[Answered] Suggest the changes in the Forest Rights Act (FRA) that can help achieve the objectives of ensuring the rights of forest dwellers and fulfilling conservation efforts.

Introduction: Contextual introduction.

Body: Explain some changes in the Forest Rights Act (FRA) that can help achieve the objectives of ensuring the rights of forest dwellers and fulfilling conservation efforts.

Conclusion: Write a way forward.

The Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 recognizes the rights of the forest dwelling tribal communities and other 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.

Changes in the Forest Rights Act (FRA):

  • Systemic issues: There is lack of coordination between the tribal, revenue and forest department on implementation of the Act.
  • Functional barriers: A large number of claims are being rejected; pending or limited rights are recognised. So in case of rejection, reasons have to be communicated and chances of appeal to be given to claimants.
  • Lack of recognition of Community Forest Resource rights. There is a huge resistance from the forest department to recognize CFR Rights and sharing of power with Gram Sabha for conservation and management of forest resources. The governments should involve forest dwellers in decision making.
  • There are multiple laws that are in conflict with FRA. To operationalise FRA on the ground, changes in rules and other laws are important such as in case of ownership of minor forest produce. It requires change in number of state laws, excise laws, Panchayat laws etc.
  • The conservation of biodiversity requires special attention. Yet, forest dwellers willing to live in the forest must be allowed to stay. Many of them comply with the norms of the eco-sensitive zone because they do not depend on modern development needs such as the use of fertilizers and mobile phones.
  • Those wanting to experience the fruits of development must be relocated according to their choice of a new place and a suitable package. This can be possible only when the areas declared as ‘protected’ are arrived at after consultations with the local population.
  • It is important that the governments at Central and State levels are strengthenedwith human and financial resources to help implement FRA on a mission mode.
  • Besides leveraging modern technology to map and monitor the implementation of FRA, the forest bureaucracy must also be reformed to serve as service providers to gram sabhas.

In the absence of proper survey, settlement and land record, their customary rights over forest land have always been under threat. Centre should cooperate with State governments to implement the Forest Rights Act, 2006 in its right spirit.

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