Forest Rights Act: Issues and Constraints By Abhijit Mohanty

Twenty three percent of the country’s geographical area has been designated as forest upon which an estimated more than 200 million people, mainly indigenous community live in or near the forest areas (Forest Survey of India, 2009). Since generations, these communities have developed a close symbiotic relationship with their forests. The livelihoods of the people living in the forested landscapes are inextricably linked to the forest eco-system. But, they lack legal ownership to their homes, lands and livelihoods. The situation is further aggravated with the advent of colonial rule; forests were seen as resource sumps for use and exploitation for the purposes of establishing colonial empire. Rights of local communities were callously ignored and replaced with Indian Forest Act, which empowered the Government to declare any land covered with trees as forest. This has significantly deprived local communities to access and use, restricted their entry and denied them use of forest resources which had been theirs since time immemorial.
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