Skip to main content

Rampant? Illegal distribution of land titles of India's forest areas to 'ineligible' claimants

Counterview Desk
In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 63 former Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers, referring to the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 -- or Forest Rights Act (FRA) -- have regretted that Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDST) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) are facing gross injustice because of the misuse of FRA across India. 
"The authorities under FRA have exploited ambiguity and guidelines issued by Ministry of Tribal Affairs", with gram sabha meetings being conducted "repeatedly mainly to give patta/titles to ineligible claimants and regularize encroachments", they said.
The representation underlines, the tribals and other forest dwellers  are also facing huge loss of forests "due to Individual and  Community Forest Rights being because of gross violation of Forest Conservation Act 1980 in various states."


 We are a group of ex-IFS officers watching with extreme concern the illegal distribution of titles of forest rights over forest lands and causing irreversible damage to the forest land including wildlife and forest resources. This is done in the garb of Forest Rights Act 2006 and in utter violation of Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 (FCA), Indian Forest Act 1927 and Wildlife Act 1972. 
 Parliament legislated the historic Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA) to recognize and vest forest rights on forest lands only in the specifically defined Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDST) & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) and their communities. 
 For recognizing forest rights and grant of title of forest rights on forest lands, the claimant must establish possession of forest land as on the cutoff date of 13.12.2005 and also on 1-1-2008 as stipulated under FRA 2006. To establish these as well as eligibility, elaborate list of evidences is given in Rule 13(1) of FRA Rules 2008 which ranges from satellite imageries based scientific and impartial evidence to even oral evidence of village elders reduced in writing. 
 States started the implementation of FRA from 2008 in right earnest but simultaneously fresh encroachment of forest lands by unscrupulous elements got accelerated since the encroachers found a great option in the section 4(5) of FRA which mentions that the claimants cannot be evicted or removed from forest land till the process of forest rights recognition is complete. People encroached overnight and immediately submitted a claim under FRA to the Gram Sabha making the forest department simply helpless in the matter.  
 Apparently for political dividends, some politicians promised to regularize such encroachments especially before elections to local bodies and state assembly. Just to quote one example, enclosed is a letter written by a former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Force, Telangana, to the State Government on how Ministers, MPs, MLAs and different political parties were publicly promising grant of pattas/titles to post 2005 encroachments too in violation of FRA resulting in encouragement to encroachments and attacks on forest officials. 
Management rights are being granted to ineligible communities in all kinds of forest lands and even inside Tiger Reserve areas
In recent years, the authorities under FRA have exploited ambiguity and guidelines issued by Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Gram sabha meetings are conducted repeatedly mainly to give patta/titles to ineligible claimants and regularize encroachments made after 13.12.2005. Surprisingly after 16 years of the Act, in some states ineligible claims extending over lakhs of acres of forest lands are being admitted in violation of FRA and FCA 1980, and primarily on the strength of evidence of village elders while discarding satellite imageries and other public documents listed under Rule 13(1). This is causing gross injustice to the eligible tribals and forest dwellers and is damaging their future for all times to come since huge number of ineligible but powerful people will continue using the resources meant for the genuine beneficiaries under the Act. 
As regards community rights, ineligible communities (with people other than FDSTs and OTFDs) have been granted rights without specifying ‘extent’ along with ‘nature’ of the community rights. The uncontrolled extraction under such grants is jeopardizing the sustainability of forest resources as the practice is akin to killing of golden egg-laying goose for quick money. State of Forest Report 2021 by Forest Survey of India has reported that there is a loss of 10,594 sq. km bamboo bearing area in the country between 2019 and 2021. Additionally, in clear violation of sections 3(1)(i) and 4(3) of the Act, management rights are being granted to ineligible communities in all kinds of forest lands and even inside Tiger Reserve areas; some glaring examples being in Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Sir, the illegal recognitions are nothing, but a quietly sponsored encroachment backed by powerful people into the rights of genuine Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers and their communities. In the process, the forests which are not only a source of their livelihoods but also provide life sustaining eco-services to one and all, are getting wiped out.
 We request you to kindly take immediate cognizance of this extremely serious matter and kindly issue appropriate instructions to all concerned to ensure that FRA is implemented strictly, illegally granted rights are cancelled, and forest rights are vested only in the FDSTs & OTFDs and their communities and not in encroachers.  
Click here for signatories



What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Muted profit margins, moderate increase in costs and sales: IIM-A survey of 1000 cos

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) has said that the cost perceptions data obtained from India’s business executives suggests that there is “mild increase in cost pressures”.

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

Govt putting India's professionals, skilled, unskilled labour 'at mercy of' big business

By Thomas Franco, Dinesh Abrol*  As it is impossible to refute the report of the International Labour Organisation, Chief Economic Advisor Anantha Nageswaran recently said that the government cannot solve all social, economic problems like unemployment and social security. He blamed the youth for not acquiring enough skills to get employment. Then can’t the people ask, ‘Why do we have a government? Is it not the government’s responsibility to provide adequate employment to its citizens?’

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

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. 

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site The article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.