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A History of Forest Regulations


A backgrounder on forest governance and forest management legislations in pre-independence and independent India, leading up to the Forest Rights Act 2006

To understand the importance and need of  historical Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 also called Forest Rights Act (FRA), one needs to understand the relationship between the forests and the people living inside them or near them and are dependent upon their produce for their livelihood and sustenance. We need to understand the historical relationship between the forests on one hand and tribals[1] and other traditional forest dwelling communities on the other, the changes it underwent over passage of time and the way it evolved over last 150 years.

India is home to the largest indigenous population in the world. According to the 2001 census, 8% of our adivasi population works out to 84.15 million people. According to the State of Forest Report 2009, published by the Forest Survey of India, the recorded forest area in the country is 78.37 million hectare in 2007 (or 23.84% of the country’s geographic area). There has been a net increase[2] in forest and tree cover between the previous assessment and this assessment and the increase measures 0.18 million hectare. Most of this increase has been witnessed in the hilly and tribal area of the country. This piece of statistics is of crucial importance and proves beyond any doubt that the tribal and forest dwelling communities live in harmony with nature, their traditional practice of use of forest produce and natural resources is sustainable in nature and also help forest regeneration.

Forestry is the second largest land-use in India after agriculture, covering about 641,130 square kilometres, or 22 percent of the total land base, this piece of statistics is also very important and drives home the point of the quantum of forest dependence in our country. An estimated 200 million people depend on forests for at least part of their livelihoods[3]. Forest dwellers, which include a high proportion of tribals, are among the poorest and the most vulnerable groups in the society[4]. Even in independent India they have always had to face persistent problems of land alienation, indebtedness, government monopoly over non timber forest produce (NTFPs), involuntary displacement due to development projects and lack of proper rehabilitation after being displaced from their traditional forest dwellings without ascertaining their rights or ascertaining them inadequately in many cases.

FRA is a belated but bold legislative attempt by Government of India (GOI) to democratise forest management and its governance in our country. For the first time not only the rights of the communities living in and dependent upon the forests have been recognised by a federal law but it also seeks to make these people an ally in forest management and governance which hitherto were an exclusive bastion of the forest bureaucracy.

Before we delve in to FRA and the current status of its implementation and find out the extent to which rights have been granted to these people in the country,[5] it would be pertinent to have an overview of the law and policy as well as dominant thought process prevailing in the country in forest management, in the last 150 years.

A Brief Recap of Forest Governance in Pre British Era and in British India…

Historically forests in our country, during pre British period were managed by the community living in and around these forests and by those people who were dependent upon them for their sustenance and livelihood. The word ‘managed’ is used on purpose because there was a system at play, it was not at all a free for all, open access system, but social institutions such as caste and cultural traditions regulated the extraction of produce from these forests. (Gadgil et al, 1993). (Gadgil and Guha, 1992)

The Forest Charter of 1855; Precursor to First Forest Management Legislation

During British colonialism the needs and the greed of the Empire dictated the management of forests in the country. The Forest Charter of 1855 was the first attempt made by the British Indian government in the direction of forest governance. It made teak timber, state property, and its trade was strictly regulated. In 1856, Dietrich Brandis, a German botanist, was appointed as the first Inspector General of Forests. The Forest Department was organised and the first Forest Act was enacted under his guidance. Brandis also made an inventory of trees in India and classified them.

First ever Forest Legislation Indian Forest Act 1865 which was amended in 1878 and 1927

The Charter of 1855 was followed by Indian Forest Act 1865, which was amended in 1878 and then in 1927.

The 1865 Act empowered the government to appropriate any land covered with trees, however, notification could only be effected, if existing rights of individuals and communities were not impinged upon (Mohapatra, 1997). However it is quite another story as to how many of these people had the awareness and the wherewithal to come forward and have their rights acknowledged and recognised.

The Act of 1865 was superseded by Indian Forest Act of 1878 which was designed to facilitate strict state control over forest resources, and was distinctly ‘annexationist’ in nature. This Act sought to do away with all the privileges and rights that were not explicitly granted by the state. By one piece of legislation centuries old system of rights and privileges of the forest inhabiting and forest dependent communities were terminated.

The Indian Forest Act of 1878 radically changed the nature of common property and made it a state property. These rights of people over forest lands and produce were later regarded as concessions. According to the 1878 Forest Act, forests were categorised in to three types; Reserved, protected, and village forests.

Reserved forests were deemed the most commercially valuable and amenable to sustained exploitation. Overall state control of reserved forests was sought, which involved either the relinquishment, or transfer of other claims and rights. Very occasionally, limited access to these forests was granted. Legally, the process of reservation of forests could be challenged, though rural communities had little experience with legal procedures, and illiterate villagers were often unaware that a survey and demarcation was in process (Poffenberger et al, 1998).

Protected forests were similarly state controlled, but some concessions were granted, conditional to the reservation of commercial tree species, when they became valuable. Protected forests could also be closed to fuel wood collection and grazing, whenever it was deemed necessary to do so. As timber demand for empire increased, many protected forests were re-designated as reserved forests so that the state could exercise complete control over them and access of people.

This Act also provided for classification of forests as village forests, apparently to meet the need of the people residing in the villages so that they could be kept way from commercially valuable reserved and protected forests. According to Gadgil and Guha (1992), however, this was not exercised by the colonial government over most of India. People were by and large disenfranchised from accessing their traditional forests without providing any alternative for them.

The mapping of India’s forests allowed the implementation of scientific management. There is no denying the fact that British introduced the concept of scientific management of forests for the first time in the country but its dominant paradigm very evidently was to pursue the maximum sustainable yield, and management practices were organised around this principle.

The Indian Forest Act of 1927 replaced the earlier Act of 1878. This Act embodied all the major provisions of the earlier Act, extending it to include those relating to the duty on timber. The Act is still in force, however there have been several amendments made by state governments[6]. The preamble of this Act states that it seeks to consolidate the law relating to the transit of forest produce and the duty leviable on timber and other forest produce. Thus, there is a clear emphasis on the revenue yielding aspect of forests.

British India’s First Forest Policy

The British Indian government announced its first forest policy by a resolution on 19 October 1894. The policy emphasized state control over forests and the need to exploit forests for augmenting state revenue. All the management strategies, principles of scientific management and creation of institutional framework in the form of forest department to carry out these objectives were very clearly geared up towards one goal and that was the augmentation of revenue generated by the British Empire. The people residing in the forest, their livelihood concerns, conservation and protection of forests, wildlife in the forests, none of these issues were of any concern to the empire at that time.

In short, during British rule, the Department of Forest was organised, a systematic inventory of trees made, customary rights of people over forest land and produce curtailed and transformed into concessions to be enjoyed at the will of the forest officials and, most important, forests became a major source of revenue for the government.

Forest governance in Independent India 1947-2011

Forest governance in independent India can be divided in to three distinct phases. In the first phase the emphasis very clearly was to ensure that forests should be made to work to generate a lot of revenue which in turn would support development and industrialisation of the country. One look at any government policy document at that time makes it amply clear and is discussed below. Gadgil and Guha (1992), are absolutely right when they argue that in post independence India ‘the demands of the commercial-industrial sector have replaced strategic imperial needs as the cornerstone of forest policy and management’.

The second phase was when the conservationists had a field day and their exclusionist conservation agenda was the dominant tool of forest management. Legislation on forest and wildlife conservation was enacted; the rights of the people were also given its due place in these enactments but were not implemented with the same spirit on the ground.

 It wasn’t until 1988 when the third phase in forest management can be said to have begun when for the first time the national forest policy articulated that the people living in and around the forests and dependent upon them for their livelihood and sustenance should have the first charge on the forest produce. After this GOI did take small but significant steps in the form of Joint Forest Management (JFM), to make these people stakeholders in the governance of the forests. FRA was finally a watershed in the history of not only tribal rights but forest governance also as it changed the game in favour of these people forever at least on paper by creating a legal mandate to recognise and verify their rights on the forest land that they were residing on for generations.

Focus of forest management in newly independent India was to serve agriculture, development and industrialisation

In 1947 when India became independent food security for the million starving and hungry Indians and industrialisation of the “exploited to the fullest for the British empire’s interests” country, development activities such as irrigation projects and large hydroelectric power projects were some of the most important issues that needed immediate action. Therefore the main objective those days of forest management in the country was to serve the purpose of the industry and agriculture. Rural, forest dependent people and their livelihood needs was the last thing on the minds of people involved with forest management. This sentiment is very clearly echoed by the GOI’s National Forest Policy resolution of 1952, which stated:

Village communities in the neighbourhood of a forest will naturally make greater use of its products for the satisfaction of their domestic and agricultural needs. Such use, however, should in no event be permitted at the cost of national interests. The accident of a village being situated close to a forest does not prejudice the right of the country as a whole to receive the benefits of a national asset.’ and:

‘Restrictions should be imposed in the interests not only of the existing generation, but also of posterity.’ (Kumar, 1992, page 63).

The 1952 National Forest Policy has been widely attributed as further eroding the legitimacy of communities’ claims on the commons (Gadgil and Guha, 1992, Poffenberger and McGean, 1996), while also explicitly asserting the monopoly right of the state (Guha, 1983).

Wildlife Protection and Preservation Act 1972, a laudable Act but did not make people residing in the forest stakeholders in conservation objectives

In 1972 on the request of states, federal government[7] passed Wildlife Protection Act 1972. This Act though was not directly related to forests but did have a significant impact on their management and therefore also on the people living in the forests and dependent upon forests for their sustenance and livelihood. The focus of this Act as the name suggest was protection and conservation of wildlife, the protection of plant and animal species and to ensure ecological and environmental sustainability. It did not give adequate attention to the forest inhabiting and forest dependent communities and made their customary rights and privileges subservient to the cause of wildlife protection and management. Though the Act does have provisions for settlement of rights of people living in the forest area before any such area can be finally notified as protected area in the form of wild life sanctuary or a national park[8]. India as of 2007 have 14 Biosphere Reserves[9], 96 national parks, 510 wildlife sanctuaries, 28 tiger reserves, 25 elephant reserves covering 5% of total area as protected forests[10]. National Parks enjoy a greater degree of protection than sanctuaries. Certain activities which are regulated in sanctuaries, such as grazing of livestock, are prohibited in National Parks. Nearly 80 per cent of the Protected Areas in the country are yet to have the final notifications issued[11].This continues to be the situation despite Supreme Court directions very long ago in the matter of Centre for Environmental Law, WWF Vs Union of India and Ors WP(C) 337 of 1995.

In its present form, the WLPA has provisions whereby certain legal provisions of protection are applicable immediately when the first notification is issued. This is a major provision which has extended added legal cover to most Protected Areas despite the fact that the final settlement proceedings may not be complete. Final notification as per the governing law can only be issued once the rights of the people residing in these areas are finally determined and then compensated for. Since the intention notification allows the concerned authorities to go ahead with their conservation agenda, and the determination of rights of the people inhabiting these areas is not a priority, these people are left in a lurch. The attitude of the government in this regard is made amply clear by an amendment in the year 2003 in WLPA[12] whereby a time period of two years was fixed for the completion of determination of the rights of any person in or over the land comprised within limits of such notified area on one hand and on the other hand it was mandated that if such determination could not be completed for any reason that would not cause the notification to lapse. If the government was really serious about the determination of the rights of the affected persons then it would have ensured a stricter provision in this regard.

The proposed amendment in WLPA seeks to do away with this provision and will treat all Protected Areas lacking a final notification as “proposed”. This could have a major impact on a large number of Protected Areas. Unfortunately there was no reliable data maintained at the national level since the time of the coming in to the force of this Act i.e. 1972, by the Ministry, about the number of people who got affected and had to be displaced due to protected area notifications. This situation was finally rectified and states submitted in the form of affidavits this information in the above mentioned WWF case when the same was directed by the Honb’le Supreme Court. There is no data again compiled at national level, which shows in how many cases settlement of rights is complete, and in how many cases it is still going on.

The irony of wildlife protection legislation and the way it has been implemented is that it did not collaborate with people residing in these areas. They could not be made part of this conservation drive and the results are for everyone to see. There is anger in these people and without their help the state has not been able to deal with the menace of poaching and illegal trade as effectively as it would have liked.

National Commission on Agriculture (1976) recommended objectives of forest management to serve industrialisation

National Commission on Agriculture[13] in its report, advocated commercialization of forests with complete disregard for the sustenance of adivasi and other forest dwelling communities. It asserted that ‘production of industrial wood has to be the raison d’ etre for the existence of forest’ (p. 32-33).Its commercial bias was evident in its statement that, ‘free supply of forest produce to the rural population and their rights and privileges have brought destruction to the forests and so it is necessary to reverse the process’. The commission recommended that the revised national forest policy should be based on important needs of the country. All forest lands should be classified into protection forests, production forests and social forests. It gave the highest priority to production forests and the lowest priority to social forests. The commission recommended that the object of forest management should be that ‘each hectare of forest land should be in a position to yield a net income of many more times than is being obtained at present.’ It recommended enactment of a revised all India Forest Act.

Forest Conservation Act reflects changing concerns in the management and governance of forests from exploitation to conservation

The Government of India[14] promulgated the Forest (Conservation) Ordinance on 25 October 1980 prohibiting the state governments from allowing the use of forest lands for any other purpose without the approval of the central government. The ordinance was later passed as an Act (no. 69 of 1980). By a later amendment in 1988, state governments were prohibited from assigning, by way of lease or otherwise, any forest land or any portion thereof, to any private person or authority not owned, managed or controlled by government without previous sanction of the central government. The emphasis and the focus of this legislation was conservation and the people living in these forests and dependent upon these forests were relegated to the background and made subservient to conservation objectives once again.

First Paradigm shift towards the recognition of rights of forest dwelling and forest dependent communities on forest echoed by National Forest Policy of 1988

The shift of Forest Department fromthe Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 1985 also helped to shift the emphasis from revenue to environmental concerns in the forest management strategy. The National Forest Policy of 1988 for the first time in the history of forest management and governance changed its goals and priorities, admitted that the local forest-dependent community is a legitimate stakeholder[15], and recommended community participation in forest regeneration[16]. The resolution stressed the welfare of forest dwelling communities as a major objective of the forest policy, and categorically stated that the life of tribals and other poor living within and near forests revolves around forests and that the rights and the concessions enjoyed by them should be fully protected. For the first time it was conceded that their domestic requirements of fuel wood, fodder, minor forest produce and construction timber should be the first charge on forest produce. Subsequently, there has been a clearer shift in state policy towards recognising that rural communities have the right to manage and govern their immediate environment, as seen by the 73rd Amendment of 1992, the PESA, and statements made in the National Conservation Strategy, National Environment Policy, and the National Biodiversity Action Plan.

From the above discussion it is amply clear that till 1988 Forest Policy the concerns of forest dependent communities and tribals were never sufficiently articulated by any official law or policy document of GOI. Protection, preservation and conservation of wildlife, ecosystem and forests in general were seen exclusively and people who had been residing in such areas for generations and who were dependent upon these resources for their very sustenance were somehow never considered as stakeholders in this conservation strategy. May be they did not have enough voice or may be their voice did not matter, this aspect still needs to be explored.

Joint Forest Management another small step in making people stakeholders in forest management

After the national forest policy of 1988 some progress was made in the direction of joining people living in the forest with its management and conservation. However all these social forestry schemes such as JFM are only run as programmes and there is no tenurial security for the people associated with such programmes. When forest land has to be converted for any non forest use these forest inhabiting and forest dependent people are left high and dry because their rights are treated as concessions, accorded to them by the forest department without having any legal sanctity.

The Biological Diversity Act 2002[17] also acknowledged the importance of local people’s participation in any attempt towards conservation of biodiversity of that area and envisages constitution of biodiversity conservation committee at Panchayat level. This Act therefore does not disenfranchise the local community from participating and having a say in the management of their biodiversity.

FRA and its objectives

FRA is the first of its kind attempt to undo the “historical injustice” to use the oft repeated phrase. It is a much delayed but a right step in the right direction. It envisages recognition of customary rights of forest inhabiting and forest dependent Schedule Tribe (ST) and non schedule tribe communities long after legislation for the protection and conservation of wildlife, ecosystem and forests have been made.

To quote from the preamble of the Act itself, this enactment was made to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers (OTFD) who have been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be recorded. This act also provides for a framework for recording the forest rights so vested and the nature of evidence required for such recognition and vesting in respect of forest land.

The Act envisages sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological balance for strengthening the conservation regime of the forests along with ensuring livelihood and food security of the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers. This indicates a very clear diversion from the previously practised exclusionist approach adopted for conservation objectives. This hopefully indicates heralding of a new era in forest management where people living in the forest and dependent upon forest for their sustenance are not considered a hindrance for conservation of biodiversity, ecological balance and wild life protection. This Act envisages and also enumerates a process in case of any conflict of interests between their livelihood needs and wildlife conservation and accords due importance to the latter wherever necessary or situation so demands. For the first time not only historical injustice to the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers has been acknowledged and recognised but they also have been accepted and recognised as an  integral part to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem.

A law of such far reaching consequences was sure to face a lot of opposition from the very well entrenched proponents of exclusionist conservation lobby. By integrating the livelihood needs of forest inhabiting and forest dependent tribal and non tribal communities in to overall forest management and governance strategies and by making these peoples’ participation mandatory in forest management, this law brings in a much needed democratisation in the field of forest governance.

FRA Implementation Status

To ensure possible optimum efficiency we should ensure that laws, systems and processes should not function only because of the benevolence of some people implementing/manning them but despite the apathy of implementers/incumbents of such laws and institutions. To minimise inequity, to encourage fair play and objectivity, our aim should be to fine tune our processes and institutions and make them as independent of the competence and intentions of the officers manning them as possible.

In FRA implementation there are issues at two level, law/policy and actual execution level. The first one needs to be urgently looked into for addressing issues faced at the execution level. Implementation process review should be made mandatory at regular intervals. Any learning from such review process should be taken as a feedback and be incorporated in to the revised process.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MOTA) constituted a Joint Committee in April 2010 to review the implementation of FRA in the country with a specific TOR outlined for the purpose. The overall finding of the Committee is that, with notable exceptions, the implementation of the FRA has been poor, and therefore it’s potential to achieve livelihood security and changes in forest governance along with strengthening of forest conservation, has hardly been achieved. It has grouped its findings on the Implementation of FRA under following heads

  • Process and institutions
  • Individual Forest Rights
  • Community Forest Rights
  • Implementation of Development Projects
  • Implementation for Special Groups
  • Protected Areas and Critical Wildlife Habitats
  • Future Structure of Forest Governance
  • Enhancing Livelihoods through NTFPs
  • Convergence of Development Programmes for STs and OTFDs

Generic Issues being faced as hurdles in implementation of FRA

FRA basically envisages a three step process to recognise the rights of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forests for generations.

It includes initiation of claim, verification of claim and vesting of right upon verification. The claim could be for individual forest right of for community forest rights.

For initiation of claim the interested person needs to follow the procedure laid down and fill up the claim form and submit the same to the Forest Rights Committee (FRC) at the village level[18]. There needs to be a generic system in place[19] which could be applied all over the country with some amendments and adaptations to ensure that there is enough awareness in such people who are entitled to make a claim. We have to keep in mind that by conferring rights under this Act we intend to empower the most marginalised, impoverished, illiterate and vulnerable communities. This intended empowerment would be just a hollow promise if we don’t ensure that they are in the first place made aware of their rights and then properly guided, assisted and helped in initiating their claim. The government can use the state owned media and Public Relations Department for spreading awareness about this Act.

Government should urgently update national level information on villages inside and adjacent to forests, through Forest Survey of India, and provide this to states and the states should pro-actively facilitate Individual Forest Rights (IFR) and Community Forest Right (CFRt) claims, this has been recommended by the Saxena Committee also. The state also on its own should have lists of all such areas ready, in which the intended beneficiaries live, and proactively seek them out to ensure that they are given their due. The state machineries will have to be geared up to ensure that all the documents that are required for initiating a valid claim are provided to such intended beneficiaries at their door step. The Saxena committee report notes that there are a number of cases of innovative, pro-active moves by civil society organizations, communities, and officials, that have helped in making claims and getting rights vested. These include awareness programmes and distribution of simple material in local languages, suo moto provision of documents by some block and district-level officials to gram sabhas, help in filing claims and finding evidences, advocacy to get the government machinery moving, and so on. The committee also noted that Forest records, maps and working plans are almost invariably not available to the FRC and if we can ensure access to all these documents the claims can be filed and verified easily.

Saxena committee recommended that a simple “How to file a claim” guide should be circulated by MOTA. This guide should in simple, comprehensible local language illustrate as to people who can make a claim whether IFR or CFRt under FRA, the type and number of individual and community rights that can be claimed and an exhaustive list of what constitutes evidence in support the claim being filed. All the documents that are needed to support the claim and the place or the government functionary who will provide them with those documents if they happen to be a part of the official government record or some record that the government has access to should also be enumerated in detail in such guides. This guide should enumerate step by step procedure which will lead the claimant to filing his claim successfully to the FRC.

Once a claim is initiated the process of its verification starts. Once a claim is filed, its receipt should be acknowledged by the Gram Sabha (GS) /FRC so that the same can be tracked later on. All such data should be put in public space and information relating to the processing of claim should be accessible like any public record. The GS is empowered to verify the claim. We also need to ensure that the GS is competent to do this exercise. The GS or the FRC should be extended all the help that is needed and that the state machinery is capable of providing and the same should be made mandatory in the rules of FRA. GS or the FRC needs expertise and access to historical record or data if any in the actual process of identifying the forest land in relation to which an IFR or CFRt has been filed, verify the claim by using traditional and technological methods, map the area and then consolidate all the claims in its jurisdiction. The Saxena committee report has also acknowledged that application of spatial technologies (including remote sensing (RS), global positions systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS)) have the potential to help in rapid delineation of boundaries, immutable positional information, and objective determination of the physical status of claimed lands, provided skills are built, transparency is ensured and safeguards are followed. Several states have utilized GPS technology for plot delineation. Only one state (Maharashtra) has used the full suite of technologies (RS+GIS+GPS) for all three purposes in a relatively transparent manner. We should follow this successful model and replicate it throughout the country.

Once the claims are verified a resolution to this effect is passed and sent for approval to the Sub Division Level Committee (SDLC). SLDC examines the resolution and makes a record of forest rights which is then sent for approval to the District Level Committee (DLC). There are checks and balances provided for in the Act itself. Any person who is aggrieved by any action or inaction of the GS/FRC, SLDC, DLC can approach the appropriate forum for redressal with in a given time frame. To ensure that the intended people do avail of this redressal system again we have to ensure that a system is in place to track the fate of any claim that has been filed and the people affected are kept informed of its status at all times. The responsibility has to be fixed at some government level to ensure that the claimants are kept informed of the progress and the fates of the claims they have filed.

After the verification is successfully completed the right is vested. There should be a record of such forests rights which should be accessible to all interested persons at all time. 


If the government is really serious about successful implementation of FRA and wants to reach maximum intended beneficiaries then the nodal ministry MOTA has a lot of work to do. They have to get out of their mindset of doling out grants and scholarship and freebies and rise to the occasion to help these STs and OTFD get their long overdue rights.

MOTA will also have to win a psychological battle with the Forest Department. The Forest Department need to be reoriented and trained all over again to make them understand the critical role they have to play in the overall forest management. Without their active and willing support this transition in management of forests from being only state centric to people oriented where along with conservation and protection of wildlife, biodiversity, flora and fauna, peoples’ rights are also looked at with same respect and urgency cannot be achieved. Large scale intensive training and reorientation programmes at all levels of the forest departments in the state should be designed keeping in mind the new role that the department is called upon to play in the changed scenario. Officers of the forest department without such training can’t be expected to change their mind set overnight because a legislation to that effect has come in to force. Only those officers should be made in charge of FRA implementation who has successfully undergone the training cum reorientation programme. Without active and willing cooperation of the state forest departments the task of reaching out to the intended beneficiaries and implementation of FRA is a distant dream that can’t be fulfilled.

Without a dramatic change in the mindset of the forest bureaucracy where they have to rid themselves off the landlordish attitude towards the forests and the exclusionist conservation approach, FRA would never be able to achieve what it has set out to achieve. Forest bureaucracy have to be convinced that even the people residing in the forest for generations and dependent upon their resources for sustenance, are also an integral part of the ecosystem they live in. They have to learn to collaborate with these ST and OTFD as stakeholders, in the process of ensuring sustainability of the forests as their very existence depend upon the health of these forests.

As wildlife is inseparable from forests, so are these ST and OTFD from forests. We have to strive for a fine balance between our wildlife, forests and these indigenous people. None can be sacrificed for the other. They all have to coexist and flourish.


[2] This has been disputed by some latest independent study

[3] State of Forests report 2009 available at


[5]  This has also been highlighted by the N.C. Saxena committee report which is a joint committee of MOEF and MOTA and was constituted to look in to FRA implementation

[6] The Government of India Act, 1935, created a dual system of government by setting up provincial legislatures and assigning certain subjects to them, of which forests was one. Thereafter, the provincial governments made several amendments to the Indian Forest Act of 1927


[7] The subject of wildlife (protection of wild animals and birds) belonged on the State list. The Parliament therefore had no power to make a law applicable to the State unless the Legislatures of two or more States pass a resolution in pursuance of Article 252 of the Constitution empowering the Parliament to pass the necessary legislation. The Legislatures of eleven Indian States passed such a resolution and the Wild Life (Protection) Act of 1972 was passed. However, in 1976, the Forty-Second Constitutional Amendment moved the subject of wildlife from the State List to the Concurrent List and subsequently, the Act was extended to all other states except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

[8]The Amendment Act of 2003 provided for the creation of new types of protected areas called Conservation Reserve and Community Reserve.  Conservation Reserve is an area owned by the State Government adjacent to National Parks and sanctuaries for protecting the landscape, seascape and habitat of fauna and flora. It is managed through a Conservation Reserve Management Committee. The Amendment Act of 2003 also provided for the creation Community Reserve. The State Government may notify any community land or private land as a Community Reserve, provided that the members of that community or individuals concerned are agreeable to offer such areas for protecting the fauna and flora, as well as their traditions, cultures and practices. The declaration of such an area is aimed at improving the socio-economic conditions of the people living in such areas as well as conserving wildlife. The Reserve is managed through a Community Reserve Management Committee. Of the Wildlife sanctuaries or National Parks that are declared under the Act of 1972, tiger reserves are areas that are notified for the protection of the tiger and its prey, and are governed by Project Tiger which was launched in the country in 1973.  Initially 9 tiger reserves were covered under the project, and has currently increased to 28, falling in 17 States (tiger reserve States). Project Tiger is a centrally sponsored scheme. The Amendment Act of 2006 provides for the constitution of a statutory authority known as the National Tiger Conservation Authority to aid in the implementation of measures for the conservation of the tiger. Tiger Conservation Plans which are prepared by State Governments under Project Tiger objectives are reviewed and approved of by this Authority. The twin objectives of Project Tiger of conservation of the endangered species and harmonizing the rights of tribal people living in and around tiger reserves are attempted to be met through the provisions of this Act.

[9] Biosphere Reserves are special category of protected areas. This programme is run under the guidance of UNESCO

[10]Protection, Development, Maintenance and Research in Biosphere Reserves in India published in October 2007 and available at

[11] Article by Samir Sinha titled A critical look at the proposed changes to the WLPA, to be tabled in Parliament

[12] Section 25A of WLPA inserted by Act 16 of 2003 (w.e.f.1.4.2003)

[13] The Ministry of Forest was originally a part of the Ministry of Agriculture and naturally the National commission on Agriculture treated it as such. The commission’s report published in 1976 covered forests in the 9th part of its multi-volume report.

[14] The subject of forests was included in the state list in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution (item 19) which divided legislative powers in to central, state and concurrent jurisdiction. During the Emergency, the subject was transferred from the state list to the concurrent list through the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution (item 17 A). After the transfer of forests from the state list to the concurrent list.

[15] One of the stated objectives of this policy is to meet the requirements of fuel wood, fodder, minor forest produce and small timber of the rural and tribal populations.

[16] See the objectives and essentials of forest management in National Forest Policy 1988

[17] This Act was enacted as per its preamble to provide for conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources, knowledge and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

[18] Village as defined in Panchayat Extention to Scheduled Area Act

[19] FRA rules

The article originally appeared on in August 2011 and was authored/co-authored by one of FELPRs team member.