In the colonial era, the British diverted abundant forest wealth of the nation to meet their economic needs.
- While procedure for settlement of rights was provided under statutes such as the Indian Forest Act, 1927, these were hardly followed.
- As a result, tribal and forest-dwelling communities, who had been living within the forests in harmony with the environment and the ecosystem, continued to live inside the forests in tenurial insecurity, a situation which continued even after independence as they were marginalized.
- The symbiotic relationship between forests and forest-dwelling communities found recognition in the National Forest Policy, 1988.
- The policy called for the need to associate tribal people in the protection, regeneration and development of forests.
- The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, was enacted to protect the marginalized socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to environment with their right to life and livelihood.
SUPREME COURT ORDER 2019
On February 13, the Supreme Court ordered the eviction of lakhs belonging to the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) categories across 16 States, whose claim as forest-dwellers has been rejected under the Forest Rights Act.
On February 28, the court stayed its order, though it said “the mighty and the undeserving” who have encroached on forest land would be shown no mercy.
It has decided to examine whether due process was followed by the gram Sabha and the States under the Forest Rights Act before the claims were rejected.
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