Welcome and introduction from Geetanjoy Sahu, Assistant Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai
It is my pleasure to welcome you to this timely and important webinar on Forest Rights and Governance in India, which is co-organized by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and Landesa India with support from the NRMC Center for Land Governance and the Land Portal Foundation. Thank you for joining us today. My name is Geetanjoy Sahu. I am an Assistant Professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. It is my honor to moderate this forum.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act of 2006, which is popularly known as the Forest Rights Act (FRA), has been widely recognised as one of the landmark legislations in the post-independent India. The Forest Rights Act recognises historical injustice meted out to scheduled tribe and other traditional forest dwellers and sought to restore the rights of forest dwelling communities over land and the governance & management of forests through decentralisation of power to Gram Sabha.
The Forest Rights Act has the potential to restore rights of forest dwellers on 40 million hectares of forest land in 170,000 villages. This covers one quarter of the villages in India. At least 150 million people, including 90 million tribal people stand to benefit from recognition of forest rights under the Forest Rights Act. Similarly, the Forest Rights Act has the potential to democratise forest governance by recognising rights of local communities.
While the Forest Rights Act came into force on January 1st, 2008, its implementation over the past decade has not been effective. Only 17 percent of the total potential forest area has been recognised under forest rights, and there has been a great deal of variation in implementation among states.
Nonetheless, the Forest Rights Act has great potential to bring about changes in forest governance by transferring Community Forest Resource rights and management authority to forest-dwelling communities. Over the past few years, thousands of villages, especially in Maharashtra and Odisha, have received such rights and many of them have begun to exercise how many villages in odisha and maharashtra—harvesting and selling bamboo and tendu patta, increasing forest protection and reducing destructive practices, managing fire, regenerating degraded patches and even identifying patches for strict conservation.
The challenges that they face is how to enable simultaneous pursuit of livelihood enhancement, equitable distribution, ecologically sustainable management and democratic processes in community forest rights management and governance.
The objective of this interactive and dynamic webinar is to discuss why has there been variation in the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, to identify institutional bottlenecks to upscaling its implementation, as well as lessons learned from existing best practices.
Allow me to introduce our esteemed panelists:
- Tushar Dash, Independent Researcher and Forest Rights Expert, Odisha
- Dr. Soma K P, Policy Analyst and Expert on Gender and Development
- Pinaki Halder, State Director, Landesa, West Bengal and Odisha
We have asked panelists to address implementation of the Forest Rights Act, its inclusion of traditional forest dwellers - men and women, innovations that have proven successful, and questions of governance and its impact on the forest rights discourse and policies.
We encourage participants to ask questions. Please use the questions feature to pose questions to the panelists. We will ensure that your questions are addressed in turn during the open discussion that follows.
Let us first begin with the implementation of the Forest Rights Act. Pinaki, we want to get to the bottom of why the Forest Rights Act has not been effectively implemented over the last ten years. Can you share your perspective on this?