Skip to main content

Forest Rights Act, PESA-empowered Adivasis 'effectively' braved Covid lockdown: Report

By Our Representative 
A new civil society report on the impact of Covid-19 lockdown on Adivasi and forest dwelling communities has said while it true that “vulnerabilities, atrocities and injustices that forest communities” due to forest, conservation and economic policies have increased during the pandemic”, yet examples galore suggesting that these communities have “coped with the crisis with remarkable resilience”.
Especially citing areas where land and forest rights of Adivasi and forest dwellers have been recognised and gram sabhas have been empowered under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA) and Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act 1996 (PESA), the report states that legally empowered forest communities have successfully coped with the “pandemic and widespread distress.”
Released on October 2, the report, “Community Forest Rights and the Pandemic: Gram Sabhas Lead The Way”, the Gandhi Jayanti day, cites case studies to illustrate how “the recognition of forest rights to use and manage community forests under the FRA has made it possible for many Adivasi and forest dwelling communities to overcome the distress and swing into action to address the situation created by the Covid pandemic and the lock down.”
Prepared by a team of independent researchers as part of Community Forest Rights (CFR) Learning and Advocacy and Vikalp Sangam initiative, the report says, local communities and gram sabhas “better understand the local complexities than local administrations while dealing with a crisis situation as presented by Covid-19, and respond faster especially when empowered by FRA.”
Thus, the report says, the gram sabhas in Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh, initiated “a holistic Covid-19 governance plan, while local administrations followed later on.” It narrates, in this context, how secure tenure and empowered gram sabhas “can help reduce distress out migration.”
The report quotes Pratibha Shinde, member of Lok Samanvay Pratisthan, an NGO which works in Nandurbar district in Maharashtra, as stating that “until 2016, a lot of people used to migrate out of Nandurbar district for work. Workers would go for six months as labourers to work in agricultural fields, however ever since getting CFR recognition, that has stopped.”
Shinde adds, “During the Covid-19 lockdown, the villagers had livelihood: in collection of forest produce, tree plantation through Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and building ponds and water harvesting for irrigation and other purposes through the CFR management committees.”
Pointing out that the lockdown coincided with a major season for minor forest produce (MFP) collection, the report says, case studies show that ownership rights over forest produce ensured “better and timely livelihood opportunities during the lockdown.”
Thus, in Gondia, Maharashtra, close to 50 gram sabhas are organised as a federation, who guaranteed competitive prices and bonus for the communities for their MFP collection even during a crisis. The federation of 29 villages earned Rs 2.5 crore by selling tendu leaves, while managing everything themselves and taking precautions against the spread of Covid-19.
During Covid-19 lockdown, Adivasis had livelihood: collection of forest produce, tree plantation through MGNREGA, building ponds, water harvesting
Then, in Chamarajnagar, Karnataka, Soliga Adivasi communities survived the lockdown due to their collections of honey and tubers, on which as they have the right to market.
The report further says, local knowledge and long term conservation efforts led by local people has created healthy and diverse ecosystems which makes communities more resilient. Thus, in Nayagarh, Odisha, Adivasi Kondh communities were consuming diverse forest foods during the lockdown as they have been regenerating their natural forests for over four decades now.
In Dhule, Maharashtra, communities had saved up food grains and vegetables, as they have been practising self-sufficient agriculture as a way of long term cluster development for many years now since their CMF were legally recognised.
In Kutch, Gujarat, local knowledge of water systems, grasses and soils allowed Maldhari pastoralists and the hundred thousand cattle species to survive and thrive during the lockdown which coincided with a dry period.
Pointing towards what happens when local institutions, such as the gram sabha, are empowered, and women play a key role in managing the crisis, and other vulnerable communities such as returning migrant workers, pastoralists and Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) are attended to, the report says, “In Dindori, Madhya Pradesh, women organised a system of food distribution and water collection that made sure that physical distance was maintained in the Baiga PVTG villages.”
In Narmada district, Gujarat, gram sabhas ensured that Govaliya nomadic communities received foods. The report quotes Trupti Mehta of ARCH-Vahini as saying, “Till now, communities had chartered their ways through difficult terrain, but nobody had ever imagined that communities would have to face the situation that was totally beyond their imagination, and control Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.”
“Yet”, Mehta asserts, “This was the first time when the gram sabhas were actively involved and were entrusted in the management and protection of the forest resources”, though adding, “The main challenge remains that they carry out their processes in a democratic and transparent way and continue the forest management and protection work.”

Comments

TRENDING

'These people shouldn't be in jail': UN official seeks release of 16 human rights defenders

By Our Representative A United Nations human rights official has called upon the Government of India (GoI) to “immediately release" 16 human rights defenders who have been imprisoned on charges of terrorism in the Bhima-Koregaon Case, insisting, “These people should not be in jail. They are our modern-day heroes and we should all be looking to them and supporting them and demanding their release.”  

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

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.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

Fr Stan's arrest figures in UK Parliament: Govt says, Indian authorities were 'alerted'

London protest for release of Stan Swamy  By Rajiv Shah Will Father Stan Swamy’s arrest, especially the fact that he is a Christian and a priest, turn out to be major international embarrassment for the Government of India? It may well happen, if a recent debate on a resolution titled “India: Persecution of Minority Groups” in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament is any indication. While Jesuits have protested Fr Stan's arrest in UK and US, the resolution, adopted in the Parliament, said, “This House has considered the matter of persecution of Muslims, Christians and minority groups in India”.

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).