Bhubaneswar: Forest Rights Act is landmark legislation addressing the historical injustice of the forest-dwelling communities to attempt to recognise and record their existing rights on the forest land. The legislative intent of the Act is to “recognise and vest forest-dwelling scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forest for generations, but whose rights could not be recorded.”
The Act also has immense potential to democratise forest governance and provide livelihood security by recognising community rights and Community Forest Resource Rights (CFR) in particular. The Act has the ability to conserve forests and biodiversity, improve local livelihoods and help meet India’s international commitments to sustainable development and climate change mitigation.
Towards this, the two days National Consultation and Potential of Forest Rights Act in the context of Tribal Development: Implementation Gaps and Way Forward” is being organised by SCSTRTI (TRI Odisha), ST & SC Development Department, Govt. of Odisha with support from Ministry of the Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India in partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on 7th and 8th July 2022 at SCSTRTI Campus, Odisha.
The consultation aims to understand the challenges and bottlenecks impeding the development of tribal communities and find ways to strengthen the existing policy and programme to empower the tribal people of the country.
The inaugural session of the National Consultation was graced by Dr Muni Raju, Deputy Advisor, NITI Ayog. He highlighted the importance of tenurial security and recognition of forest rights in addressing the livelihood security of the poor and vulnerable communities.
Smt. Ranjana Chopra, Principal Secretary, ST&SC Development Department, Govt. of Odisha highlighted that Odisha is one of the leading states in implementing the Forest Rights Act. More than 4.57 lakh individual Forest Rights claims have been approved in Odisha. Around 3.51 lakh title holders have been covered under various Government programmes and schemes, which shows the commitment of Odisha to overall tribal development and recognition of forest rights and tenurial security of tribal and forest-dependent communities in particular.
Prof. (Dr.) Akhil Bihari Ota, Advisor cum Director and Special Secretary, SCSTRTI welcomed the delegates and participants from across the country and shared that the consultation aims to initiate a dialogue on the different aspects and dimensions of the Forest Rights Act. Significance and implementation challenges and coming up with recommendations for strengthening the implementation process and resolving the implementation issue, Guha Poonam Tapas Kumar, Director, ST, ST &SC Dev. Department offered a vote of thanks in the inaugural session.
The two days National Consultation has 5 technical sessions with the participation of delegates, representatives from Tribal Research Institutes (TRIs), Centre of Excellences (CoEs), Senior Officials from State Government, eminent personalities, academicians, researchers, and participants from across the country working on tribal culture and development. The National Consultation has participants from more than 10 States and aims to have a dialogue on different aspects and dimensions of the Forest Rights Act, its significance and implementation, challenges and come out with a roadmap for effective implementation of the Act.