‘Joint Communication’ signed to secure rights of forest dwellers
#GS1 # Poverty and Developmental issues #Schedule Tribes
Context: Recently, a “Joint Communication” was signed by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) to secure the rights of traditional forest dwellers and proper implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
- The forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers inhabiting forests for generations were in occupation of the forest land for centuries.
- Forests are the source of their livelihood, identity, customs and traditions. However, their rights on their ancestral lands and their habitats had not been adequately recognized despite them being integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest eco-system. The traditional rights and interests of forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers on forest lands were left unrecognized and unrecorded during consolidation of State forests in the past.
- The government had enacted the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, to recognize the right to livelihood and occupation within the forest of these communities.
Key Details of Joint Communication:
- It is concerned with more effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and for utilising the potential for livelihood improvement of the Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) as well as community participation in forest conservation.
- State tribal welfare departments along with forest departments are also to work out strategies to extend MGNREGS and National Rural Livelihood Mission to forest dwellers as well as initiate skill development programs and give impetus to agro-forestry and horticulture projects.
- Forest Departments of state governments have been directed to carry out verification of claims for forest rights, mapping of forest lands involved and provision of necessary evidence as required, authentication of records, joint field inspections, awareness generation etc.
- State forest departments are to undertake projects for value chain addition including capacity building of primary collectors, new harvesting methods, storage, processing and marketing of Non?-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) under schemes implemented by Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
- A nodal agency to be designated for specific non-timber forest products as supply chain platforms in collaboration with TRIFED, Ministry of Ayush, MFP (Minor Forest Produce) Federations, Van Dhan Kendras etc.
Non-Timber Forest Products or Minor Forest Produce (MFP):
- Section 2(i) of the Forest Rights Act defines a Minor Forest Produce (MFP) as all non-timber forest produce of plant origin and includes bamboo, brushwood, stumps, canes, cocoon, honey, waxes, Lac, tendu/kendu leaves, medicinal plants etc.
- It provides both subsistence and cash income for people who live in or near forests.
- They also form a major portion of their food, fruits, medicines and other consumption items and also provide cash income through sales.
- The Central government had introduced a minimum support price for a selected list of minor produce items through mechanism for marketing of Minor Forest Produce through Minimum Support price and development of Value Chain of MFP Scheme in 2011.
- It aims to provide a social safety net to these underprivileged forest dwellers, and to aid in their empowerment.
Other Initiatives for Forest Dwellers:
- Ekalavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS)
- Pradhan Manti Van Dhan Yojana (PMVDY)
- Increasing the number of Minor Forest Products (MFP) in the bracket of Minimum Support Price (MSP) from 10 to 86 in the last few years has supported tribes immensely in improving their incomes and livelihood prospects.
- State tribal welfare departments along with forest departments are also to work out strategies to extend MGNREGA and National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) to forest dwellers as well as initiate skill development programs and give impetus to agro-forestry and horticulture projects.
- Programme for Capacity Building of Scheduled Tribe Representatives in Local Self Governments.
Forest Rights Act, 2006
- The act was passed in December 2006.
- It deals with the rights of forest-dwelling communities over land and other resources.
- The Act grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest laws.
- Eligibility to get rights under the Act is confined to those who “primarily reside in forests” and who depend on forests and forest land for a livelihood. Further, either the claimant must be a member of the Scheduled Tribes scheduled in that area or must have been residing in the forest for 75 years.
- The Gram Sabha is the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of Individual Forest Rights (IFR) or Community Forest Rights (CFR) or both that may be given to FDST and OTFD.
- The Act identifies four types of rights:
- Title rights: It gives FDST and OTFD the right to ownership to land farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares.
- Use rights: The rights of the dwellers extend to extracting Minor Forest Produce, grazing areas etc.
- Relief and development rights: To rehabilitate in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement and to basic amenities.
- Forest management rights: It includes the right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use.
- This act in a way protects intellectual property rights and the traditional knowledge related to cultural diversity and biodiversity
- It expands the mandate of the 5th & 6th Schedules of the Constitution that protect the claims of indigenous communities over tracts of land or forests they inhabit.