The All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) has written a letter to the District Collector of Kaimur district in Bihar raising concerns on forest authorities invading the lands of tribals in Dighar village. The letter highlights how The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (in short, Forest Rights Act, 2006) protects the right to environment and right to livelihood of forest dwellers. The law grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities and those who primarily depend on forests for their livelihood.
Despite of this, forest authorities in Dighar village have dug a hole in the lands of these forest dwellers thus infringing their rights which are provided for, not only under the Act but as also reiterated by the Supreme Court in its order of February 2019. The Supreme Court in Wildlife First & ors vs. Union of India (WP(C) no. 109 of 2008; order of February 28, 2019) had granted stay on any interference on lands of the forest dwellers and put a stay on all evictions.
The letter also says that this process of recognising the rights of forest dwellers as per the law is going at an extremely slow pace in Bihar which is affecting the lives of these forest dwellers and the forest authorities are acting in contravention to the provisions of this Act. It is also alleged that these forest authorities are not even following the lockdown rules and guidelines issued by the state.
The letter also puts forth the plight of forest dwellers who depend on these forests for their livelihood especially in times of lockdown when income has been seriously hit. The letter demands that strict action be taken against the forest authorities, for infringing upon the rights of the forest dwellers and for acting in contravention to the law.
The lack of implementation of the Forest Rights Act has been one of the glaring issues of recent times. In November, last year, thousands of Adivasis, Forest Workers, Forest Dwellers and Forest Rights Activists gathered around the parliament, to ask for their land rights, demand the implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006 and protest illegal evictions. NGOs like the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) and Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) have backed the cause of these forest dwellers and hence filed an intervention Application in the aforementioned case (Wild Life First v/s Union of India) in the Supreme Court, which was then admitted. These NGOs are standing firmly behind Adivasi women and forest movement leaders Sokalo Gond and Nivada Rana to ensure proper implementation of the Act. Wild Life First v/s Union of India is a batch of petitions filed in 2008 challenging the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act.
The letter by AIUFWP to the District Collector can be read here.