Concerned that the Forests Rights Act was yet to bring benefits to the majority of the forest dwellers in the country,the Centre has told the state governments to expedite the implementation of the landmark 2006 legislation that seeks to transfer the ownership rights of forest lands to the people who have been living on them.
In a letter to the states,Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo has said the slow and tardy implementation of the Act went against our professed adherence to law.
In particular,rejection rates for claims for rights are still very high,and rejected claimants are not informed about the reasons for rejection or given an opportunity to appeal against the rejection. Where land rights are recognised,the area for which the title is issued is only a fraction of the area that people are actually entitled to, the letter says.
The Act,which was passed by Parliament in 2006 and came into effect in 2008,recognises both individual and community ownership of forest dwelling families on forest lands. Community ownership involve rights to areas such farm or grazing land,water bodies,and over minor forest produce. Forest lands have so far been owned by the government.
There have been very few cases,where the crucial right of forest dwelling communities to protect and manage their forests has been recognised or respected…. As a result,large numbers of forest dwellers are facing eviction or harassment by forest authorities. Large numbers of them have also been illegally displaced from forest land without respect for their rights or due process of law, Deo has written in his letter.
He has noted the areas of concern and suggested steps that need to be taken to correct this. He has asked the state governments to launch fresh awareness campaigns in all the forest areas,and the constitution of gram sabhas in every village.