Friday, February 19, 2016

Forest Rights Act, 2006

Recently, forest rights of tribals over their traditional lands in Ghatbarra village of Surguja district were taken away by the Chhattisgarh government to facilitate coal mining there. Do you support this policy? In the light of provisions of Forest Rights Act, critically comment. 

Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA) was a landmark legislation since it recognized individual and community rights of forest-dwellers over forest lands.
The acquisition of traditional lands by Chattisgarh government is unjustified due to– 
1. No provisions for revocation of title rights once they have been granted under FRA
2. Land diversion for developmental activities can be only implemented after the Gram Sabha’s permission
3. Is against SC orders cancelling earlier allocations
4. No plans for resettlement of displaced tribals due to land diversion were provided which is mandatory under FRA
This policy further needs to be seen in the light of Land Acquisition Act 2013 which provides for land-titles to forest-dwellers for the first time and hence may be against Art 300A provisions. Also, coal-mining in India is often of the open-cast type which causes deforestation and ecological loss.
In such a scenario, measures which can be taken to resolve future issues are – 
1. Amending Coal-Bearing Areas Act, 1957 to return land back to tribals after exhaustion as per Xaxa Committee recommendations
2. States in 5th Schedule Areas should enact comprehensive laws regarding mining , excise etc. alongwith PESA provision as per 2nd ARC recommendations
3. Adopt the Andhra Pradesh model in which only tribal-cooperative are allowed mining activities
4. Adopt less-polluting mining methods like tunnelling, block caving etc.
Hence, a balanced approach between development and forest-dweller welfare needs to be ensured. Mineral exploitation can be allowed but it should be within the auspices of FRA else the act would lose its meaning.

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