Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA): Background, Features, Objectives and Criticism

By Balaji

Updated on: February 21st, 2023

Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA 2006) protects the rights of forest-inhabiting tribal communities and other tribal communities to forest reserves upon which the communities rely. These communities depend upon forest resources for various news such as livelihood, tenements, and other social-cultural needs.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, also known as the Forest Rights Act of India, is often referred to as the Tribal Rights Act or the Tribal Land Act. The topic is extremely relevant for the UPSC Exam and exhaustively covered under the GS Paper 3 Syllabus.


Forest Rights Act 2006

The Forest Rights Act 2006 authorizes forest dwellers to have significant exposure to forest reserves and use forest reserves in the traditional manner to safeguard, conserve, and manage natural resources, to guard forest dwellers against unlawful forced removal, and to provide basic development amenities for the group of forest dwellers to receive education, health, nutrition, infrastructure, and similar facilities.

The Forest Rights Act 2006 also requires the Gram Sabha and rights holders to conserve and protect biodiversity, wildlife, forests, neighboring catchments, waterbodies, and other ecologically fragile zones and to halt any dangerous practices affecting these reserves or tribal cultural and natural heritage.

Forest Rights Act 2006 – Background

For a long time, many people, particularly scheduled tribes, have resided within and around forested areas in a mutually beneficial relationship. The Forest Rights Act 2006 addresses the rights of communities that live in forests (including Scheduled Tribes), which have been denied to them over time due to the country’s continued adherence to forest rules from the colonial era.
The Forest Rights Act 2006 was passed in December 2006 and largely addressed the unfairness brought about by colonial-era forest laws, granting traditional forest-dwelling people legal acknowledgment of their rights. Prior laws and practices, such as the Forest Acts of 1865, 1894, and 1927, prohibited the local communities from using the resources.

Forest Rights Act

According to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, the FRA Act 2006 includes:

  • individual rights such as self-cultivation and habitat
  • community rights such as grazing, fishing, and
  • access to naturally distributed water bodies in forests,
  • habitat rights for particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs),
  • traditional and seasonal resource utilization of Nomadic and Pastoral community members,
  • biodiversity access,
  • community right to traditional knowledge and intellectual property, acknowledgment of traditional customary rights, and
  • the right to defend, regrow, preserve, and manage community forest resources for sustainable usage.

It also guarantees the right to allocate forest land for the purpose of development in order to meet the community’s basic infrastructure requirements.

Forest Rights Act 2006 UPSC Notes

Combined with the FRA 2013, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Settlement Act helps protect tribal populations from expulsion without rehabilitation and restitution.

Objectives of Forest Rights Act 2006

The Forest Rights Act 2006 aims to recognize the rights of marginal and tribal people to the forests on which they have historically relied. The main objectives of the Forest Act 2006 are as follows:

  • To correct the historical wrongs done to forest dwelling community members.
  • To guarantee land tenure, livelihood, and food security for forest dwelling scheduled tribal communities also, including other traditional tribal communities.
  • To boost the forest conservation framework by including authority and obligations on forest rights holders for sustainable usage, conservation of nature, and preservation of ecological balance.

Features of Forest Rights Act 2006

Until the enactment of FRA 2006, Forest Management Policies across both colonial and postcolonial India, along with the acts, rules, and forest guidelines of Participatory Forest Management policies, did not acknowledge the scheduled tribes’ symbiotic association with the forest.

This association was mirrored in their reliance on the forest along with their old wisdom pertaining to forest conservation. The features of the Forest Rights Act 2006 are as follows:

  • The act acknowledges and safeguards the rights over forests and habitation in the forest land, in the case of Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDST), including Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) who have resided in these forests for decades.
  • In addition, FRA 2006 defines the powers and responsibilities of FDST and OTFD for sustainable usage, biodiversity conservation, and preserving balance in the ecological systems.
  • It solidifies the forest conservation regime while guaranteeing the FDST and OTFD’s ability to make a living and their food security.
  • It aims to right a colonial wrong done to FDSTs and OTFDs, which are critical to the survival and sustainable preservation of the forests.

Rights Under the FRA 2006

The Forest Rights Act 2006 distinguishes four kinds of rights:

  • Title rights: It grants FDSTs and OTFDs ownership rights to the land farmed by tribals or forest communities, up to 4 hectares. Possession is granted only for the land that is currently being farmed by the related family; none of the new lands will be provided.
  • Relief and development rights: The rehabilitation process for either illegal eviction or forced migration and basic amenities based on forest protection restrictions.
  • Use rights:  Rights of inhabitants include the extraction of slight forest produce, areas for grazing, pastoralist routes, and so on.
  • Forest management rights: It includes the power to defend, regenerate, safeguard, or manage any of the community forest resources that have traditionally been protected and conserved for long-term use.

Importance of the Forest Rights Act

Under the FRA Act, the Gram Sabha is also a highly empowered entity, allowing the tribal population to have a definitive say in the perseverance of local policies and programs influencing them. The Forest Rights Act 2006 would allow people to look after, lead and supervise their own forests, regulate the mistreatment of resources obtained from forests by the officials, improve forest governance, and better manage tribal privileges and tribal rights.

Below we have noted down the importance of the Forest Rights Act 2006:

  • For the first time, the rights of the community and the rights over shared or common property resources (CPR) are being acknowledged.
  • It assures the livelihood and security of food and nutrition of the forest dwellers, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Forest Dwelling communities, all while strengthening the forest conservation framework.
  • Community resources of the forests are supervised and taken care of in a manner that protects the traditional links between marginal communities and these resources. It is well known that these communities have traditionally used forest resources for environmental sustainability.
  • This act protects rights over intellectual property and the traditional knowledge systems about cultural diversity and species diversity.
  • It expands the mandate of the 5th Schedule and 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which protect indigenous communities’ claims to land or forests.
  • The Forest Rights Act of 2006 protects all the rights of communities that were displaced. The FRA Act attempts to include tribes by identifying IFR and CFR.
  • FRA 2006 recognizes and safeguards the privileges of marginalized communities in the tribal regions to participate in developmental projects.
  • Forest rights might also be attempted to be claimed by any of the members or communities who have lived in forest land for a minimum of three generations (75 years) before 13th December 2005 for legitimate livelihood wants.

Challenges with FRA

The following obstacles have to be overcome for the Forest Rights Act 2006 to be effective in improving, rehabilitating, and protecting plant and animal species from extinction:

Administrative Ignorance

  • The act’s execution continues to pose the greatest difficulty because environmental acts frequently violate the law, encroachments are unlawful, and claims are sometimes wrongfully disregarded.
  • Governments find it simpler to undercut FRA or ignore it totally in favor of financial rewards because tribals do not typically have a sizable vote bank in most states.

Inadequate Awareness

  • Significant ignorance exists among lower-level forest officials who are supposed to help with the processing of claims relating to forest rights.
  • Most of those who have been wronged are also ignorant of their rights.
  • The FRA 2006 has been viewed by the forest bureaucracy as a tool to legitimize invasion rather than a benefits program for the tribe members.

Dilution of FRA

  • The FRA promotes individual rights while providing less room for societal rights, which worries some environmentalists.
  • States are wary of providing Gram Sabha forest rights because community rights successfully provide locals authority over forest resources and a sizable portion of forest money.

The Forest Bureaucracy’s Reluctance to Relinquish Control

  • Massive mismanagement has been practiced by the forest bureaucracy at the national and state levels and, to a lesser extent, by large enterprises.
  • The massive control over land and people that the forest bureaucracy currently possesses worries it will be lost.
  • Corporations worry they will simultaneously lose access to cheap, high-value natural resources.

Institutional Barriers

  • In spite of frequently lacking technical expertise and educational ability, Gram Sabha produces basic layouts of collective and individual claims.
  • For illiterate tribals, the process of documenting groups’ claims under the FRA is time-consuming and terrifying.

Criticism of Forest Rights Act 2006

The Forest Rights Act 2006 makes an effort to consider the requirements of people that live in forests, but it fails to accomplish this when more groups and families are being ejected from these lands because the government rejects their claims and rights to these lands.

  • Due to their essential authority to decide on the requirements and demands of marginal populations on a parcel of forest land, the sub-divisional level committee’s role is frequently questioned.
  • Critics dispute the forest department’s role in allowing forest residents to seed in the forest and reap the rewards.
  • However, the tribes and communities cannot establish their claim to the forest land, and the law does not support their position.
  • Since that 40% of forests are found on the degraded ground, the government’s role in allowing commercial plants there is also contested.

Forest Rights Act 2006 UPSC

The Forest Rights Act 2006 is an important segment under the India GS II paper of the UPSC Syllabus. It is also crucial to constantly keep taking references from Current Affairs to obtain good results.

You can also refer to the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to understand the types of questions asked about the topic.

Question: Under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, who shall be the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of individual or community forest rights or both?

  1. State Forest Department
  2. District Collector/ Deputy Commissioner
  3. Tehsildar/ Block Development Officer/ Mandal Revenue Officer
  4. Gram Sabha

Answer: Option D

UPSC Notes
List of High Courts in India Keshvananda Bharti Case
Red Sanders in India Monetary Policy
Good Governance Social Empowerment
Public Distribution System Ayushman Bharat Scheme
Wetlands in India Special Economic Zone In India


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