Their forest, but are they aware of their rights?
Since the enactment of the Forest Rights Act 2006, there have been gaps in the implementation, which hasn’t brought much justice to the tribal communities. There haven’t been notable interventions to measure the effectiveness of the law. To what level has it made an impact is an unanswered question. Although it is claimed to be a big step by the government to undo the historical injustice committed against the indigenous and forest dwelling communities, the implementation has been disappointing.
This, however, is a process that eventually faces a number of challenges. It has been noted that much emphasis is given to few provisions of the act rather than the whole act. Keystone has realised that it’s important to assess to what extent the communities have understood the law, and if they have – how we can help them access the right envisaged under the law.
The livelihoods programme at Keystone conducted training on FRA at Sengalpudur (Irula settlement) and Anaipalam ( Irulas and Kurumbas), both in the Coonoor Taluk. There are a total of 104 families residing in these villages. The Village Officer and Revenue Inspector of Coonoor were also present at the session. The focus of the training was on different aspects such as, helping them understand about each document (Form A, B & C) and what it stands for, training the Gram Sabha (village council) to be more sovereign, helping the Forest Rights Committee (FRC) in mapping the land they use, submitting forest rights claims via the Gram Sabha and following up with government officials on the status of these claims.
Claiming their CFR is a complex process and lot of evidence is often demanded by the officials. In order to obtain the evidence, they need to approach Revenue and Forest Departments. These procedures are difficult for the communities to handle. Therefore most of the time the claims are found pending because of lack of evidence.
A raft of studies done by the World Bank say that local communities are best equipped to safeguard valuable forests, and those with strong land rights are the most effective. The indigenous communities play a crucial role in protecting the critical ecosystems that are gradually degrading in the Nilgiris. Keystone will continue to provide support to the indigenous communities through trainings that will involve every stakeholder, to utilize the law in a much more effective way for the welfare of the communities and individuals.