A watering hole in the Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve. © Dhritiman Mukherjee / Greenpeace
The Forest Rights Act (FRA) is a legislation which covers a variety of environment related causes, one of them being the rights of the forest dwellers.
Our government has succeeded in proving its incompetency by proposing the dilution of this perfectly able act. This proposal is wrong at so many levels that it astounds me that the government even thought of it. If the government dilutes this act, our forests will probably degrade and thus, a vital source of oxygen will be corrupted. An integral part of our society will lose their livelihood. They will lose their claim over something which they possessed since generations.
The primary stakeholders of the forests are, and will always be the forest dwellers themselves. The locals have been living in these forests for generations. They are best suited to manage the resources as they are aware of the most sustainable ways to use forest resources. There are plenty of examples to prove this point.
One of them is the story of the degraded sal forests of West Bengal, 1972. The government's efforts to revive them resulted in fuelling the Naxalite movement. When the responsibility of the revival of the forests was handed to the villagers, the previously worthless forest became valued at Rs.12.5 crores by 1983 (Source: NCERT Science Textbook, Std. X).
Taking away the rights of the forest dwellers would not only result in the loss of livelihood and drastic change in lifestyle of the forest dwellers, but could also lead to the degradation of the forests, should the government assume full responsibility.
Forest dwellers collect Mahua flowers at dusk in in Singrauli District, MP
It is ironic that on one side the government preaches the need of handing the baton to the locals, through chapters in school textbooks. On the other hand it counters itself by proposing to dilute the Forest Rights Act. The hypocrisy and internal confusion is shameful.
The government seems to have forgotten its purpose of serving all the people of our nation. Taking away the rights of the forest dwellers have far reaching consequences. Its effect will be felt by not only the forest dwellers but also those of us who live beyond the forest.
I'm a 15 year old who cares about what happens to our forests. I don't think the government should mess with resources which will soon be inherited by my generation.
Nikita is a student volunteer with Greenpeace India.
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