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This article will discuss in detail the complex situation of tribals in our country and issues they face. Especially the complexity pertaining to the land rights issues relating to tribals in India.
These UPSC Notes on the Land rights of tribals in India are aligned with the Syllabus of UPSC. Hence the aspirants should prepare this topic for General Studies Paper I which comes under the topic tribal issue in India.
Tribals and forest rights issues are often seen in the news and current affairs, and hence is one of the important for the UPSC Mains.
Tribals Land Rights: Present Situation
Recently Supreme court has issued an order to evict lakhs of tribal who have failed to prove that they are forest dwellers. It also draft amendment to the existing Indian Forest Act, 1927 that proposes higher powers to the state as compared to the forest dwellers.
- Supreme Court has lately issued an order asking the states to expel lakhs of tribal population whose claims as forest dwellers have been disapproved under the Forest Rights Act of 2006.
- The order was issued as the result of a petition filed by the Wildlife First, along with Tiger Research and Conservation Trust and the Nature Conservation Society. They are Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) active in the sphere of wildlife conservation.
- The court stayed(delayed) its own order subsequently and decided to examine whether the correct process was followed by the gram sabhas and the States under the Forest Rights Act before the rejecting the claims.
- However, this approach to conservation has put the lives of tribal and conservation efforts in obscurity Proposed amendments to the Indian 1927 Forest Act.
- The amendments change the focus of forest-related issues from simple taxation of forest produce or transportation and widens the scope to include “enrichment, conservation and sustainable management of forest resources” and “provision of ecosystem services on a permanent basis ”.
- The amendment also focuses on the concerns related to climate change and international engagements.
- It also intent to strengthen and support the forest-based traditional knowledge with participation from people.
- The amendment also enclose a new category of forests namely production forest which will be used as a source for pulpwood, timber
- Strict regulations have been introduced to curb construction of sheds and other structures, disintegration of land for cultivation or any other purpose, and burning any fire in a manner as to endanger or injure such forest land.
- Regulations also aim to grant patta or right to occupancy only in as per the recognition, restoration and vesting of Forest Rights, under “The Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
- The amendment increases the responsibility of states by stating that if the state government, after consultation with the central government, feels that the rights under The Forest Rights Act will shackle conservation efforts, then the state “may change such rights by paying such persons a sum of money in lieu thereof, or grant of land, or in any such other manner as it thinks appropriate, to maintain the social organisation of the forest-dwelling communities or as an alternative set out some other forest tract of sufficient extent, and in an area reasonably convenient, for the purpose of such forest dwellers”.
Land rights of tribals in India: Current Issues
- Present situation has got more complicated by the fact that many tribal who have been living in the forest for generations do not possess the required paperwork to prove that they have been living there.
- The rejection of claims has also been whimsical without any appropriate research or background check.
- There has been a theory in prevalence since the passage of the Forest Rights Act that such act speed up
- On the contrary, observational data, including research by Tata Institution of Social Sciences have shown that community participation enhance conservation efforts. Research also shows that an ejection approach to conservation makes conservation efforts unsustainable.
- Amendments to the colonial era Indian Forest Act is also attracting a lot of criticism.
- It gives rights to the forest officials to use firearms and cause injury to prevent any “violation”.
- It also makes statements made to any forest officer admissible as evidence in a court of law. This is a provision that can be used only in extreme cases like terrorism. Its role in forest administration where forest officers already enjoy enough powers is problematic. There is a very high scope for misuse.
- The amendments also gives power to the officer to conquer property in relation to any case.
- The forest department will also have the right to enforce access on forest produce, which is over and above the tax imposed by the This is in dispute to FRA, which says that minor forest produce used by forest dwellers should not be taxed.
- The Forest Rights Act had democratised the issue of Forest, land, ownership of forest produce, etc. and considerable degeneration of powers to the gram sabhas had also taken place. Many provisions of these amendments might inverse this situation.
- There is also a fear that inviting private parties to maintain forests might give them a corrupt motivation to invest in timber cultivation which might adversely affect the delicate ecological balance of the forest area.
Land Rights of Tribals in India – Recent Update
Ministry of Tribal Affairs through a press release that took place in July 2019, it mentioned Constitutional and legal rights for tribals that have been put in place thus far:
- The Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (Forest Rights Act)
- Gram Sabha must take care that the rights taken in its assembly are in accordance with the interests of wild animals, forest and the biodiversity, concerning the
- Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (RFCTLARR Act, 2013)which is the right to fair compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition.
- Local Level Monitoring Committee for Rehabilitation and Resettlement under RFCTLARR Act 2013 to re-evaluate and monitor the implementation of restoration and resettlement schemes and plans
- No acquiring of land will be allowed in the Scheduled Areas (The RFCTLARR Act says, where such acquisition take place, it shall be done only as a incontestable last resort.)
- The process and the way in which the rehabilitation and resettlement are given under The RFCTLARR Act, 2013
- The Scheduled castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes(ST)(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
All though Indian law do provide a number of Land rights to the tribes present in the country, these rights are of not much use for these under privileged class as it requires lot of paper work to prove their point. And more over the new amendment made has over shadowed the land rights of tribals in India.
Land Rights of Tribals in India – FAQs
1. What are tribal land rights?
Ans: Forest Right Act is an Act to acknowledge and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes (ST) and other traditional forest dwellers who have been living in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be registered.
2. Which act has provided rights to the tribals?
Ans: The Forest Rights Act, India or the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers or Recognition of Forest Rights Act is also known by other names like the Tribal Rights Act or the Tribal Land Act.
3. Who can demand rights under Forest Rights Act?
Ans: Those who have a government lease or a patta.
4. When was the Scheduled Tribes Act pronounced?
6. What is the main motive of the Forest Rights Act?
Ans: The main motive of the Forest Rights Act is to undo the historical injustice occurred to the forest dwelling communities.
7. What are the service provided by the Forest Rights Act to protect people’s rights?
Ans: The service provided by the Forest Rights Act are the right of ownership, access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce
8. What was the impact of forest law?
Ans: The tribals were not permitted to collect wood, fruits, hunt and practice shifting cultivation in these forests. This caused the loss of livelihood, poverty and hunger among the tribals.
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