The Forest Rights Act, 2006 was enacted on 29th December, 2006 and notified on 2nd January, 2007. The Act came into force on 31st December, 2007. The Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers (Recognition of Forest rights) Rules were notified on 1st January, 2008. The act has been implemented in order to undo the historical injustice done to the forest dwelling communities since the colonial regime. The preamble of the Forest rights Act, 2006 ensures the habitation, occupation and conservation rights of the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and the other traditional forest dwellers who have been primarily residing on these lands for generations but could not get their rights recognized on the forest lands. Along with the rights on the forest land the act also vests the responsibility of conservation of forests to the forest dwelling communities. two categories of beneficiaries have been identified under FRA who are entitled to claim the rights on the forest lands – Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDST) and other traditional forest dwellers (OTFD). The eligible right holders can claim for individual rights, community rights and community forest resource rights that are enlisted under section 3(1) of the FRA. The study assesses the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 in Sonbhadra District of Uttar Pradesh. As per the latest status of implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, in Uttar Pradesh, the highest numbers of claims have been received from Sonbhadra district. The process of FRA implementation in Sonbhadra began in 2009. The latest implementation status highlights that the rejection rate is very high in the district. Of the total claims filed, 81.66 percent of the claims got rejected. Such a high rate of rejection of the claims makes it very important to undertake an in depth study of the various issues in the implementation of FRA both t the field level as well as the administrative levels. Both the FDSts and OTFDs have filed for the individual rights under FRA. However, Of the total claims filed, 81.66 percent of the claims got rejected. Such a high rate of rejection of the claims makes it very important to undertake an in depth study of the various issues in the implementation of FRA both t the field level as well as the administrative levels. Both the FDSts and OTFDs have filed for the individual rights under FRA. However, in Sonbhadra, no claim for individual rights filed by other traditional forest dwellers has been accepted. In case of community claims the number of claims filed is very less as compared to individual claims. Only 1.17 percent of the total claims filed in the district are the claims for community rights. However, no community claim has been filed by the OTFDs.
The right holders have supported their claims with evidences. In case of rejected and accepted claims, the study very clearly establishes that in Sonbhadra, particular type of evidences have been given more weightagein the rights recognition process. However, as per the provisions of FRA, the implementing agencies cannot reject the claims solely on the basis of lack of any particular evidence. But there were cases where claims have been rejected in spite of producing the correct evidences. There were also cases (5.6 percent) where due to lack of knowledge people produced wrong evidences even though they had correct evidences to support their claims. These right holders have not been communicated the reasons of rejection. Oral evidence is to be considered as one of the appropriate evidences, but in Sonbhadra oral evidence has not been given any weightage. OTFDs are facing difficulties because they are not able to give the evidence for their occupation of land for 75 years prior to 13th December, 2005 as no written document that dates back to 1930 is available with them.
As per the analysis of the household survey, there are 31.93 percent of the claimants who had correct evidences and still their claims got rejected. As the process of filing claims in the district stopped in 2011, so they should be made aware to file their claims all over again. Many people did not file claims earlier due to lack of awareness and they should file their claims now. The reasons for rejection of claims have not been communicated to the claimants, which is very important so that they can file the claims again with correct evidences. This will certainly help all the eligible claimants get their rights over their lands and ultimately this will lead to the implementation of FRA in true spirit of its preamble. The results show the importance of evidences and give an idea about the challenges in implementation of FRA in different states of the country with similar socio- economic status. Forest Rights Act is not implemented in true spirit of its preamble in Sonbhadra. More People are now aware of the Forest Rights Act but knew little when claims were being filed. People in Sonbhadra are not informed regarding the reasons for rejection of their claims and the over involvement of other departments in the rights recognition process shows that FRCs do not have the capacity to implement the recognition process. There is no post claim support. The study also highlights that along with individual rights, emphasis should also be on community claims along which will be beneficial for the villagers. From a total of 1500 people, 84 claimants had correct evidences but produced wrong evidences. So around 6 percent people did not get their rights approved and should be made aware to file the claims again.
A similar study could be conducted at National level to study in detail the various issues faced by the implementing authorities and the claimants, which in turn will help in the effective implementation of FRA and also address the issue of rejection of Rights on arbitrary basis so the Act will be implemented in the true spirit of its preamble and the long historical injustice done to the forest dwelling communities can be undone.
Shodhganga Link (Update by January 2021)