Forest and Tribal Rights

Forest and Tribal Rights

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• As per the information collected by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) upto 31 October, 2017, 41,89,827 claims (40,50,131 individual and 1,39,696 community claims) have been filed and 18,24,271 titles (17,59,955 individual and 64,316 community claims) have been distributed. A total of 36,51,414 (87.15 percent) claims have been disposed off @@

• In the last 10 years, only 3 percent of the minimum potential of CFR rights could be achieved. The laggard states in terms of implementation of CFR rights (no or extremely poor performance) are Assam, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Sikkim and Punjab @$

• The low performing states in terms of implementation of CFR rights (achieved less than 2 percent of minimum potential) are Rajasthan, West Bengal, Karnataka and Jharkhand. The Individual Forest Rights (IFR) focused states have been Tripura and Uttar Pradesh @$

• The states, which have implemented Individual Forest Rights (IFRs) and Community Rights (CRs), but have ignored CFRs are Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The better performing states (in terms of implementing the IFRs and CFR rights) are Maharashtra, Odisha, Kerala and Gujarat (only in Scheduled V areas) @$

• Among the 10 states affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE), the number of claims rejected under the FRA as a proportion of the total number of claims disposed off has been the highest in Bihar (94.9 percent). The percentage of claims disposed off with respect to total number of claims received has been the highest in Chhattisgarh (100 percent) and lowest in Bihar (53.9 percent) *$    

• At the national level (based on aggregation of data for 19 states) the number of title claims rejected under the FRA as a proportion of the total number of claims that were disposed off has been 53.5 percent, as on 30 June, 2016 *$

• Of the nine States considered to be seriously affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE), six are States with Scheduled districts. Among the 83 LWE-affected districts, 42 districts have Scheduled Areas. These regions are marked by the following features: (1) serious neglect and deprivation, widespread poverty and poor health and educational status; (2) exploitation and oppression by traders and money lenders, on the one hand, and absence of an effective and sensitive civil administration, on the other; (3) large-scale displacement of tribal people for development projects; (4) occurrence of all of the above despite the special Constitutional and legal provisions for the tribal people (in the form of the Fifth Schedule, laws to prevent alienation of tribal land and restoration of alienated lands, and in recent years, progressive legislations, such as Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act-PESA, 1996 and Forest Rights Act-FRA, 2006) $


• Almost 60 percent of the forest cover of the country is found in tribal areas. Of the 58 districts, wherein the forest cover is greater than 67 percent, 51 districts are tribal districts. With regard to mineral resources, three States with substantial tribal populations – Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand - have considerable mineral reserves. These three States alone account for 70 percent of India’s coal reserves, 80 percent of its high-grade iron ore, 60 percent of its bauxite and almost 100 percent of its chromite reserves $


• Based on the Forest Rights Act claims status (data provided by Ministry of Tribal Affairs) as of 31 January 2014, it could be seen that there is generally a gap between the land claimed and the actual extent of the titles issued to the claimant. Claims under FRA are often rejected due to absence of ST community certificates. The Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) claims have largely not been entertained due to lack of evidence. OTFD’s have mainly been discouraged from filing claims and most of their claims have been rejected at the Gram Sabha level itself or not accepted by the Forest Rights Committee (FRC). Claims have also been rejected due to inability to prove plot cultivation for seventy five years prior to 13th December 2005. There are reports of claims being rejected on the ground that the claimed land is ‘disputed’ $


• Some of the major concerns regarding implementation of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) related to high rate of rejection of claims, little progress in the recognition of community rights and habitat rights of PTGs, convening of Gram Sabha meetings at the Panchayat level, insistence of particular form of evidence, claimants not being informed about rejection of claims and inadequate awareness about the provisions of the Act and the Rules $$

• In many instances, the states have diluted PESA’s power in the wording of their legislations, and the rules governing their implementation. Barring Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, most state legislations have given the bulk of the powers to the gram panchayat, and not the gram sabha. This runs contrary to Section 4 (n) of PESA α

• The central Land Acquisition Act of 1894 has till date not been amended to bring it in line with the provisions of PESA and to recognize the gram sabha, while a newer bill meant to replace it is yet to be tabled in parliament α

• The Lok Sabha on 13 December, 2006 passed by voice vote the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005, seeking to recognise and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land of forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest-dwellers

• The law provides for recognition and vesting of forest rights to Scheduled Tribes in occupation of forest land prior to 13 December 2005 and to other traditional forest dwellers who are in occupation of forest land for at least three generations, i.e. 75 years, up to a maximum of 4 hectares. These rights are heritable but not alienable or transferable. Forest rights include among other things, right to hold and live in the forest land under individual or common occupation for habitation, self-cultivation for livelihood, etc**

• One of the most crucial aspects of the Forest Rights Act is the realization of forest rights within a protected area through declaration and demarcation of the “critical wildlife habitat” (CWLH)**

• The present law has only diluted the interests of the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes with that of the “Other Traditional Forest Dwellers”. The forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes no longer remain the focus of the law contrary to what it originally envisaged*

• There is no provision in the Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006 providing that cases under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 against the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes for accessing minor forest produce would be dropped or closed*

• The British established a mode of forest governance that imposed restrictions on local forest dwelling communities through a definition of forests as national property for colonial objectives, which tried to acquire control of forests for commerce and national development at the cost of local forest-based livelihoods**

• Known as the Panchayats Extension to Schedule Areas (PESA), 1996, it decentralized existing approaches to forest governance by bringing the Gram Sabha center stage and recognized the traditional rights of tribals over “community resources”—meaning land, water, and forests**


@@ Status Report on Implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 [for the period ending 31st October, 2017], prepared by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, please click here to access


@$ Citizen's report entitled Promise and Performance: Ten years of the Forest Rights Act in India (released in December 2016), brought out by the Community Forest Rights-Learning and Advocacy (CFR-LA) process ( and supported by OXFAM–India and Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), please click here to access 


*$ Monthly Update on Status of Implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dweller (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (released on 10 August, 2016), Ministry of Tribal Affairs,  please click here to access


$ Report of the High Level Committee on Socio-Economic, Health and Educational Status of Tribal Communities of India (chaired by Prof. Virginius Xaxa), May 2014, Ministry of Tribal Affairs (Please click here to access)

$$ FAQ on the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA), prepared in December, 2012,

α PESA, Left-Wing Extremism and Governance: Concerns and Challenges in India’s Tribal Districts by Ajay Dandekar & Chitrangada Choudhury,

* Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network,

** Patnaik, Sanjoy, PESA, the Forest Rights Act, and Tribal Rights in India, Proceedings: International Conference on Poverty Reduction and Forests, Bangkok, September 2007  

Please note that information about habitat loss of elephants and human-elephant conflicts as a category of environment and related themes is also given under "Environment" section of the im4change website. For better results, click here.


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