Something becomes so common for those enjoying the privileges like the idea of someone being ‘unprivileged’ doesn’t really occur! It’s something like Mary saying, “If they don’t have bread, why don’t they eat cake?” The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, commonly known as Forest Rights Act, notified on January 1, requires passports or satellite images as evidence for claiming rights on the forest land possessed by tribals.
But, how many of the 10 million forest dwellers expected to benefit from the Act are supposed to have a passport and a satellite image of their houses and land?! But, the government has included it in the list of evidence for proving their land rights! The other thing that can be produced as evidence include ration cards, voter ID cards and house tax receipts.
The newly-notified law will give tribals and other forest dwellers the right to cultivate forest land under their occupation and customary rights inside forests like grazing. But the right to forest land will be restricted to 4 hectares. All those who have been living in and depending on forests for livelihood for the last three generations [75 years] as on 13 December, 2005 will be benefited by the Act.
The Act also recognizes the right to collect, use, and dispose of minor forest produce, which has been traditionally collected within or outside village boundaries. These “minor forest produce” include all non-timber forest produce of plant origin, including bamboo, brush wood, stumps, cane, tussar, cocoons, honey, wax, lac, tendu or kendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots, tubers and the like.
The Act is a good step towards the rights of tribals, who have been caught in the forest-human interference tangle, which has been mainly created by those who lived outside the jungles. But, the Act in itself has not pleased tribals and activists who see the present law as flawed. They say the provisions for claiming land rights are such that they may promote non-eligible people to gain control of forest land through unfair means.
The provisions, they say, may also harm forests. The law has left many areas open to interpretation thereby giving the government chance to exclude several tribals. The government should obviously make or amend laws in such a way that they could not be misused – both by people and the government.
But given the present scenario, the law will obviously give some relief to the tribals, who had been fighting hard to get their rights on the forest land and escape eviction from their dwellings. But the poor people living in tiger forests need to be looked after and properly resettled, if they are uprooted from their age-old habitats.
Source: Business Standard