Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram welcomes the joint circular of handing over the right of Community Forest Resource Management to Gram Sabha.
Reso. No: 6 Rights of Forest Resources to Gram Sabha – a Joint Circular by Govt of India is a welcome step.
State Govts. should come forward for its implementation in a mission mode.
Shri Arjun Munda, honourable Minister of Tribal Affairs, as well as Sri Prakash Javdekar, the then Honorable Minister of Forest & Climate Change, have jointly issued a circular signed by Secretaries of both the Ministries regarding extending the rights of forest resources to Tribal communities. Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (ABVKA) welcomes this historical decision referring in the Circular D.O No. 23011/25/2021-FRA Dated: 6 th July 2021. Vanvasi Kayan Ashram and Janjati communities have been raising this demand for last so many years.
The main objective of this joint circular is to hand over the right of Community Forest Resource Management to Gram Sabha. This right has already been awarded to it by enacting Forest Right Act (FRA) in 2006 for its conservation, protection, development and consumption. It has been written in the preamble of the Act that starting from the colonial period to even decades after India gaining independence, the Janjati communities were deprived of getting recognition regarding their traditional rights over forest resources and their rights to access them for their lively hood. This Act is being enacted to undo the historical injustice committed on Janjati Communities and other forest dwellers who have been living there for three generations together.
Section 3.2 of this Act provides forest lands up to one Hectare each for Schools, Anganwadi, hospitals, Electricity, Roads, like 13 necessary facilities for which no permission is required to be taken from Central Govt. as mentioned in Forest Conservation Act 1980. There are 13 other rights also in Section 3.1 (‘a’ to ‘m’). The grazing of cattle in the adjacent forest of traditional village boundaries, collecting Minor Forest Produces, protection of biodiversity as well as the area of nomadic tribes, converting forest villages into revenue villages were also mentioned among these 13 rights.
These two rights (Section 3.1 and 3.2) are called community forest Rights. But certain special provisions have been given with amending the act in 2012 for 3.1(i) of the Act. Basing on it, Gram Sabha should get an Independent certificate of their right under Annexure-4 of the rules. This has been named Community Forest Resource Right.
The Act explains that the rights of regenerating the traditional resources, their protection, conservation and management should be given to Gram Sabha, which has been traditionally protecting and fostering them. It has been made clear in the Amended Act of 2012 that every tola, para, Basti, hamlet etc., can make a claim by passing a resolution in their traditional Gram Sabha.
The main point of this Act is, up till now forest department was doing the management. Now onwards, it will be done by Gram Sabha, and certain responsibilities are also handed over to it, such as protection of the forest
area, protection of wildlife, maintenance of its biodiversity etc.
With this historical Act, some changes in the role of the forest department are expected. To date, the Forest department has been doing the protection and management of the forest. Now the role of forest management is entrusted to Gram Sabha. Like, agriculture department providing all necessary assistance to farmers to increase the production even though the agricultural land is owned and managed by farmers, similarly, Gram Sabha will do all necessary things for protection and management of forest and forest Department will provide all technical and financial assistance to Gram Sabha. Forest Ministry should motivate the forest bureaucracy to come out of the colonial mindset and to behave like a responsible administrative unit of the independent nation.
Two major departments of the Central Government have shown their commitment and resolved to work together in the direction of implementing FRA in letter and spirit by issuing a joint circular on 6th July 2021. The Forest department has issued an order to the State Forest Department to work in tune with tribal departments. The joint venture of these departments has also assured that it will issue a joint circular, if necessary, in the future course also to remove the hurdles on the way of implementing FRA. Janjati ministry will work as a nodal agency to ensure the progress of implementation, and in states, the tribal department will monitor the progress, and this will continue further also.
Ministry of Tribal affairs has sent guidelines to Chief Secretaries of the states from time to time. But in many states, due to a lack of understanding and coordination between tribal departments and forest departments, the Janjati Communities are deprived of availing the benefit of their right over forest resources.
FRA is in force since 2007. But forest bureaucracy has been denying this right, citing various reasons and interpreting the act the way it suits them. Because of this attitude, so far, this act is not enforced in favour
of Janjati communities and other traditional forest dwellers. This conflict between both ministries is the main cause of its mere 10% implementation.
In view of all the above-mentioned points, KKM of Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram appeals
1. To ensure that the state forest Department and tribal department are working together for extending the community forest resource management right to Gram Sabha of every hamlet on the line of understanding emerged in the Central Ministry of Forest & Climate Change(MoF&CC) and Ministry of Tribal Affairs(MoTA).
2. To upload the quarterly report of the action plan of implementation and status of management right i.e. 3-1(i) on the website by every state in a time-bound manner.
3. To notify the area of “Community Forest Resource Right” in the forest map and subsequently into the Record of
Rights (RoR) at once, the Gram Sabha gets the Certificate of Community Forest Resource Right.
4. To provide technical and financial assistance, considering requirements and necessities of the Community Forest
Resource Management Committee (CFRMC), which is formed as per 4.1(e) of 2008 rules.
5. To make available the funds of MNREGA, Panchayat fund, Campa fund, Fund of Tribal Sub Plan to CFRMC
constituted by Gram Sabha to implement the action plan as desired by the Central Ministry of Tribal Affairs in its letter No.23011/16/2015-FRA dated 23/04/2015.
6. To form a District Level convergence committee and provide technical and financial assistance to Gram Sabha to
regenerate and conserve the forest as done by Odisha and Maharashtra.
7. To introduce Degree/Diploma courses regarding the management of Forest Resources as done by Mumbai University of Maharashtra. Other states can also introduce such courses in various universities.
8. To establish “Van Vigyan Kendra(VVK)” in tribal majority districts to support and enhance forest wealth similar
to that of “Krishi Vigyan Kendra(KVK)” set up in every district to support and promote agriculture.
9. To be careful while taking the benefit of the experience of Joint Forest management committees (JFMCs) as suggested in the Joint Circular. Means, for operating the Community Forest Resource Management Committees
(CFRMCs), these experiences can be useful, not that the JFMCs have a role to play. It is noteworthy that JFMCs
have been constituted through an administrative order, whereas CFMRCs are bodies constituted by the Act passed in the parliament.
Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram is appealing to entire Janjati Communities, Volunteer Organisations, elected representatives from Janjati Communities, social leaders and educated youths of Janjati Society that they should bring people together from Villages, tolas, Bastis, Hamlets, etc. which are dependent on Forest area for their livelihood. Give proper awareness to them and extend all support to make their claims over forest resources. Help them to fight for their genuine right through the due process under the provision of Community forest resources. And also make them aware of the need of reproducing the forest wealth as well as its promotion and thereby ensure that the forest is well protected. It would help to keep intact the forest environment as well as biodiversity and the livelihood of forest dwellers. It will further help to check the plight of forest dwellers as they would be much more resourceful and financially sound.