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Land Conflict Watch Links Land Conflicts to Forest Rights Act Enforcement


A recent report by Land Conflict Watch, a data research agency tracking land-related conflicts in India, has highlighted a notable correlation between land conflicts and the enforcement of the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The findings suggest that the implementation and interpretation of the FRA may be contributing to conflicts over land rights and ownership, particularly in forested and tribal areas.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Analysis on Land Conflict
  2. Status of Implementation of FRA (Forest Rights Act)
  3. About Forest Rights Act, 2006

Analysis on Land Conflict


  • The Land Conflict Watch (LCW) database documents 781 conflicts, with 264 conflicts closely associated with parliamentary constituencies where the Forest Rights Act (FRA) is a significant concern.
  • These constituencies are often termed ‘FRA constituencies’, as identified in the People’s Forest report by the Centre for Science and Environment.
  • 117 of these conflicts directly impact forest-dwelling communities, involving approximately 2.1 lakh hectares of land and affecting around 6.1 lakh people.
Reasons for the Conflicts
  • Conservation and Forestry Projects: Around 44% of the conflicts in these constituencies arise from conservation and forestry projects, including activities like plantations.
  • Non-implementation or Violation of FRA Provisions:
    • Roughly 88.1% of conflicts result from the non-implementation or violation of key provisions within the Forest Rights Act (FRA). These include:
      • Eviction of forest-dwelling communities before their rights claims are vested.
      • Diversion of forest land for other purposes without the prior consent of the Gram Sabha.
      • Lack of adequate legal safeguards for forest-dwelling communities’ land rights.
      • The Forest Department frequently acts as the primary adversarial party in conflicts affecting the forest land rights of local communities.
Most Affected States
  • Maharashtra, Odisha, and Madhya Pradesh have the highest number of core FRA constituencies.
  • Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir are the states with the most forest rights issues in critical FRA constituencies.
Details on Conflicts
  • Reserved Parliamentary Constituencies:
    • Out of the 781 conflicts in the LCW database, 187 cases have arisen from 69 reserved parliamentary constituencies.
    • Scheduled Tribes (STs): 110 conflicts occur in constituencies reserved for STs.
    • Scheduled Castes (SCs): 77 cases are from constituencies reserved for SCs.
  • Nature of Conflicts:
    • Most conflicts in reserved constituencies revolve around common land, encompassing both community forests and non-forested commons.
    • Conflicts often center on complaints against procedural irregularities in land transactions.
    • In contrast, unreserved constituencies experience a higher frequency of conflicts over private land, specifically revenue patta lands.
  • Common Economic Activities Involved in Conflicts:
    • Infrastructure Projects: Infrastructure development, particularly in the mining and power sector, and road and railway projects, is the primary cause of land conflicts in reserved constituencies.
    • Collection of Minor Forest Produce: Past issues related to the collection of minor forest produce have also led to conflicts.

Status of Implementation of FRA (Forest Rights Act)

  • Titles Accorded
    • As of February 2024, around 2.45 million titles have been granted to tribal and forest dwellers.
  • Claims Rejection
    • Out of the five million claims received, approximately 34% have been rejected.
  • Recognition Rate
    • Despite the significant potential, the actual recognition of forest rights has been limited. As of 31st August 2021, only 14.75% of the minimum potential forest areas eligible for forest rights have been recognized since the FRA came into force.
  • State-wise Implementation
    • Andhra Pradesh:
      • Recognized 23% of its minimum potential forest claim.
    • Jharkhand:
      • Recognized only 5% of its minimum potential forest area.
  • Intra-State Variations
    • Even within states, recognition rates vary:
      • Odisha:
        • Nabarangapur district achieved a 100% Individual Forest Rights (IFR) recognition rate.
        • Sambalpur district has a recognition rate of 41.34%.

About Forest Rights Act, 2006

  • Schedule Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers Act or Recognition of Forest Rights Act came into force in 2006.
  • The Nodal Ministry for the Act is Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
  • It has been enacted to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation of forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, who have been residing in such forests for generations, but whose rights could not be recorded.
  • This Act not only recognizes the rights to hold and live in the forest land under the individual or common occupation for habitation or for self-cultivation for livelihood, but also grants several other rights to ensure their control over forest resources.
  • The Act also provides for diversion of forest land for public utility facilities managed by the Government, such as schools, dispensaries, fair price shops, electricity and telecommunication lines, water tanks, etc. with the recommendation of Gram Sabhas.
  • Rights under the Forest Right Act 2006:
    • Title Rights- ownership of land being framed by Gram Sabha.
    • Forest management rights– to protect forests and wildlife.
    • Use rights- for minor forest produce, grazing, etc.
    • Rehabilitation– in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement.
    • Development Rights– to have basic amenities such as health, education, etc.
Importance of Forest Rights Act, 2006:
  • It broadens the scope of the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution, which safeguard  the claims of indigenous communities over tracts of land or forests they inhabit.
  • One of the causes of the Naxal movement, which had an impact on states like Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Jharkhand, was the alienation of tribes.
  • By recognising community rights to forest resources, it has the potential to democratise forest governance.
  • The act will guarantee that people have the opportunity to manage their forests independently, which will limit official exploitation of forest resources, enhance forest governance, and improve management of tribal rights.
  • Governments find it expedient to undermine FRA or give up on it altogether in favour of monetary gains because tribals do not constitute a significant vote bank in the majority of states.
  • Unawareness at the Lower level of forest officials who are supposed to help process forest rights claims is high and majority of the aggrieved population too remains in the dark regarding their rights.
  • The FRA was intended as a welfare programme for tribal members, but the forest bureaucracy misinterpreted it as a tool to legalise expansion.
  • Some environmentalist groups express worry that the FRA favours individual rights more than community rights, leaving less room for the latter.
    • Community Rights effectively gives the local people the control over forest resources which remains a significant portion of forest revenue making states wary of vesting forest rights to Gram Sabha.
  • The forest bureaucracy worries that it will lose the significant influence it already has over land and people, while corporations worry that they would lose their easy access to priceless natural resources.
  • Gram Sabha, which occasionally lacks technical know-how and is educationally incompetent, creates rough maps of community and individual claims.

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024