The Jharkhand government has begun a month-long campaign to constitute forest rights committees in each of the over 30,000 villages so that the Forest Rights Act, 2006, can be properly implemented.
Jharkhand is among the few states which are lagging behind in the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
The constitution of forest rights committees (FRC) at district, sub-division, block and village level is crucial for giving individual forest rights (IFR) and community forest rights (CFR) to villagers who are dependent on forest resources.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (commonly referred to as the Forest Rights Act) provides for recognition of the right to “protect, regenerate or conserve or manage” the community forest resource.
These rights allow the community to formulate rules for forest use by itself and others and thereby discharge its responsibilities under Section 5 of the Forest Rights Act.
According to a GIS-based study done by Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) as of December 2020, the percentage of both IFR and CFR rights recognition in the state stands at 56 per cent.
“Without forest rights, the IFR and even the CFR holders are in conflict with the forest department and there are several instances of cases being lodged against the IFR and the CFR holders for encroaching on forest land. The state is committed to ensuring rights to tribals who are dependent on the forest for their livelihood and keeping this in perspective we have started the Abua Bir Dishom Campaign 2023 on Gandhi Jayanti with over 30,000 (there are nearly 32,000 revenue villages in Jharkhand) gram sabhas taking oath to protect water, forest and land and its resources,” said Jharkhand tribal welfare commissioner Ajay Nath Jha.
“They also took the oath using the power given by the Forest Rights Act, 2006, to lend support in constituting/reconstituting FRCs at the village level and empowering the forest-dependent people and communities. They also took an oath to make recommendations as per rules on their claim for grant of forest rights deeds,” added Jha.
The idea of oath-taking by the gram sabhas was floated by chief minister Hemant Soren in consultation with Phia Foundation and other NGOs which are helping the state government in the campaign.
The respective district administration has been asked to ensure the completion of the formation of FRCs at the village level between October 3 and 18.
Village-wise planning for organising gram sabha in all the villages of the district for the formation of FRCs and the action of each gram sabha will be ensured in the presence of the observer appointed by the deputy commissioner of the respective district.