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Forest Rights Act, 2006

Context: The implementation of provisions under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 has not been satisfactory, even after 16 years of its existence.

What are Forest Rights?

  • Forest rights refer to the rights of traditional forest dwellers to forest resources, on which these communities were dependent for a variety of needs, including livelihood, habitation and other socio-cultural needs.

Key Provisions of Forest Rights Act, 2006

Different Rights Under the Act

  • Title rights: The law gives right to ownership (maximum of 4 hectares) to land farmed by tribals or forest dwellers. It refers to only existing lands and no new land will be covered.
  • Produce rights: Forest dwellers will have the rights over Minor Forest Produce, grazing areas, fishing etc.
  • Rehabilitation rights: It provides in situ rehabilitation of displaced persons, evicted without compensation, prior to 13th December 2005.
  • Forest managing rights: Forest dwellers have been given right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource they have been traditionally doing.
  • Development rights: Forest villages and habitation located on forestlands will be converted into revenue villages.
    • Leases granted by zamindars, kings or previous government will be converted into permanent land records.

What kinds of Rights are covered?

  • Rights of Self-cultivation and Habitation (individual)
  • Grazing, Fishing and access to Water bodies in forests (community)
  • Habitat Rights for PVTGs
  • Access to biodiversity
  • Traditional Seasonal Resource access of Nomadic and Pastoral community
  • Community right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge
  • Recognition of traditional customary rights
  • Right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource for sustainable use
  • Right to allocation of forest land for developmental purposes in order to fulfill the basic infrastructural needs of the community (Ex: schools and hospitals).

Eligibility Criteria

  • To qualify as a Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribe (FDST) and be eligible for recognition of rights under FRA requires that the member of the community:
    • Must be a Scheduled Tribe in the area where the right is claimed; and
    • Must primarily reside in forest or forests land prior to 13-12-2005; and
    • Must be dependent on the forest or forests land for bonafide livelihood needs.
  • To qualify as Other Traditional Forest Dweller (OTFD) under FRA, The individual must:
    • Have resided in forest or forests land for three generations (75 years) prior to 13-12-2005.
    • Depend on the forest or forests land for bonafide livelihood needs.

Authority to Determine Extent

  • The Gram Sabha has been given the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of Individual Forest Rights (IFR) or Community Forest Rights (CFR).

Process of Providing Rights

  • The gram Sabha (village assembly) will initially pass a resolution recommending whose rights to which resources.
  • This resolution will then be screened and approved at the level of the sub-division (or taluka) and subsequently at the district level.


  • The act lays down a procedure by which people can be resettled from areas if it is found to be necessary for wildlife conservation.
    • First step: Showing that relocation is scientifically necessary and no other alternative is available; this is carried out through a process of public consultation.
    • Second step: The local community must consent to the resettlement.
    • Final step: The resettlement must not only provide compensation but also means of livelihood.

Significance of Forest Rights

  • Prevent alienation of communities: Communities that were displaced from their traditional lands can claim their rights over forest lands under the act. It prevents them from sympathizing with the Naxal movement.
  • Development in tribal belts: FRA allows conversion of forest lands for the development of communities by building schools, hospitals etc. This helps in community development.
  • Protection of forests: Sustainable use of forest resource will promote community protection of these lands. This symbiotic relationship will help forests and wildlife to thrive.
  • Upliftment of marginalized communities: FRA allows access to minor forest produce that can be a potential source of livelihood for forest dwellers. Economic development can help in their upliftment.
  • Prevent exploitation: Prior to the act, forest dwellers were exploited by forest officials in the name of rules and regulations. FRA gives forest dwellers the legal rights to access forest resource without getting exploited.
  • Cultural protection: Absence of livelihoods had forced forest dwelling tribes to migrate in search of economic opportunities, leading to diminishing of cultural values. Local economic opportunity can help preserve their traditional culture.
Significance of Forest Rights
Significance of Forest Rights

Challenges in Implementation of FRA

  • Estimation of eligible beneficiaries: There are no clear records to determine the number of forest dwelling communities likely to benefit from the act.
    • Without such estimation, there could be significant risk to existing forest cover.
  • Exclusion of certain groups: Communities living outside forest, but dependent on forest for their livelihoods are excluded from the provisions of the act.
  • Forest and wildlife destruction: The legal right given for forest dwellers will make it impossible to create areas free of human presence. This will be detrimental for wildlife conservation.
  • Apathy at the implementation level: Officials involved in implementing the law are being accused of showing apathy towards concerns of the forest dwellers.
  • Lack of resources: Department of Tribal Affairs, which is the nodal agency for implementation of FRA, lacks adequate human and financial resources for implementing the act.

Way Forward

  • Involving state governments: The centre needs to involve the State governments while implementing the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
    • Without cooperation of all the stakeholders, the act in its right spirit will not come into existence.
  • Sensitiveness to concerns of forest dwellers: The implementing authorities must be sensitive to the concern of forest dwellers, addressing them and ensuring that a consensus is obtained.
  • Regular audits: Regular audits have to be conducted to capture the impact of the laws and what can be done to improve the efficacy.

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