ONE of the landmark pieces of legislation enacted during the first tenure of the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government (2004-08), with the support of the Left parties, was the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, which recognised the rights of forest dwellers and those dependent on forests for their livelihood. But instead of implementing what has come to be known as the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in the spirit in which it was enacted, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led State governments have been tardy in settling individual and community rights under the Act, according to data available with the Tribal Affairs Ministry. Moreover, new notifications issued and the law enacted by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government seek to undo whatever little rights have been guaranteed under the FRA.
A perusal of the data on the website of the Ministry shows that out of the claims received until April 2017, Odisha, Kerala and Tripura were among the States that distributed over 60 per cent of the titles; Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh 50-54 per cent; Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh settled less than 45 per cent of the claims; Maharashtra 30.93 per cent; and Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand recorded nil settlement. Chhattisgarh rejected the highest number of claims, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Kerala rejected the lowest number of claims.