Forest Rights Recognised In Jharkhand for the First Time in Two Years

Forest Rights Recognised In Jharkhand for the First Time in Two Years

On 26 January 2021 Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren distributed Community Forest Rights (CFR) titles to 800 villages. Of these, 13 tribal villages that received the rights belonged to Oxfam India-Badlao Foundation’s intervention area in Godda’s Sundarpahari block. Twelve other villages, again from our intervention area, are expected to get their CFR soon.

Although the recent distribution of titles, under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), by the Soren government is a welcome step, one should not celebrate too fast. It is to be noted here that the titles distributed to the Gram Sabhas are not Community Forest Resource Rights (CFRR) but Community Forest Rights (CFR). CFR Rights are the crux of the FRA act which bestow management rights over the natural resources while CF Rights are limited to access and use. Without management rights, the Gram Sabha’s role is limited to a beneficiary who can reap the benefits of nature’s bounty but cannot be an active participant in its conservation and development.

How Has Jharkhand Fared Until Now

Jharkhand is one of the many states in the country which have lagged poorly in the implementation of FRA 2006. As of 31 Dec 2020, the percentage of both, IFR and CFR rights recognition in the state stands at 56%. However, these figures do not mean much when seen in isolation. It is only when the status quo is compared with potential of rights recognition in the state that we start to get an accurate understanding of real progress of the act.

A recent GIS based research study by ATREE (Lele, Khare, & Mokashi, 2020) indicates that the minimum CFR potential in Jharkhand is around 21,175 sq km or 52.32 lakh acres. Other studies (CFR-LA, 2016) also corroborate (CFR potential of 51.58 lakh acres) with the recent estimation. These rights could potentially be claimed by 12,516 villages out of the total 32,395 villages that exist in Jharkhand state. Latest data from MoTA website shows that around 2.57 lakh acres have been distributed as part of these entitlements out of which CFR area is 1.03 lakh acres. This means in the last 12 years since the landmark law was passed, CFR recognition in the state has been a mere 2% of the true potential.

While the ATREE study does not speak of IFR recognition status but the state of IFR recognition is equally dismal as pointed out by a national study (Sahoo & Sahu, 2019) which pegs the overall percentage of potential forest area recognised at 3.87%. The fact that a mere 110,756 claims are filed (out of which 28,107 rejected and 20,679 pending) in more than a decade speaks volumes for the state of FRA implementation in a state that had a tribal population of over 86 lakhs in 2011 and must easily be over a crore now.  For a state that was created to ascertain indigenous identity, it is indeed a shame that FRA implementation has been so poor in Jharkhand when it should have been leading the initiative in the country.

Reviving FRA in Jharkhand

With the change in government in December 2019, it was expected that land and forest rights issues will take centre-stage in the state once again. After all, land and forest issues played a crucial role in the electoral victory of Hemant Soren who had campaigned on protecting tribal rights. However, the Covid-19 crisis began shortly afterwards in March 2021 and the current dispensation understandably focussed more on the priorities of health and migration till the end of the year. Now that the pandemic has eased a little, glimpses of keeping the electoral promise was seen in 2021 when the Chief Minister distributed around 800 Community Forest Rights (CF) titles on the occasion of Republic Day.

In Jharkhand, Oxfam India has been advocating for the proper implementation of the FRA act for close to a decade now. It started with creating awareness about the landmark act in 2012 which later progressed to training and capacity building of grassroots NGOs till 2015-16. Oxfam’s intervention helped build legal and operational understanding of the provisions of FRA both for the civil society and local communities in Jharkhand. In 2017, Oxfam India partnered with local NGO Badlao Foundation to file claims for forest rights recognition in 25 villages of Sundarpahari block in Godda district. Thanks to the persistent efforts of the local community and Badlao Foundation, 13 tribal villages received community forest rights for their respective villages on 26 Jan 2021. The remaining 12 villages are also expected to receive their titles soon. Besides these 25 villages, Oxfam and Badlao is helping 15 more villages to file CFR claims which have progressed to the Forest Rights Committee level.

Jharkhand’s Next Steps From Community Forest Rights to Community Forest Resource Rights

The Jharkhand government should take a cue from its neighbouring state of Chhattisgarh which has started providing CFR rights in campaign mode. Going a step further, the Chhattisgarh government has also allocated separate funds in its 2021 budget for all those Gram Sabhas which have secured CFR rights. This will not only help in creating robust CFR management plans but also galvanize convergence with government schemes.

Jharkhand can also emulate another neighbouring state Odisha to catalyse the rights recognition process in the state. Tribal Research Institute (TRI) Odisha has recently come out with a FRA atlas which offers a baseline for informing implementation, planning, and setting targets for district-wise rights recognition including potential FRA villages and potential forest area over which individual and community rights can be recognised.

TRI Odisha can endeavour to develop a similar handy tool for Jharkhand. District wise FRA potential is already available for Jharkhand, both spatially (Lele, Khare, & Mokashi, 2020) and as raw data (Sahu, Toppo, & Ganguly, 2019). The state can now move one step forward and do further analysis to come out with village-wise status of FRA claim and recognition and a district factsheet. This would be useful because ultimately it is the Gram Sabhas of villages who receive the entitlements. This will also help in fixing accountability with the forest division and nodal agency for implementation.

Streamlining Forest Titles in Jharkhand

The fact that Jharkhand does not have a tribal affairs ministry of its own is telling. The problems and roadblocks that hinder full-fledged FRA implementation in Jharkhand are well known by now. The civil society forum in Jharkhand and Jharkhand Van Adhikar Manch have clearly identified some of these:

  • Non-functional State-Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC) and lack of capacity building of Divisional Level Committee & Sub-Divisional Level Committee in the state
  • No monitoring mechanism to track claims; Poor MIS
  • Lack of awareness, accountability and cooperation from relevant govt. departments during filing claims
  • Lack of community mobilisation
  • No platforms for Gram Sabhas and Civil Society to interface with district or sub divisional level authorities for systematic follow up and coordination

These are few of the many operational issues that needs to be streamlined soon. It is of utmost importance that a strong interface is established between Forest & Revenue Departments, DLC, SDLC & Gram Sabha to review proceedings. This will do away with the current piecemeal approach adopted across the state.

Recognising forest rights is just half the task done. Rights per se is only a notional win if these cannot be exercised to enhance forest conservation and enhance lives and livelihoods of title holders. In this context, it is imperative that the state also makes preparations and invest its resources for post-recognition convergence with line departments such as irrigation, agriculture, horticulture, forest dept., MGNREGA amongst others. The few studies that are available indicate that performance in this crucial aspect has been again poor.

The ruling dispensation should endeavour to develop an Integrated Convergence Model in diverse areas of forest governance rights and propose State Action Plan for sustainable livelihood opportunities among these communities at State & District level. The issues of land, water and forests are central to Jharkhand’s tribal community, not only for preserving their livelihood but also for maintaining their socio-cultural identity. Now that there is political will in the state and a tribal chief minister who also happens to be the forest minister, it is imperative that the FRA movement is kick-started in a mission mode so that the ‘historical injustice’ can be ‘undone’ in a time-bound and systematic manner.


CFR-LA. (2016). Promise and Performance: Ten Years of the Forest Rights Act in India. Citizens’ Report on Promise and Performance of The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, after 10 years of its Enactment. Community Forest Rights-Learning and Advocacy Process (CFRLA), India.

Lele, S., Khare, A., & Mokashi, S. (2020). ESTIMATING AND MAPPING CFR POTENTIAL: For Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. ATREE, Bangalore.

Sahoo, U. K., & Sahu, G. (2019). TRENDS AND DIRECTIONS IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SCHEDULED TRIBES AND OTHER TRADITIONAL FOREST DWELLERS (RECOGNITION OF FOREST RIGHTS) ACT 2006 AFTER TWELVE YEARS. Centre for Science, Technology & Society, School of Habitat Studies,Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai.

Sahu, G., Toppo, A., & Ganguly, A. (2019). Forest Rights Act Implementation in Jharkhand: Promise and Performance. Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai.


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