Community Forest Rights and The Pandemic – Graphic Novel version

By Poorva GoelonMay. 05, 2021inPerspectives
Created specially for Vikalp Sangam

Please click here to download the entire Graphic Novel

and here, for the entire Report in EnglishCommunity Forest Rights and The Pandemic: Gram Sabhas Lead The Way!

This graphic novel by Poorva Goel is an adaptation of a document produced by Vikalp Sangam and Community Forest Rights – Learning & Advocacy network, in August 2020, available at Community Forest Rights & The Pandemic: Gram Sabhas Lead the Way!

Inputs for this version were given by Ashish Kothari and Vipul Sangoi.

This publication has been supported by Heinrich Boell Stiftung

Citation: Poorva Goel, Community Forest Rights and the Pandemic: Gram Sabhas Lead the Way (a graphic novel version), Volume 2 of the Extraordinary Work of ‘Ordinary People – Beyond Pandemics and Lockdowns’ Series and Bulletin 5 of COVID 19 & Forest Rights, Vikalp Sangam Core Group, Pune, October 2020.

This is a copyleft publication. It can be reproduced freely for non-commercial purposes, preferably with credits and citation, and any reproduction should be with the same conditions and without any copyright.

The Community Forest Rights-Learning and Advocacy (CFR-LA) process was initiated in 2011 to facilitate exchange of information and experiences related to Community Forest Rights (CFR) provisions of the Forest Rights Act 2006. The COVID19 and Forest Rights bulletin series was envisaged in the light of widescale distress in Adivasi and scheduled areas. The bulletins highlight voices of forest dwelling communities during the pandemic.

For more information, please visit: CFR-la resources and Forest Rights Act.

This document emerged as a collaborative effort by both CFR-LA and Vikalp Sangam, in order to highlight the importance of recognition of rights, tenure security and community forest governance by Gram Sabhas to build resilient communities in the Covid19 and Post- pandemic scenario.

To learn more about the research and documentation work done by both teams, do follow the links below:

Vikalp Sangam is a platform to bring together movements, groups and individuals working on just, equitable and sustainable pathways to human and ecological well-being. It rejects the current model of development and the structures of inequality and injustice underlying it, and searches for alternatives in practice and vision. About 60 movements and organisations around the country are members of its Core Group (listed below). For more information please see:

For more information please see About Vikalp Sangam.

  • ACCORD (Tamil Nadu)
  • Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (National)
  • Alternative Law Forum (Bengaluru)
  • Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment(Bengaluru)
  • BHASHA (Gujarat)
  • Bhoomi College (Bengaluru)
  • Blue Ribbon Movement (Mumbai)
  • Centre for Education and Documentation (Mumbai)
  • Centre for Environment Education (Gujarat)
  • Centre for Equity Studies (Delhi)
  • CGNetSwara (Chhattisgarh)
  • Chalakudypuzha Samrakshana Samithi / River Research Centre (Kerala)
  • ComMutiny: The Youth Collective (Delhi)
  • Deccan Development Society (Telangana)
  • Deer Park (Himachal Pradesh)
  • Development Alternatives (Delhi)
  • Dharamitra (Maharashtra)
  • Ekta Parishad (several states)
  • Ektha (Chennai)
  • EQUATIONS (Bengaluru)
  • Gene Campaign (Delhi)
  • Greenpeace India (Bengaluru)
  • Health Swaraaj Samvaad (national)
  • Ideosync (Delhi)
  • Jagori Rural (Himachal Pradesh)
  • Kalpavriksh (Maharashtra)
  • Knowledge in Civil Society (national)
  • Kriti Team (Delhi)
  • Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation (Ladakh)
  • Local Futures (Ladakh)
  • Maati (Uttarakhand)
  • Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch (national)
  • Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (Rajasthan)
  • National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements (national)
  • Nirangal (Tamil Nadu)
  • North East Slow Food & Agrobiodiversity Society (Meghalaya)
  • Peoples’ Science Institute (Uttarakhand)
  • Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture Network (national)
  • reStore (Chennai)
  • Sahjeevan (Kachchh)
  • Sambhaavnaa (Himachal Pradesh)
  • Samvedana (Maharashtra)
  • Sangama (Bengaluru)
  • Sangat (Delhi)
  • School for Democracy (Rajasthan)
  • School for Rural Development and Environment (Kashmir)
  • Shikshantar (Rajasthan)
  • Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust (Ladakh)
  • Social Entrepreneurship Association (Tamil Nadu)
  • SOPPECOM (Maharashtra)
  • South Asian Dialogue on Ecological Democracy (Delhi)
  • Students’ Environmental and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (Ladakh)
  • Thanal (Kerala)
  • Timbaktu Collective (Andhra Pradesh)
  • Titli Trust (Uttarakhand)
  • Tribal Health Initiative (Tamil Nadu)
  • URMUL (Rajasthan)
  • Vrikshamitra (Maharashtra)
  • Watershed Support Services & Activities Network (Andhra Pradesh/Telangana)

Background

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) is a law that was brought into force after decades of long struggles by indigenous communities in India for their land resource rights. The FRA recognises the historical injustice committed against Adivasis and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) by recognizing and vesting their rights, which have gone unrecorded so far. This Act includes both individual rights for cultivation in forestland, community rights over common property resources and habitat rights. FRA recognizes that forest communities are integral for the survival of forest ecosystems, and vests rights and responsibilities in them for conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological balance, resulting in the strengthening of conservation regimes while ensuring their livelihood and food security.

Community Forest Resource Rights (CFR) are rights of Adivasi and OTFDs over customary common forest land within the traditional or customary boundaries of the village or seasonal use of landscape in the case of pastoral communities, including reserved forests, protected forests and protected areas such as Sanctuaries and National Parks. Section 3 (1) (i) of FRA vests the ‘right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they (Adivasi and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers) have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use’. Section 5 provides the power and responsibility to the Gram Sabha to protect, preserve and manage the biodiversity, natural resources, wildlife and water sources in its CFR, and also its cultural and spiritual resources, and to prevent any activity that causes harm to these resources.

The Gram Sabha or village assembly, is the primary unit of local self-governance. As per FRA, the Gram Sabha, which must be composed of at least 1/3 women, has been given the authority to decide about vesting of claims. Apart from that, the Gram Sabha has the power to control, plan and manage minor water bodies (Section 4 (j)), Minor Forest Produce (Section 4 m (ii)) and Resources (Section 4 m (vii)). Section 4 (d) of Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) 1996, says that the Gram Sabha is competent to safeguard among other things the community resources. Gram Sabhas maintain an account where any funds received, be it voluntary contributions, or sales of minor forest produce and minor minerals, or transfers under any devolution schemes, are held. The rights of usage of the funds are under the control of the Gram Sabha.

Community Forest Rights Management Committees (CFRMCs) are constituted by Gram Sabhas as per Rule 4 (1)(e) for protection of wildlife, forest and biodiversity in exercise of Section 5. Rule 4(1)(f) gives power to the Gram Sabha to monitor and control these committees which are entrusted with the duty to prepare conservation and management plans for community forest resources.

ABBREVIATIONS AND GLOSSARY

Compensatory Afforestation (CA) is defined as the process of afforestation, and associated regeneration activities done to compensate for destroyed forest land that has been diverted to non-forest activities. In line with FRA, the Forest Department should seek free, prior, informed consent from the Gram Sabha for plantation work, as the Gram Sabha has the power to self-govern the community forests and resources under FRA.

District Level Committee (DLC) is the body that makes the final approval of forest rights claims and ensures their recording.

Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO)– A legal entity, a company or a cooperative, of farmers formed to organise for better income and markets for all producers.

Federation of Gram Sabhas are a political and economic organisation of Gram Sabhas coming together to lobby and make collective actions.

Forest Department (FD) is a government agency for forest administration. The FD was formed during British colonial era, and the State continues to exert control over Indian forests through it.

Forest Rights Committee (FRC) is a body formed by the Gram Sabha to facilitate the process of claiming forest rights.

Forest Villages (FV) are villages that historically have fallen under Forest Department control or old habitations, unsurveyed villages and other villages in forests whether recorded, notified or not. As the villages did not fall under the Revenue Department, they received very few developmental benefits and no legal entitlements.

Individual Forest Rights (IFR) include the right for Adivasi and Forest Dwellers to live in (housing) and cultivate (agriculture) forest lands.

Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs), composed of Forest Department and Gram Sabha members, most often have an imbalance of power where the FD dominates decision-making and profits, and the role of communities is tokenized.

Large Scale Adivasi Multipurpose Cooperative societies (LAMPS) are government scheme supported organisations for providing economic support in which Adivasi communities can buy, sell, get loans and market their produce through agricultural cooperatives.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), 2005 is a law that guarantees the right for rural inhabitants to a fixed number of days of work.

Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is the nodal agency in the administrative structure of the Central Government for the planning, promotion, coordination and overseeing the implementation of India’s environmental and forestry policies and programmes.

Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) is the nodal Ministry for overall policy, planning and coordination of programmes for development of ST’s. MoTA is the nodal agency for implementation of FRA.

Minor Forest Produce (MFP) & Non Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) includes all non-timber forest produce of plant origin that provide cash income and sustenance for forest communities. Section 3(1)(c) of FRA recognises the ‘right of ownership, access to collect, use, and dispose of minor forest produce which has been traditionally collected within or outside village boundaries.’

Nistar Rights are community rights for access and use of forests recognised earlier in Princely states, Zamindari or such intermediary regimes. Records of nistar rights are found in govt documents and reports in many states.

Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) are inhabitants and communities who have resided in and depended on forests for generations.

Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, 1996 (PESA) is a legislation that vests the control, management and governance of forests and resources in the hands of local tribal communities. PESA also intends to reduce impoverishment, food insecurity, malnutrition and out-migration among tribal populations by providing them better control and management of natural resources which will improve their livelihood and standard of life. Equally important is the recognition that for tribal communities, their economic, social and cultural connection to their lands and forest resources are integral to their identity

Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) is a government classification of tribal communities that have been systematically excluded to such an extent that they possess very low developmental indices.

Protected Areas (PAs), as per the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, include areas demarcated by the government for conservation purposes such as National Parks, Sanctuaries,. Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves. The definition of forest land in FRA includes protected areas, and the rights of Adivasis and Forest Dwellers are recognised in all PAs. Section 5 of FRA says that these Gram Sabhas have the power to protect the wildlife, forest and biodiversity. They have the duty to ensure that adjoining catchment areas, water sources and other ecological sensitive areas are adequately protected.

Record of Rights (RoR) is the final step in recording of forest rights, when the rights are entered into the Government records of the Revenue and Forest departments.

Reserved Forest (RF) and Protected Forests (PF) are defined as per the Indian Forest Act (1927), referring to different levels of protection that the State executes over these forests.

Sub-Divisional Level Committee (SDLC) examines resolutions for forest rights claims by the Gram Sabhas and pass it to the DLC.

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