Environmental governance

Recognition of Forest Rights Act (RFRA)

The Conservation and Livelihoods programme’s focus on co-management finds resonance in the recently enacted RFRA 2006, offering policy space to strengthen community initiatives in governance, while also providing for secure tenure for tribals and traditional forest dwellers to stake claims over land they have cultivated since centuries.

After the enactment of the RFRA in December 2006, several workshops and meetings were organized in BR Hills to disseminate information on the Act among community leaders and members. Among the significant initial workshops include a workshop organized in collaboration with Soliga Abhivruddhi Sangha (SAS), Vivekananda Girijan Kalyan Kendra (VGKK) and Kalpavriksh towards disseminating the key features of the Act among members of the Soliga community. Subsequently ATREE, in collaboration with SAS, organized several workshops to develop capacities of Soligas towards claiming rights under the Act.

A multi-pronged strategy was adopted to reach as many hamlets/settlements and people as possible. Intermediate processes were clarified: the District Commissioner (DC) issued letters to Panchayat secretaries to convene gram sabha for the formation of the Forest Rights Committee (FRC). This was preceded by a day-long workshop on orienting panchayat secretaries and other concerned functionaries about the Act and its provisions. In this meeting, the chief executive officer of the Zilla Panchayat clearly mentioned that traditional/hamlet level gram sabha are to be considered for the formation of FRC, unlike the gram sabha of the Panchayats.

As part of evidence and rights to access places of cultural importance, the mapping of sacred sites, initiated with ATREE, was also seen as an important activity that would provide evidence about Soliga presence in the landscape, their access to, and protection of sites of cultural importance.

Clarifying stand on RFRA in protected areas, the Chief Secretary recently issued a clarification that the Act is to be implemented in wildlife sanctuaries and national parks also. At the District Level Committee meeting, the decision to grant community rights to Soligas in BRT has been agreed upon in principle. Surveys for individual claims on land are ongoing.