Forest Rights Act_Background: By Madhu Sarin


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Forest Rights Act_Background: By Madhu Sarin

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