The Mizoram government has rejected the Centre’s proposal to amend the “anti-indigenous people” Indian Forest Act, 1927. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change invited feedback on the proposed amendment from the States
Why is the Mizoram government opposing the Indian Forest Act, 1927?
- The government of Mizoram cites that provisions of the Indian Forest Act of 1927 are in conflict with the special provisions of the State under Article 371G of the Constitution.
- The proposed amendment in the Indian Forest Act would challenge Mizo customary laws and practices, ownership and transfer of land as well as the powers conferred upon the autonomous district councils, conferred to Mizoram under the article 371G of the Constitution of India.
- The State’s areas under forest have been governed by the Mizoram Forest Act of 1955 in accordance with the customary laws and needs of the local people. So that the Indian Forest Act of 1927 had not been enforced in Mizoram.
- Forest rights activists and tribal welfare organizations are against this amendment bill that seeks to give higher management powers beyond what is provided in the Forest Rights Act of 2006, threatens to evict forest dwellers and promotes forest produce through private firms.
Article 371G: Provisions for Mizoram
- Mizoram is among the 15 States and Union Territories with more than 33% of the geographical area under forest cover. The State is among India’s “tribal districts” with a total forest cover of 421,000 sq km.
- Article 371-Gspecifies the following special provisions for Mizoram
Indian Forest Act, 1927
- The Acts of Parliament relating to the following matters would not apply to Mizoram unless the State Legislative Assembly to decides:
- Religious or social practices of the Mizos;
- Mizo customary laws and procedure,
- Administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo customary laws; and
- Ownership and transfer of land.
- The Mizoram Legislative Assembly is to consist of not less than 40 members.
Forest Rights Act of 2016:
- The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was largely based on previous Indian Forest Acts implemented under the British. The most famous one was the Indian Forest Act of 1878.
- Both the 1878 act and 1927 one sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and the duty leviable on timber and other forest produce.
- It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest.
- It defines what a forest offense is, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act.
Also read: Issue Of Tribal Eviction Under Forest Rights Act Preparedness Towards Increasing Forest Cover
Features of the Act:
- The act recognizes and vests the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDST) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD)who have been residing in such forests for generations.
- The act also establishes the responsibilities and authority for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of the ecological balance of FDST and OTFD.
- It strengthens the conservation regime of the forests while ensuring livelihood and food security of the FDST and OTFD.
- It seeks to rectify colonial injustice to the FDST and OTFD who are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem.
- The act identifies four types of rights:
- Title Rights
- It gives FDST and OTFD the right to ownership to land farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares.
- Ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family and no new lands will be granted.
- Use Rights
- The rights of the dwellers extend to extracting Minor Forest Produce, grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc.
- Relief and Development Rights
- To rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection
- Forest Management Rights
- It includes the right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use.