In December 2006, Government of India passed a well demanded bill of “Forest Rights Act” to safeguard the rights of forest dwellers i.e. scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers. This law is also known as “ Tribal Rights Act” or simply “Tribal Bill”.
The law gives the rights of land and other resources, denied to them over decades due to traditional colonial forest laws in India. This law came into effect from December 2007. For this law to come into effect various massive demonstrations took place all over India.
Various rights that were envisaged in the laws are:
Ø Right to live in the forest.
Ø Right to use and dispose of minor forest produce.
Ø Right to protect, regenerate forest resource.
Ø Rights of settlement and conversion of all forest villages whether recorded or not into revenue villages.
All in all, title rights, use rights, relief and development rights and forest management rights were given to the forest developers.
The question is why this law is in news today and why we are focusing on the rights of this law. This is because, recently Supreme Court of India rejected the claims of nearly 1.12 million households from 17 states under the Forest Rights Act 2006.This is a huge setback for the forest dwellers. Moreover, Supreme court also directed the states to evict all of them before 27 July.
It is said that the forest inhabited by the tribals and adivasis are the ones that are best conserved contrary to the inhabitation of other people. Tribals are best people who knows the well being of the forest they live in.
Supreme Court took no notice of various other work that are continuously going on illegally and that are degrading our environment seriously. Illegal mining activities, trafficking etc. are going on everywhere but they are not facing any serious hindrance and they continue to do what they are suppose to do.
Where will these tribal people go after this and the bigger question is that who are going to take care of forests and the wildlife.
The situation is even worse that Government has already proposed to amend the Indian Forest Act ,1927 that will give complete authority to the forest officials. We all are aware of the situations where only few persons enjoy the complete rights.
We do not know what is going to come in the near future but when it comes then that will be too late then and it is our children or grandchildren who have to pay the price.
Mahatma Gandhi’s words: “ A time is coming when those, who are in the mad rush today of multiplying their wants, vainly thinking that they add to the real substance, real knowledge of the world, will retrace their steps and say: ‘ what have we done? ‘ “