Need to equip forest dwellers with enterprising skills: Dr Sanjay Kumar, Climate Parliament

Forest dwellers need to be given holistic training for the mutual benefit of communities and forests, says Dr Sanjay Kumar of Climate Parliament.

New Delhi: To protect the rights of forest dwellers, Government of India introduced the Forests Rights Act, 2006 (FRA). According to the Act, those people who have been staying on forest land for more than 75 years or more than three generations are considered as forest dwellers.

The Act stipulates that any person who is staying in a hut or dwelling on a forest land will also be considered as forest dweller. There are 13 main features comprising the FRA, 2006.

Most of the forest dwellers already know about their collective rights since this is traditional knowledge and has been passed on through the generations. In 1988, the Forest Act helped in enhancing collective powers to the forest dwellers.

Forests are included in the Concurrent List of the Constitution of India.

Dr Sanjay Kumar, Executive Director, Climate Parliament, feels that this Act has given a new direction to the lives of forest dwellers.  “The forest dwellers must also be trained to make proper use of the forest resources according to their traditional knowledge,” he says.

Kumar was sharing his thoughts on the rights and privileges of forest dwellers during an interview for OneWorld's 'Access to Justice' project in partnership with the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India, and UNDP.

Kumar highlights the need of forest dwellers being made aware of the local and global market for the forest resources. “A Forest Rights Committee can be constituted among the locals comprising of 10-15 members. Two thirds of the members should be from the minorities and backward classes and 50 per cent of the members should be women,” he says.

According to Kumar, government representatives should do capacity building of the forest dwellers on management skills based on forest as an enterprising model. “The women and weaker sections among the forest dwellers must be encouraged to take active part in the management activities,” he says.

The Act underlines that people collectively will be responsible for the management of the forest wherein the government representative will play the role of a facilitator.

Forest dwellers are people who have been living in the forest for a long time. Most of them belong to tribes. They usually depend on the forests for food and occupation. These people play an important role in protecting the flora and fauna of the forests.

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