • PM’s decision to get bill drafted.
    • Roots of the Problem: Construction of ‘National’ ‘Forests’
      • Need to de-construct supposedly threatened ‘national’ forests.
      • ‘ Recorded forest area’ (RFA) and ‘forest cover’ (FC) used interchangeably although different from each other
      • RFA = RF+PF+lands ‘recorded’ as forests
      • FC = Over 10% tree canopy density
      • RFA & FC do not necessarily overlap
    • RFA & FC – SFR 2003
      • All India RFA: 774,740 km2 (23.57%)
      • RF = 51.6%; PF = 30.8%;17.6% = ‘Unclassed’ forest (not legally notified)
      • All India FC: 678338 km2 (20.64%)
      • Actual forest cover unclear as orchards, tea/coffee/coconut/rubber/agroforestry plantations, sugarcane & cotton fields included in ‘forest cover’
      • 20% of even RFs have no cover
    • Dismal condition of land records
      • FD and RD records don’t tally
      • Accdng to MoEF, RFA = 77 million ha
      • Accdng to MoA, RFA = 67.87 mha
      • 9.13 mha ‘disputed’ between them with millions of farmers caught in the middle
      • 12.37 lakh ha disputed in MP alone
      • 3 lakh ha disputed in just 4 districts of Maharashtra
    • Post-independence statization
      • Between 1951- 88, ‘national’ forest estate was enlarged by 26 million ha (from 41 to 67 mha) through sweeping notifications
      • Poorly surveyed tribal areas bore the brunt of this ‘statization’ spree.
      • Sixty per cent of forest cover today concentrated in 187 tribal districts confined to only one-third of the country (a lot in the NE outside ‘state’ forests).
    • Post-independence statization
      • Large numbers of STs disenfranchised of their customary resource rights through blanket notifications without even their knowledge and labelled ‘encroachers’ on their ancestral lands.
      • FCA further trapped several million forest dwellers as illegal occupants of their own lands through freezing land use based on unsound paper records.
    • The Situation in Orissa -1
      • Huge areas under princely states declared ‘deemed’ forests without any ecological surveys or settlement of rights;
      • 40% of RFs never surveyed, predominantly shifting cultivation lands
      • 55% of RFA under RD as it is in villages, Orissa revenue settlement rules require 10% of village area to be reserved as gramya jungle
      • 100s of villages and lands cultivated since generations still unsurveyed but recorded as govt lands
    • The Situation in Orissa -2
      • ST population = 22.2%
      • Schedule V (tribal maj.) area = 44.7%
      • BPL population (all Orissa) = 47%
      • BPL – STs = 73%
      • BPL STs in south Orissa = 87%
      • 6 to 8000 villages protecting forests but no FD recognition
    • The Situation in Orissa -3
      • Scheduled Areas – 74% land declared govt. land (48% forest, 26% revenue).
      • Lands with over 10 degree slope not surveyed because ‘too expensive’
      • 23% STs landless
      • 40.5% STs own under 2.5 acres
      • In PTG and shifting cultivation areas, almost all land declared govt. property due to non-recognition of communal tenures
      • Corrupt settlement officers recorded even irrigated paddy fields as RFs
    • The Situation in Orissa - 4
      • Officially only 5113 ha pre-80 ‘encroachment’
      • Only 29 ha ‘regularised’ in 25 years
      • Lakhs displaced without rehabilitation
      • Official records bear little relation with ground reality; double displacement for ‘compensatory afforestation’
      • In just last 5 years, 1224 ha of illegal forest diversion by mining cos regularised.
    • The case of Andhra Pradesh - 1
      • RFA 63,821 sq km (23.2%); FC 44,637 sq km (16.15%)
      • 62% of RFA in Tribal areas
      • 60% Sch V Tribal area been declared RF
      • 25.11.1978 GO extended AP Forest Act, “All lands in the SAs containing trees, shrubs and coppice growth shall be forest”.
      • 21,210 kms of forest boundary disputed
    • The case of Andhra Pradesh - 2
      • Only 9.8% to max 33% area in Scheduled districts under cultivation
      • Fallow shifting cultivation lands declared ‘forests’ and few pattas given for cultivated lands.
      • 77,661 acres of pre-80 cultivated land not regularised but brought under JFM
      • 3.25 lakh ha labeled ‘encroachment’
    • Overall situation
      • Poor procedures and unsound premises for defining and identifying forests: The national forest estate assembled through unsound processes, resulting in serious tenurial and land use conflicts, unclear boundaries, jurisdictional disputes between departments & communities & inappropriate management objectives for non-forest lands declared state ‘forests’ through sweeping notifications.
    • Is FD or Community Conservation more effective?
      • Nagaland: RFA 52.0%; FC 82%; notified forest –only 6% of FC
      • Mizoram: RFA 79.3%; FC 87.4%; notified forest – 61% of FC but not ‘settled’
      • Arunanchal Pradesh: RFA 61.5%; FC 81.2%; 60% of RFA is highly disputed ‘unclassed state forest’
      • In Uttaranchal, VP forests as good as RFs despite no support
    • Widespread Community conservation across country
      • Village communities are not only protecting forests but a whole range of ecosystems and habitats across the country. However, they have no legal rights or authority to do so.
      • In most cases, community initiatives have come up after acute degradation and realisation of it’s impact on lives and livelihoods
    • What is the legal situation?
      • Sep 1990 circulars of MoEF (still unimplemented)
      • FP (1) Review of encroachments on forest land.
      • FP (2) Review of disputed claims over forest land, arising out of (faulty) forest settlement.
      • FP (3) Disputes regarding pattas/leases/grants involving forest land.
      • FP (5) Conversion of forest villages into revenue villages and settlement of other old habitations.
    • Impact of the Godavarman case
      • Aggravated crisis in forest and protected areas
      • All regularisation and conversion of forest villages stayed (despite the 1990 orders)
      • Feb 2000 order staying removal of any forest produce from PAs- livelihood crisis for 3.5 to 4 million people
      • Evictions order of May 2002
    • Regularization and Diversion
      • So far 3.66 lakh hectare pre-1980 eligible ‘encroachment’ regularized (out of this regularisation of about 2 lakh ha stayed)
      • All occupants with disputed claims etc equated with ‘encroachers’ despite their being there since generations
      • During same period, 9.55 lakh ha (increasing rapidly) of forest land diverted for mining, industry and hydro projects.
      • Over 85,000 ha diverted in 2005 alone.
    • Dissonance between tribal and conservation laws
      • widespread negation of communal tenures & role of forests in tribal livelihoods and culture through rigid application of conservation laws superimposed over tribal areas.
      • Major violation of constitutional provisions for safeguarding tribal cultures, livelihoods and resource, including ecological rights
    • Dissonance between tribal and conservation laws
      • By 1990 about 8.5 million tribals (about 12.6% of all tribals) had been displaced by mega projects and Protected Areas.
      • Tribals only 8% of the population but at least 55% of those displaced.
      • 6.4 million displaced adivasis left to fend for themselves without any rehabilitation.
      • What is state accountability to those displaced after 1980 due to non-recognition of their rights?
    • CSD initiatives
      • Been making affected communities aware of the 1990 guidelines and their rights
      • Thousands of claims for recognition of rights filed in several states – empowers them to challenge FD eviction threats
      • Provisions of the bill based on their priorities although recognition of several shortcomings
      • 150,000 adivasis participated in rallies demanding early tabling of bill on 15.8.05
      • 1000s participated in dharnas in Delhi and states
    • Tribal Forest Rights Bill
      • to rectify the historical injustice done to tribal people in the consolidation of state forests
      • “ to recognise and vest the (listed) forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest-dwelling STs who have been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be recorded”
    • Tribal Forest Rights Bill
      • rights to include “responsibilities and authority for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological balance
      • To strengthen the conservation regime while ensuring livelihood and food security
      • make STs primary stakeholders in combining conservation with sustainable use.
    • Tribal Forest Rights Bill
      • 12 listed ‘forest rights’ include:
      • rights to land under individual or communal occupation since pre-80
      • to customary community lands for usufructs and grazing including the right to protect, regenerate and /or conserve or manage ‘community forest resources’
      • settlement of disputed claims, pattas/leases and conversion of forest villages to revenue villages (as per the 1990 circulars)
      • rights over MFP, & habitat and habitation rights of PTGs & pre-agricultural communities.
    • Tribal Forest Rights Bill
      • Max of 2.5 hectares of cultivated land per nuclear family even if they are in occupation of more land (contentious)
      • rights shall be heritable but not alienable
      • not a square inch of land not already under occupation, in the case of land under cultivation or habitation, is proposed to be vested
    • Tribal Forest Rights Bill
      • Rights to be vested ‘only in those forest-dwelling STs living in the areas in which they are scheduled and in occupation of land since before October 25, 1980’
      • This more restrictive than 1990 circulars and shall exclude all non-STs, STs who have moved outside their scheduled areas and the millions forcibly displaced after 1980
    • Tribal Forest Rights Bill
      • Bill totally in line with existing forest and other policies
      • In MoEF’s own words, “it should be understood clearly that the lands occupied by the tribals in forest areas do not have any forest vegetation”.
      • That it’s Feb 04 circulars “do not relate to encroachers, but to remedy a serious historical injustice. It will also significantly lead to better forest conservation”
    • Tribal Forest Rights Bill
      • In contrast to (typically non-tribal) settlement officers,  the bill vests authority in the gram sabha to initiate action for determining and recording the forest rights that may be vested
      • MoTA shall be the nodal agency for implementation
      • As per MoEF, 13.43 lakh ha are under ‘encroachment’ (1.7% of RFA). Only a part of this will be eligible under the bill.
    • RFA & FC in Hills
      • HP: RFA = 66.5%; FC = 25.8%; ie 40.7% GA ‘recorded’ as ‘forest’ has NO FOREST
      • Uttaranchal: RFA = 64.8%; FC = 45.74%; ie 20% GA ‘recorded’ as ‘forest’ has NO FOREST
      • Sikkim; RFA = 82.3%; FC = 45.97%; ie 36.2% GA ‘recorded’ as ‘forest’ has NO FOREST
    • RFA & FC in MP
      • MP: RFA 95,221 sq km (30.9% of GA); FC 77,265 sq km (24.79% of GA); but 12,374 sq km i.e. 13% of RFA disputed bet FD & RD
      • Serious discrepancies in land records
      • In 1956, 94.78 lakh ha of common lands declared ‘national’ PFs
      • Maharashtra: RFA 61,939 sq km (20.1%); FC 47,482 sq km (15.23%); 3030 sq km in 4 districts disputed cultivated land; old tenures still not recognised