Protect Rights and Livelihood of Tribals

Bhil tribe girls in Jhabua district
Image via Wikipedia

The tribal people need to be assured their legitimate rights and livelihood. The enactment of forest dwellers Act 2006 has set right the historical injustice done to the forest dwellers by way of granting them land tenure rights. Inaugurating the National Seminar on Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest rights) Act 2006 implementation, livelihood and forest conservation, here today, Member-Secretary Planning Commission, Ms. Sudha Pillai said that about 1378589 ha of forest land had been allotted to 952369 beneficiaries in the State of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal under FRA 2006. In addition, 61,754 individuals and communities have also been allotted land in the States of Assam, Himachal, Gujarat and Jharkhand. However, over a period of 4 years of its implementation now it is time to assess its status of implementation and the possible opportunities for the efficient utilization of the forest land so vested with these people.

In the midst of conflicting claims on its implementation in the fields, apart from assessing its implementation in its true spirit, a well planned strategy for the management of such lands for sustainable livelihood has to be an underlying goal for fulfilling the dreams of poverty reduction vis-à-vis environmental conservation in the rain-fed areas. Further, the experiences of achieving ecological stability and reducing poverty simultaneously the success can only be achieved if efforts are made to increase income of people, improve week public delivery system and low asset base, reducing cost of food and health services, inclusion of masses in the developmental programmes and enhancing productivity of natural resources.

In this regard, one of the most important issues which need to be discussed is how to improve the sustainability and income from minor forest produce to the tribal people who primarily collect the produce. The efficient mechanism for regeneration and provide remunerative price through minimum support price (MSP) need to be thought of for better livelihood opportunities from the forest land so vested with the people. Apart from this integrated land use planning between the agriculture and forest land in these villages should be the focus for ensuring food, water and livelihood security through intensification and diversification of crops, raising cash crops on the forest land so vested and diversification of animal husbandry, fisheries etc., through access through financial and other services is the need of the hour.

Special efforts are required to be made so that the provisions of the forest conservation Act 1980 do not come in conflict with the provisions of Forest Rights Act 2006. The two Acts are in fact complimentary to each other. However, diversion of such lands in future if forest based livelihood opportunities do not provide adequate income support to the families and pressure for alternative use of such land would become necessary especially near big cities and towns.

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