Topic: General Studies 2:
- Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections of society.
Forest Rights Act in Jammu & Kashmir
Context: The J&K government has now decided to implement the Forest Rights Act.
Tribal politics in the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir was focused on the twin issues of political reservation and enactment/extension of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006.
Brief Background of the Political Reservation Issue
- Lack of political reservation had been a major reason for the marginalization of Adivasis (Tribal people)
- The Adivasis have had to largely depend on non-tribal leadership to represent their issues and demands.
- Lack of political reservation meant that their issues were never adequately represented in the Legislative Assembly.
- The vote share of Adivasis is a major deciding factor in almost 21 Assembly constituencies, yet they remained politically marginalised.
- However, immediately after the abrogation of Article 370 (August 2019) Adivasis were provided political reservation. It was considered as step in right direction.
- The actual impact of political reservation will be seen only after elections are conducted for the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory of J&K.
Issues of FRA
- After the abrogation of J&K’s special status, there was no delay in providing political reservation for the Adivasis. However, similar urgency wasn’t shown in the extension of the FRA
- In fact, the FRA should have been in place in J&K long time ago — nothing in Article 370 prevented the Legislative Assembly from enacting a similar law.
- The FRA would have provided Adivasis in J&K access and ownership rights, forest-based livelihood rights, and minor forest produce rights.
- Due to lack of implementation of FRA, Adivasi lands had not been protected and Adivasis, especially nomads, had neither land rights nor rehabilitation rights.
Now that FRA is being implemented, will it resolve the issues of Adivasis?
- Many Adivasi families are unlikely to benefit from the implementation of the Forest Rights Act in J&K
- Implementing the FRA is a welcome step. However, instead of alleviating fears of displacement and disempowerment, the law has only increased those fears.
- This is primarily because this is happening against the backdrop of the J&K government’s decision on October 31 to declare Roshni Act null and void. (details of Act at end of article).
- Roshni Act has been controversial due to the questionable transfer of ownership of state land to many influential people, including Ministers, legislators, bureaucrats, and police officers.
- Roshni Act also provided ownership rights to many poor and landless Adivasis but now the land will be retrieved from them (as the act will be null & void). In such a scenario, the Adivasis will fail to prove their claims of ownership under the FRA.
- Further, in the last few weeks, the eviction and demolition drives against nomads have intensified without any rehabilitation plans in place. The FRA, then, is unlikely to benefit such poor, landless Adivasis.
- Without a cut-off date, with land being retrieved after declaring the Roshni Act null and void, and with forceful evictions taking place, many tribal families are unlikely to benefit from the implementation of the FRA.
Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act -Roshni Act
- The Act regularised the unauthorised occupation of land.
- It granted legal ownership rights to those who had grabbed the government land in Jammu and Kashmir over several decades.
- The law provided for the collection of a fee for the legalising the illegal act of landgrab.
- The money thus raised was to be used for up-gradation of power generation in Jammu and Kashmir.
- The scheme in public view was to provide electricity, roshni in Hindi-Urdu.
- This is why this Act is called the Roshni Act and the scam Roshni scam.
- Anybody who had previously grabbed a piece of government land could approach the authorities, pay a fee and become the rightful owner of the land.
- What followed was that those who had not grabbed the land purchased such land from the poor who had erected some structure on the government and became the new legal owners of the land.
- The court held the Roshni Act as unconstitutional and directed the government to make the complete identities of influential persons who grabbed the land regularised under the law public.
- Jammu and Kashmir government issued an order to cancel all land transfers that took place under the Roshni Act.