Promise and Performance: 10 Years of the Forest Rights Act in India

Author: Community Forest Rights - Learning and Advocacy

Date: December 13, 2016

The Promise

  • The bare minimum estimated potential forest area over which Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights can be recognized in India (excluding five north-eastern states and J&K) is approximately 85.6 million acres (34.6 million ha).
  • Rights of more than200 million Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) in over 170,000 villages are estimated to get recognized under FRA.

Beyond the numbers, this report highlights FRA’s potential in transforming forest governance by empowering local communities and the gram sabha to protect and conserve forests; ensuring livelihood security and poverty alleviation; securing gender justice; meeting SDG, especially the goals of eliminating poverty and achieving ecological sustainability; and dealing with climate change. By securing land and resource rights, FRA provides an opportunity to address Left-wing extremism in 106 districts in India’s 10 states.
  • Key Findings
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Key Findings

The Performance

  • In 10 years, only 3 per cent of the minimum potential of CFR rights could be achieved.
  • Laggard states: Assam, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab and Sikkim
  • Low performing states: Rajasthan, West Bengal, Karnataka and Jharkhand
  • IFR focused states: Tripura and Uttar Pradesh
  • CFR laggard states(those which have implemented Individual Forest Rights (IFRs) and Community Rights (CRs), but have ignored CFRs, the most important rights): Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh
  • Better performing states: Maharashtra, Odisha, Kerala and Gujarat (only in Scheduled V areas)

Reasons for Poor Implementation of FRA

  • Absence of political will, both at the national and state levels;
  • Lack of effort to build capacity in the Central nodal agency, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs
  • Opposition by MoEFCC and forest bureaucracy, including by passing the CAFA, support to JFM and VFRs, constant opposition at the ground level;
  • Poor investment in implementation and its monitoring by both Central and state governments.

Way Forward

  • Marshal political support to implement FRA,
  • Send a clear message to the forest bureaucracy and MoEFCC to respect Parliament’s authority and stop obstructing FRA implementation;
  • Undertake implementation in mission mode with clear budgeting support;
  • Strengthen MoTA and state nodal agencies to implement FRA;
  • Ensure effective monitoring systems at MoTA and state levels;
  • Initiate awareness programmes on a large scale and build capacity of FRCs and the gram sabha;
  • Develop an inter-ministerial process for MoEFCC and other relevant ministries to resolve laws, policies and programmes conflicting with FRA;
  • Institute mechanisms to ensure unhindered exercise of CFR governance by the gram sabha after recognition and assertion of rights.


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