Tanya Yadav


The report also suggests that the elections which happened earlier this year have shown similar voting patterns. It says that in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had to face defeat due to poor implementation of Forest Rights Act.

In Chhattisgarh BJP had won 49 seats out of 90 in the 2013 assembly elections. However, in the 2018 assembly elections it was able to score only 15 which means a loss of 34 seats. In Madhya Pradesh it suffered a loss of 56 seats. While BJP failed to ensure effective implementation of FRA, Congress party had included the same in their manifestos which helped them in the elections. It is to note that in the year 2001 only, the population of Madhya Pradesh’s schedule tribe was 12,233,474.

It is to note that the Congress party had promised in its manifesto of Chhattisgarh that it will implement FRA. It won 68% more seats than 2013 elections of the total reserved seats for SC and ST. On the other hand BJP suffered a loss of 75% seats.

The NGO, CFR-LA, has analyzed 133 constituencies for making this report. They constituencies include more than 10,000 hectares of forest area where FRA act can be applied. Thus, the people living there as well as the leaders over there can be affected by this act. This trend was also seen in the recent assembly elections, as mentioned above.

What is FRA?

Before knowing what is FRA, one should know why it is so important. One thing is clear, tribals want their rights to be preserved. This is not only based on the recent assembly elections, but because they have fought for their resources from both government and industrialists. That’s why sometimes they are called as those naxalites who are termed  not in nation’s interest, or rather not in business interest.

More than 50% of India’s forest land, i.e. at least 40 million hectares, is covered by Forest Forest Rights Act. This area is more than combined areas of Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The website of FRA explains the act as below:

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is a result of the protracted struggle by the marginal and tribal communities of our country to assert their rights over the forestland over which they were traditionally dependent. This Act is crucial to the rights of millions of tribals and other forest dwellers in different parts of our country as it provides for the restitution of deprived forest rights across India, including both individual rights to cultivated land in forestland and community rights over common property resources.

FRA was meant to protect the marginalized socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to environment with their right to life and livelihood.

The ruling government is said to be ignorant of the rights of the tribes and other people who live in forests. The condition of Forest land is not good. According to Indian Express, the Gujarat government gave permission to cut over 9.74 lakh trees in the state between 2013 to 2017. These numbers are huge which raise questions on sensitivity of Gujarat government towards environment. It is to note that there has been BJP government in the state from 2013 to 2014 during which PM Modi was chief minister of the state.

This surely doesn’t give other parties the benefit of being called as pro-tribals or pro-forest rights parties.

Also, Supreme Court had ordered on 13 February that there should be eviction of lakhs of people belonging to ST and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs. Court had directed that their eviction should be done till 24th July, 2019.

However, the people making claims on their rights in these areas were not properly carried out which was also due to low level of awareness. At last court stayed its order on 28th February but also called the forest dwellers as encroachers.

Now, the question is whether those people who have been living there in harmony with nature are encroachers or those businessmen who use forests for their profits. Why Supreme Court rests when government grants these businessmen the access to forests?

And, will the party who doesn’t pay attention to the needs of these forest tribes and people suffer in elections?

Source – India Spend Report and CFR-LA Report


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