Skip to main content

Less than 5% of tribals' forest rights "recognized" in India, no mechanism to ensure land ownership to women

By Asavari Sharma and Gaurav Madan
A new report, “Promise and Performance – Ten Years of the Forest Rights Act (FRA)”, released at a recent national convention in Delhi, has revealed that less than 5% of rights out of a total of over 200 million tribals and other traditional forest dwellers for about 34.6 million hectares (ha) in India has been so far recognized.
The report, released as part of the Community Forest Rights Learning and Advocacy (CFR-LA) process of the convention, highlights that empowering provisions of FRA for ensuring forest rights of women are being ignored by implementing agencies.
The report recommends creating a dedicated mechanism for effective implementation of FRA provisions to ensure ownership rights for women and equal participation in the decision making process for management of community forest resource (CFR) areas.
The convention was held to mark the the tenth anniversary of FRA on December 14 in order to focus on failure of state institutions to recognise the rights of tribal and other traditional forest dwellers – particularly women – and examine the ongoing challenges in the implementation of FRA.
Speaking on the report, KP Soma, head of the gender subgroup of CFR-LA, said, “Only 3% of the potential for rights recognition through FRA has so far been actually achieved. Unfortunately, there is no disaggregated data for women’s forest rights.”
Pointing out that “women have taken an active role in the FRA process”, Soma added, “We demand that women should have a rightful say on how resources for forest development, protection, and conservation are spent through gender budgeting.”
Present on the occasion, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, the Chairperson of the National Commission of Women (NCW), heard testimonies on the violation of forest rights of women across states.
“Without water, forests and land, we cannot survive. Women have been protecting forests for generations, and with FRA, we were hopeful that our rights would be recognised,” a community leader from Badkagaon in Jharkhand, Lakshmi, said. “But instead, today, when we try to assert our right to access our own forests, we are beaten up and arrested.”
Such stories of violence against women were echoed by other community members from across India. Testimonies from Uttarakhand revealed instances of violence by forest department officials, resulting in the hospitalisation of women and destruction of homes of villagers claiming titles under FRA.
Testimonies also highlighted threats to food security posed by commercial plantations on cultivation land through compensatory afforestation and other plantation programmes.
“Plantation of teak and eucalyptus by the forest department has reduced our area for cultivation. Previously we would grow 70-80 different types of millets. Now this variety has been reduced, causing a crisis in food security and nutrition,” said Basanti Majhi, a member of the Kutia Kondh community, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group.
Reacting to the testimonies, Kumaramangalam stressed on the need for joint titling and recognition of land and forest rights for women under FRA, while calling for systemic change in patriarchal attitudes prevailing in society.
“We should be empowering women as equal partners over forests and land to ensure not only their participation but also decision making,” she said, even as ensuring the meet that NCW would investigate any cases brought forward related to the violation of women’s rights, including violation of FRA.
The convention identified the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act, 2016 as a potential cause of violation of FRA. While FRA mandates Gram Sabha consent for the use of community forest land, the CAF Act returns to a more centralised governance framework, allowing the Central and state governments to control over Rs 42,000 crore crore, collected from industries to compensate for forest diversions.
“All funds for development, reforestation, or conservation purposes should be given to Gram Sabhas. The FRA was enacted to address historical injustices against tribal and forest dwelling communities. Communities must recognize their own rights and assert these rights,” said legal scholar Usha Ramanathan.

Comments

TRENDING

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Gujarat link of controversial US doctor who 'forced' WHO quiz Trump's wonder drug

By Rajiv Shah
A top American doctor, Sapan Sharankishor Desai, born and raised in the “affluent” North Shore (Chicago) region of Illinois by Indian parents, at one point of time involved in NGO activity through  dedicated to “improving” the lives of the impoverished in Gujarat, is in the eyes of a major international storm following his paper (retracted) in a “Lancet” questioning Donald Trump-promoted drug hydroxychloroquine.

Border conflict? RBI nod India's 'brotherly' help to China internationalise its currency

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
In the middle of a global pandemic, China started an unprovoked border conflict with India. It unraveled trust deficit and ties between the two neighbours. As thousands of Chinese troops tried occupying Indian territory, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government directs the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow the Bank of China to start regular banking services in India. The Bank of China will now operate in India like any other commercial banks.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Dalits in India, Blacks in US suffer 'similar' humiliation: Macwan drafts letter to Trump

Counterview Desk
Well-known human rights activist Martin Macwan, recipient of the prestigious Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2000, has drafted an open letter to US President Donald Trump following the disturbing turn of events with the murder of George Floyd, leading to widespread protests in the US. He has sought signatures of concerned citizens before sending it to Trump.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.