All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) lists out their demands before the Lok Sabha election 2024

From repealing the contended Forest Conservation (Amendment) Act 2023 to ensuring land titles for landless women, and demanding withdrawal of the 4 Labour Codes to increasing minimum living wage of Rs. 400 per day, AIUFWP has put out a long list of demands from the parties before the general election


As the country prepares for a heated parliamentary general election 2024, which will elect 543 members to the lower house of the parliament, also known as Lok Sabha, various advocacy and rights groups have drawn a charter of demands from the prospective parties going to the polls. All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), which works with Adivasi and Dalit communities across the country, representing the traditional workforce in India, has highlighted numerous issues and demands from the parties, touching upon the concerns of labour rights, conservation, forest rights, women’s safety and women’s rights, civil liberties, health, and education.

Adivasis and Dalits, constitutionally recognised as Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Scheduled Castes (SCs), respectively, are the most vulnerable and historically exploited sections of the population. Electorally, they hold a significant sway, with STs alone influencing fourth of Lok Sabha seats (133 seats out of 543), and having a direct reservation in 47 of these. SCs wield even greater dominance, with 84 seats directly reserved for them.

After the hard-won passage of Forest Right Act, 2006, Adivasi communities throughout the country became theoretically eligible to claim individual and community rights over parcel of forest lands and resources, specifically over the land traditionally habituated by them. Similarly, individual or community rights are given for resources traditionally used, collected or harvested by the forest communities. Though the Act provides significant powers to Gram Sabha, a village level representative body (group of villages collectively in some cases), to grant or reject claims over forest rights, or to grant or deny permission to any project affecting the forest and its community, the power of the said body has been whittled down through various amendments in the laws, as the forest department continues to manage the forests while side-lining the indigenous people. These factors have direct implication on forest communities’ livelihood, economy, dignity, safeguard, cultural practices, governmental autonomy and empowerment. Considering these factors, AIUFWP has drawn a list of demand for the parties, including the issues of general importance.

Demands of the AIUFWP

  1. Ending the historical injustice on forest dependent communities and ensuring time bound recognition of all individual and community resource rights as per the Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA)

The demand stems from the fact that even after FRA has been passed, state governments are regularly rejecting or sitting on FRA claims. As per the Ministry of Tribal Affairs data, around 38% of FRA claims for land rights have been rejected till November 30, 2022, The Hindu reported. Notably, the Supreme Court order of February 13, 2019, which was eventually stayed, had directed states to remove forest dwellers whose FRA claims were rejected, putting around 4 lakh forest dwellers at the risk of eviction.

  1. Withdrawing all false cases by Forest Department on forest dependent communities and repealing the Forest Conservation Amendment Act 2023

Forest Departments with its colonial legacies have regularly filed cases against poor Adivasi’s for minor disputes, often as a means of harassment. In addition, the 2023 amendment to the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) effectively reduces the protection granted to preserve forest by narrowing the definition of forest to only those recorded forests under Indian Forest Act or “forest” as recorded in government records “on or after the 25th October, 1980”. It further provides blanket exemption to carry out any project in forest land located within 100 Kms from LAC or LOC. Similarly, any defence or public utility project is exempted from the provisions of the FCA. Interestingly, activities like zoos and safaris within forests are no longer considered “non-forest purpose” activities. Apart from directly affecting the protection and conservation of forests, these changes also have a significant bearing on forest rights of the forest dwelling individuals and communities, as they will have no say in the process and could be easily disposed. Thus, the 2023 FCA amendment is directly linked to the undermining of Forest Rights Act, 2006.

  1. Enhancing Livelihoods of forest dependent communities through guaranteeing fair market price of seasonal forest produce through public procurement mechanisms

Providing fair market opportunities and remunerative prices for minor forest produce (excluding timbre) can improve sustainable livelihood for forest dependent communities, helping them financially. It also helps utilise natural resources in efficient manner without the risk of overexploitation, effectively contributing to its preservation, conservation, and sustainable use. For this purpose, the State should ensure an effective and fair public procurement mechanism to buy minor forest produces, and support indigenous forest communities.

  1. Enactment of Community Resource Rights Act for all marine communities over their traditionally accessed riverine territories, and ensuring resources for their livelihood

The coastal communities in India have for long now been neglected by the policy makers despite their importance in trade, food security, and environmental protection. With depleting marine resources and lack of alternative job opportunities, coastal communities in India face the double whammy of loss of livelihoods and climate change. To protect their traditional routes, and ensure sustainable livelihood opportunities for the community with rights-based approach, there is an urgent need for the protective law, especially to protect small and marginal fishing groups against adverse impact of big scale commercial fishers and companies.

  1. Expeditiously granting land titles for landless women

Women in India have historically been excluded from ownership and rights over land, property and inheritance. The situation is further exacerbated for landless and Adivasi women, as they are made increasingly invisible within and by the society. As per one study, only 6.5% women aged 18 or above own agricultural land in landowning rural households. Again, FRA is one of the important tools to increase land ownership of Adivasi women, and the demand in this regard by AIUFWP is to be understood within this context.

  1. Assuring women safety at places of work while ensuring equal remuneration for equal work

Women’s safety, especially at work, remains a backburner issue even today. As women continue to work in varied positions and places, be it office, home, field, forest or factory, the risks they face in diverse working environment has only increased. Therefore, creating a safe and healthy working environment, especially for women working on the field remains imperative. Relatedly, Article 39 puts a moral duty on the State to ensure “that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women”. As per the recent ILO analysis, by the end of 2021, the income gap between men and women workers in India remained around 35%.

  1. Withdrawal of the 4 Labour Codes and reinstatement of the previous labour laws, focusing on safeguarding labour rights

The four labour codes that were passed by the parliament in 2019-2020 (Code on Wages, Industrial Relations Code, Social Security Code and the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code) has been strongly criticised by labour unions for weakening the rights of workers. The new labour codes allow companies’ easier route to hire and fire workers (applicable to companies with no more than 300 employees), and makes it difficult for workers to carry out a legal strike as the code requires them to give 60 days’ notice in advance of any such strike.

  1. Ensuring working minimum wage of Rs. 400 and its implementation in MNREGA. Additionally, the guaranteed minimum number of working days in MNREGA should be increased to 200 days

The present minimum wage in India stands at Rs. 176 per day, a miserably low amount by any standard, which has not been hiked since 2017. Given the consistent inflation in the economy coupled with lack of quality job creation, ensuring minimum wage of Rs. 400 can help the most needy and vulnerable section of the society. Similarly, MNREGA, which has helped families in the times of distress, needs to increase minimum working days from present 100 to 200 to ensure regular supply of income for the poorest households.

  1. Accepting MSP and other demands of the farmers and putting stop to all the atrocities committed against them

One of the demands of the protesting farmers from the government has been to ensure Minimum Support Price (MSP) guarantee for all the 23 crops, a set minimum price for the purchase of their crops by anyone in the market. Importantly, the demand is for the MSP to be fixed at least 50 percent higher than the cost of production of the crop. Among other demands include loan waiver and scrapping government policies which may harm farmers’ interests. As per the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO) ‘Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households and Land and Livestock Holding, 2019’ survey, the average farm household earned modest Rs. 10,218 per month and around half of such households (50.2%) were in debt, Businessline reported. Therefore, the demand for MSP should be carefully considered taking these factors into account.

  1. Building inclusive and public spirited educational and health facilities, while preventing privatization these public goods

Public investment in education and health is essential for creating an informed, educated, and healthy citizenry, which not help increases country’s own prosperity, but also helps the socio-economically disadvantageous citizens to access quality public goods and promote social mobility. As the welfare state takes a backseat with the ascendancy of neoliberalism, the most vulnerable sections of the population are increasingly struggling to access the most basic of needs, affecting their overall wellbeing. During the year 2023, the budget outlay for education was just 9% of GDP and only 2.1% of GDP was spent on healthcare in the same year, even after the overall increase in the spending on the latter.

  1. Protecting constitutional rights and values, including freedom of speech, right to association, and secular character of the polity

In the recent decade, as the country witnesses growing intolerance, violation of democratic norms, censorship, and ethno-religious nationalism, AIUFWP strongly believes that it is a duty of every citizen to prevent attempts made to undermine democratic character of the State, and stop all kind of violations and abuse of state agencies, whether directed against minorities, forest communities, political opponents or protesting citizens. In this struggle we stand steadfast in our commitment to preserve the fundamental rights and basic structure of the constitutional polity.



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