From 11th to 12th November, 2013, Apritha Kodiveri, Vaneesha Jain and Revati Pandya (of the NJ India office) attended a two day consultation aimed at discussing Community Forest Rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act (Forest Rights Act), 2006 (FRA). Members from various groups working on FRA issues in Maharashtra, Orissa, Gujarat and Karnataka attended, and updates and status of its implementation from respective states were shared and discussed. One of the overarching issues was the lack of implementation of processing claims largely based on administrative setbacks. Different state’s Forest Department officials’ individual desires for implementation of the FRA or processing of claims appear to be a major hurdle.
The consultation brought to surface some key issues with notification of Critical Tiger Habitat and Critical Wildlife Habitat under the Protected Area network. The modification of rights in regards to these categories is ambiguous. Members of organisations attending the consultation presented case studies of specific hurdles while implementing the FRA. We (Arpitha, Vaneesha and Revati) presented issues with the recent draft rules on Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, and gaps in relation to the FRA. Representatives of the Forest Department were present on the second day of the consultation to be able to put across key issues and questions raised during the preceding discussions. We plan to work with the FoC group in reading together the laws related to Protected Areas (PAs), and identifying gaps.
Some key suggestions from the consultations were:
- Need for correspondence between the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to enable consolidated guidelines for PA governance;
- The need for the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2013 to correspond with the process of rights settlement and recognition under the FRA;
- Ensure gram sabha consent before diversion of forest diversion in PAs;
- Promoting a landscape approach which goes beyond PAs