Forest Rights Act to be implemented in J&K

After revocation of Article 370, Forest Rights Act to be implemented in J&K

Under the Forest Rights Act-2006, rights of traditional forest dwellers stand protected against forced displacements, evictions from forest lands

Representative image. Credit: iStock

Amid recent reports of “illegal eviction” of the members of nomadic Gujjar-Bakarwal community from their hutments by authorities, Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday announced that Forest Rights Act will be implemented in the Union Territory (UT) which will provide the community rights over forest land.

Under the Forest Rights Act-2006, rights of traditional forest dwellers stand protected against forced displacements, evictions from forest lands. However, the central Act was not applicable or implemented in J&K due to Article 370.

J&K Chief Secretary, B V R Subrahmanyam, who chaired a meeting on Wednesday to review the implementation of the Act, was informed by the officers that the work has already begun by the departments of Tribal Affairs, and Forest, Ecology and Environment in October 2020 in this regard, an official spokesperson said.

It was decided in the meeting that the ‘survey of claimants' by the Forest Rights Committees for assessing the nature and extent of rights being claimed at village level be completed by 15-01-2021, for their further submission to the respective sub-divisional committees. These committees shall complete the process of scrutiny of claims and preparation of ‘record of forest rights’ by or before 31-01-2021. Similarly, the district level committees shall consider and approve the record and grant forest rights by 01-03-2021.

It was informed that under the Act, the forest-dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers will be provided with the rights over forest land for the purpose of habitation or self-cultivation/livelihood; ownership, access to collect, use, and dispose of minor forest produce, and entitlement to seasonal resources among others. However, the rights conferred under this Act shall be heritable but not alienable or transferrable, the spokesperson added.

The Act further provides that on the recommendation of Gram Sabha, forest land up to one hectare can be diverted for the purpose of developing government facilities including schools, hospitals, minor water bodies, rainwater harvesting structures, minor irrigation canals, vocational training centres, non-conventional sources of energy, roads etc.

In the recent days amid reports of “illegal eviction” of nomads from forest areas, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had said it was disconcerting to see nomads being “harassed and displaced” and sought Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha's intervention to ensure it stops.

The PDP chief had warned the government against evicting members of the Gujjar-Bakerwal community from forest areas, saying the consequences would be dangerous if they were harassed.