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

'Enough evidence': Covid vaccines impacted women's reproductive health

By Deepika*  In 2024, the news outlets have suddenly started reporting about covid vaccine side effects in a very extensive manner. Sadly, the damage is already done.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Dadi, poti discuss 'injustice' under 10 yr Modi rule: Video campaign goes viral

By Our Representative  Watan Ki Raah Mein, a civil society campaign of the Samvidhan Bachao Nagrik Abhiyan, has released a short video conversation on social media of an exchange of letters between a dadi and her poti discussing poverty, unemployment, corruption and women’s safety. The letters also raise the question of  suppression of our fundamental rights of speech, expression and justice. 

US 'frustrated' with India’s discomfort: Maritime exercise in South China Sea

By Vijay Prashad*  In early April 2024, the navies of four countries -- Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States -- held a maritime exercise in the South China Sea. Australia’s Warramunga, Japan’s Akebono, the Philippines’ Antonio Luna, and the United States’ Mobile worked together in these waters to strengthen their joint abilities and -- as they said in a joint statement  -- to “uphold the right to freedom of navigation and overflight and respect for maritime rights under international law.” 

'Uncertainty in Iran': Raisi brokered crucial Chabahar Port deal with India

By Pranjal Pandey*  Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian President, and the country’s foreign minister were tragically found deceased on May 20, 2024, shortly after their helicopter crashed in foggy conditions. In response, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly appointed a relatively unknown vice president as the interim leader.

Informal, outdoor workers 'excluded': Govt of India's excessive heat policies

Counterview Desk  Top civil rights network, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), has demanded urgent government action to protect millions of outdoor workers from extreme heat and heatwaves, insisting declaration of heatwaves as climatic disaster.

Desist from academic censorship, stop threatening scholars: Letter to ICMR

Counterview Desk  In a letter to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) director, the Universal Health Organisation (UHO) which consists of prominent health experts, has insisted that the Government of India’s top medical research agency should lead high quality research on vaccine safety and “desist from academic censorship”.

WHO move can 'enable' India to detain citizens, restrict freedom, control media

Counterview Desk  In an an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with copies to concerned Cabinet ministers, bureaucrats and MPs,  health rights network  People’s Alliance for Public Health (PAPH alias JanSwasthya Morcha), has urged that India should not be a signatory to the World Health Organization ( WHO) Pandemic Agreement and Amendments to the  International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005  to be adopted at the 77th World Health Assembly in Geneva from 27th May to 1st June, 2024.

Vaccine nationalism? Covaxin isn't safe either, perhaps it's worse: Experts

By Rajiv Shah  I was a little awestruck: The news had already spread that Astrazeneca – whose Indian variant Covishield was delivered to nearly 80% of Indian vaccine recipients during the Covid-19 era – has been withdrawn by the manufacturers following the admission by its UK pharma giant that its Covid-19 vector-based vaccine in “rare” instances cause TTS, or “thrombocytopenia thrombosis syndrome”, which lead to the blood to clump and form clots. The vaccine reportedly led to at least 81 deaths in the UK.