Van Gujjars are the pastoral nomadic. They are basically found in the hilly area and mostly in the State of Uttarakhand. Their livelihood depends on the grazing of buffaloes and cattle. They earn minimum money by selling the milk of their cattle. Vangujjars also make milk products such as ghee, butter, curd for sale. Nowadays, the population of buffaloes is decreasing and they only sale milk for earning their daily bread.
Vangujjars are not located in the same place during the whole year. The move according to their suitability of climate change. They settled temporarily in different locations which are suitable for their cattle. In winter, they feed their buffaloes and cattle after lopping of the trees and in summer they depend on natural grazing. They move to the higher Himalayan region during Monsoon. Such movements of the Vangujjars allow regeneration of vegetation in the lower range of Himalayan and so provides suitable grazing for the buffaloes when they come back in October. Thus it is that Van Gujjar grazing strategy combines optimum utilization of resources to sustain their own livelihoods and at the same time they conserve the ecosystem which in turn preserves nature.
STRUGGLE FOR LAND RIGHTS
From the time immemorial till 2006, there were no specific land laws for them. Since they are pastoral and do migration according to climate change so they didn’t recognise any specific land. But from the significant changes in the forest department and the conscious struggle for the saving of environment, the government tried to throw outVangujjars from the forests. Various non-governmental organisations and Pastoralists Associations represented forest dwellers’ rights in the Parliament. A parliamentary committee formed Forestry Rights Bill 2005 and this bill contained only tribal communities. After many struggle and presentation to the committee, it has included other forest dwellers rights also including pastoralists for enjoying their customary rights.
One of the most debatable law was passed by Parliament on 18 December 2006 and it was“The Scheduled Tribes and other Forest Dwellers (Forest Rights) Act” This Act is also called as Forest Rights Act, the Tribal land Act and the Tribal Rights Act. This Act has been the result of the efforts of NGOs to ensure the economic, social and cultural rights of Tribal communities and forest dwellers.
HIGHLIGHTS OF FOREST RIGHT ACT, 2006
NAME OF THE ACT– The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act (or the Forest Rights Act or FRA), 2006.
AIM OF THE ACT– The Act aims at addressing the issues facing injustice by the forest dwellers from the time immoral by recognising forest land, resources, and conservation rights of the forest-dwelling communities.
OBJECTIVE OF THE ACT– One of the main objects of FRA is to protect the customary rights of the forest communities.
PURPOSE OF ENACTMENT OF FRA
The Indian Forest Act, 1927 and the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, are the forest governing laws in India and the procedure for settlement of rights was provided under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 which were hardly followed resulting in insecurities of tribal and forest-dwelling communities. But under the Indian Forest Act, areas were often declared to be government forests without noticing any relationship between tribal and land such as who lived in these areas, what land they were using etc.
Under Indian Forest Act and Wildlife Protection Act, the rights of people living in the area to be declared as a forest area are to be settled by a forest settlement officer, in order to settle this issue, there was a need of FRA.
An officer is required to enquire into the claims of people to the land, minor forest produce, etc., and in the case of claims found to be valid, to allow them to continue or to expose them by paying compensation.It is found in many areas that this process either didn’t take place at all or took place in a highly faulty and corrupted manner. Those whose rights are not recorded during the settlement process are responsive to eviction at any time.
Thus, the Forest Rights Act, 2006 was enacted to protect the marginalised socio-economic class and forest community citizens and to ensure there must be balance between the right to the environment and right to life and livelihood.
REJECTIONS OF THE CLAIM AS FOREST- DWELLERS
The act has been enumerated, rights have been provided but the question is whether these rights have been given in actually to the dwellers. From the past decade, nearly 4.21 million cases have been filed across India by the tribal communities claiming to acquire forest land under the Forest Rights Act. But the actual scenario is 1.47 million out of 4.21 million claims have been approved by the Court. And around 79,000 out of 1.47 million cases have been recognised as community forest rights.
After the failure to get the claim under the Forest Rights Act, Supreme Court on February 2019 ordered the eviction of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellerscategories in 16 States. However, due to extreme opposition, the government put stay on this order in April 2019.
CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS
From the above discussion, it has been concluded by the author that providing rights is not sufficient until and unless it will not implement properly. There are various suggestions for the re-evaluation of the Act and these are:-