Forest Rights Act Current Affairs - 2019
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The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has finalised the first draft of the comprehensive amendments to the Indian Forest Act, 1927. The amendments provide definitions to important terms that were missing from the law.
Features of the Amendments
- The draft amendment defines community as “a group of persons specified on the basis of government records living in a specific locality and in joint possession and enjoyment of common property resources, without regard to race, religion, caste, language and culture”.
- Under the proposed amendment Forest is defined to include “any government or private or institutional land recorded or notified as forest/forest land in any government record and the lands managed by government/community as forest and mangroves, and also any land which the central or state government may by notification declare to be forest for the purpose of this Act.”
- The amendments shift the focus of the Indian Forest Act from laws related to transport of forest produce and the tax on it to conservation, enrichment and sustainable management of forest resources and matters connected therewith to safeguard ecological stability to ensure provision of ecosystem services in perpetuity and to address the concerns related to climate change and international commitments.
- The amendment provides that if the state government, after consultation with the central government, feels that the rights under Forest Rights Act will hamper conservation efforts, then the state may commute such rights by providing compensation to maintain the social organisation of the forest-dwelling communities or alternatively set out some other forest tract of sufficient extent, and in a locality reasonably convenient, for the purpose of such forest dwellers.
- The amendment introduces a new category of forests namely production forests which will be forests with specific objectives for production of timber, pulp, pulpwood, firewood, non-timber forest produce, medicinal plants or any forest species to increase production in the country for a specified period.
The amendments have been proposed based on the inputs of a core committee Inspector General of Forests (Forest Policy) Noyal Thomas.
Mankidia tribe in Odisha as denied habitat rights inside core area of Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) in Odisha under historic Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. State Forest Department had objected their habitat rights on grounds that tribals could be attacked by wild animals, especially tigers.
Mankidia is one of the 13 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) and is a marginalised group that critically depends on making rope with siali fibre that’s richly available in Similipal.
‘Habitat’ under Section 2(h) of the FRA (Forest Rights Act) is defined as area comprising customary habitat and such other habitats in reserved forests and protected forests of primitive tribal groups and pre-agricultural communities and other forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes.
Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)
PVTGs are more vulnerable among the tribal groups. In 1975, Central Government had initiated initiative to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate category called PVTGs and declared 52 such groups. In 1993, additional 23 groups were added to category, making it total of 75 PVTGs out of 705 Scheduled Tribes, spread over 17 states and 1 UT in the country (2011 census). Among 75 listed PVTG’s the highest number are found in Odisha (13), followed by Andhra Pradesh (12).
They are identified by Union Government according to procedure in which state governments or UT governments submit proposals to Union Ministry of Tribal Welfare for identification of PVTGs. After ensuring the criteria is fulfilled, the Tribal Ministry Ministry selects those groups as PVTGs.
Simlipal National park
Simlipal National Park is national park and a tiger reserve in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha. It is part of Similipal-Kuldiha-Hadgarh Elephant Reserve popularly known as Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve. Simlipal National Park derives its name from the abundance of semul (red silk cotton trees) that bloom here. It was the second largest national park in India. Its reserve is part of UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2009.
The park has protected area of 845.70 square kilometres and has some beautiful waterfalls like Joranda and Barehipani. It is home to 99 royal Bengal tigers and 432 wild elephants. Besides it is famous for gaurs (Indian bison), chausingha as well as an orchidarium.