Keystone Foundation along with VRDP, CIOSA, TPFLR & Samanvaya, hosted and participated in a workshop on the Forest Rights Act & Livelihoods in Tamil Nadu, on the 1st of June. The object of the workshop was to layout the problems faced by tribals of having liberty towards the land that they have been occupying and their communities’ rights over the use and management of forests and minor produce from them.
P.Chandran, Additional Coordinator for the Livelihoods programme at Keystone, speaking at the event, said ‘there are a lot of rejections of claims by the gram sabha, majority of them being wrongful and based on invalid grounds”. Furthermore he stressed on issues concerning the Nilgiri Adivasi people and how their primitive but harmonious existence in forests is endangered, due to lack of effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act, since its enactment 11 years ago.
At the workshop, stakeholders and crusaders working towards this cause spoke at length about several issues faced by forest dwelling communities prevailing in Tamil Nadu, that remain unresolved, in respect to the Forest Rights Act.
Keystone has been actively advocating for the indigenous communities’ rights since 2009. According to our data, in the past year 1300 claims by tribal families have been submitted in the Nilgiris, which includes villages from Kotagiri, Konavakarai , Arakode & Sigur. Only after numerous meetings and persistent demands, the gram sabha announced to accept 750 claims among those 1300, by June 2017.
The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is home to many indigenous communities. These communities rely on the forest which is of fundamental importance for a range of reasons like habitational space, for cultivation, grazing their cattle and gathering non- timber forest produce as a source of livelihoods. The inadequacy of the state’s administration to secure their rights, is gradually leading them to move to urban spaces in search of basic amenities and better wage opportunities for their mere survival.