Over six years after Centre passed the historic ‘Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act’, the legislation is yet to be implemented in state after being caught in a legal tangle. Tribals are now pinning their hopes on the AIADMK government to initiate steps to vacate the court stay and implement it.
At the state consultation on ‘Tribal Sub Plan - Perspective and Implementation and Forest Rights Act 2006’ here on Friday, Tribal associations and rights groups blamed the then DMK government of failing to initiate action to vacate the stay on the state notification obtained by a retired wildlife warden in 2008.
Ranganathan, state convener of Tribal Association for Fifth Schedule Campaign Social Watch said Tamil Nadu is the only state that has not implemented the Act as the previous DMK regime failed to initiate any action to vacate the stay.
“In Orissa, a similar stay was obtained against the Act but the state appealed and it was later vacated by the High Court. Similarly, the state government here should take steps to vacate the stay to help push for inclusive growth,” he pleaded.
Interestingly, even the Union government has lamented that the legislation has not benefited majority of forest dwellers and tribals even after the lapse of five years of enactment of the law. The Act recognizes the community rights, such as right to minor forest produce, grazing areas, water bodies, habitats of primitive tribal groups and pre-agriculture communities.
Ossie Fernandes of Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation said though the Act confers full ownership of minor forest produce everywhere, tribals are prevented by forest authorities to collect and use the produce. Interestingly, the tribals are being prevented to rear cattle in forest. “How will the government schemes of free cattle and goat benefit us when we can’t provide them with food,” lamented a tribal.