Home Essay/Articles ARTICLE: Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) ACT
ARTICLE: Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) ACT
Thursday, 16 February 2012 03:10

Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers

(Recognition of Forest Rights) ACT

 

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 seeks to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in 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. Section 3 of the Act specifies the forest rights of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers that are to be recognized and vested under the Act. One of the forest rights specified in the said Section relates to the right of ownership, access to collect, use, and dispose of minor forest produce which has been traditionally collected within or outside village boundaries.

The Act, 2006 was notified for operation with effect from December, 2007. As per the provisions of the Act and the Rules framed thereunder, the responsibility for implementation of the Act lies with the State/UT Governments. The details of the claims filed, titles distributed, claims rejected and disposed off under the Act since operationalisation of the Act and upto till 31st October, 2011.

As per the information collected from the State/UT Governments, till 31st October, 2011, more than 31.49 lakhhave been filed and more than 12.30 lakh titles have been distributed under the Act. More than 13 thousand titles were ready for distribution. Out of a total number of 28,08,494 claims disposed of under the Act till 31st October, 2011, 15,77,829 claims (56.18%) were rejected. The main causes of rejection of claims as revealed from the information received from the various States were (i) OTFDs not able to prove occupation for 75 years as on 13the December .2005, (ii) non-occupation of forest land as on 13.12.2005, (iii) claims being made on land other than forest land and (iv) multiple claims etc.

The claims for recognition of forest rights under the Act are adjudicated as per the procedure laid down in the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Rules, 2008 notified on 1st January, 2008 for implementing the provisions of the Act. Rejection of claims is an outcome of a quasi judicial process. The law also provides for petitions to Sub Divisional Level and District Level Committees. However, in order to address various issues relating to implementation of the Act including the problem of rejection of claims, the Ministry has also taken the following measures:

(i) The State Governments were instructed to categorize all rejections, with their numbers, on a statistically acceptable sampling basis, at the level of Gram Sabha and Sub-Divisional Level Committees, in different categories, to find out the categories/reasons for their rejections, and to meet the expenses for this survey out of the grants under Article 275(1) proviso, as communicated to the States.

(ii) The State Governments have been advised to provide the Gram Sabhas with the assistance of facilitators in order to overcome the difficulties experienced by the claimants in accessing the requisite evidence in support of their claims, and also to facilitate claims, especially those of PTGs.

(iii) The State Governments have also been advised that the natural justice demands that the period allowed for filing petition shall count from the date of communication of the orders. Like-wise, the rejection of a claim by the District Level Committee should also be communicated for seeking redressal.

(iv) A review meeting with the State Secretaries/ Commissioners of Tribal Welfare Development Departments was also held at New Delhi to ascertain the categories/causes of rejection of claims.