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A history of forest regulations

By Archana Vaidya

A backgrounder on forest governance and forest management legislations in pre-independence and independent India, leading up to the Forest Rights Act 2006

To understand the importance of the historical Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest-Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 -- also called the Forest Rights Act (FRA) -- one needs to understand the relationship between forests and people living in or near them and dependent on their produce for their livelihood and sustenance. We need to understand the historical relationship between the forests on the one hand, and tribals and other traditional forest-dwelling communities on the other, changes that have taken place over time, and the way the Act has evolved over the past 150 years.

India is home to the largest indigenous population in the world. According to Census 2001, the adivasi population constitutes 8% of total population, or 84.15 million people. ‘State of Forest Report 2009’, published by the Forest Survey of India, puts India’s recorded forest area at 78.37 million hectares in 2007 (23.84% of the country’s geographic area). There has been a net increase (1) in forest and tree cover between the previous assessment and this assessment, an increase that measures 0.18 million hectares. Most of this has been witnessed in hilly and tribal areas of the country. This piece of information is of crucial importance, proving beyond any doubt that tribal and forest-dwelling communities live in harmony with nature; their traditional practice of using forest produce and natural resources is sustainable and also helps forest regeneration.

Forestry constitutes the second largest land use in India after agriculture, covering about 641,130 sq km, or 22% of the total land base. These statistics are also very important, driving home the quantum of forest dependence in our country. An estimated 200 million people depend on forests for at least part of their livelihoods (2).

Forest-dwellers, including a high proportion of tribals, are among the poorest and most vulnerable groups in society (3). Even in independent India they face persistent problems of land alienation, indebtedness, government monopoly over non-timber forest produce (NTFP), involuntary displacement due to development projects, and lack of proper rehabilitation after being displaced from their traditional forest dwellings.

The FRA is a belated but bold legislative attempt by the Government of India to democratise forest management and its governance. For the first time, not only have the rights of communities living in and dependent on forests been recognised by a federal law, it also seeks to make these people an ally in forest management and governance which hitherto was an exclusive bastion of the forest bureaucracy.

Before we delve into the FRA and the current status of its implementation, and assess the extent to which rights have been granted to forest-dwellers (4), it would be pertinent to have an overview of the law and policy as well as dominant thought processes in forest management, over the last 150 years.

Brief recap of forest governance in pre-British and British India

Historically, forests in India during the pre-British period were managed by communities living in and around the forests and by people dependent on them for their sustenance and livelihood. The word ‘managed’ has been specifically used here because there was a system at play. It was not a free-for-all, open-access system; social institutions like caste and cultural traditions regulated the extraction of produce from the forest (Gadgil et al, 1993; Gadgil and Guha, 1992).

Forest Charter of 1855: Precursor to the first forest management legislation

During British rule, the needs and greed of the Empire dictated the management of forests. The Forest Charter of 1855 was the first attempt by the British Indian government in the direction of forest governance. It made teak timber state property, and its trade was strictly regulated. In 1856, Dietrich Brandis, a German botanist, was appointed first inspector general of forests. The forest department was organised and the first Forest Act was enacted under his guidance. Brandis also made an inventory of trees in India, and classified them.

First ever forest legislation: The Indian Forest Act, 1865 which was amended in 1878 and 1927

The Charter of 1855 was followed by the Indian Forest Act, 1865, which was amended in 1878 and then again in 1927.

The 1865 Act empowered the government to appropriate any land covered with trees. However, notification could only be effected if the existing rights of individuals and communities were not impinged upon (Mohapatra, 1997). It is, of course, quite another story how many of these people had the awareness and the wherewithal to come forward and have their rights acknowledged and recognised.

The Act of 1865 was superseded by the Indian Forest Act of 1878 which was designed to facilitate strict state control over forest resources, and was distinctly ‘annexationist’ in nature. This Act sought to do away with all privileges and rights that were not explicitly granted by the state. Through a single piece of legislation, a centuries-old system of rights and privileges for forest-inhabiting and forest-dependent communities was terminated.

The Indian Forest Act of 1878 radically changed the nature of common property and made it state property. The rights of people over forest lands and produce were later regarded as concessions. According to the 1878 Forest Act, forests were categorised into three types: reserved, protected, and village forests.

Reserved forests were deemed the most commercially valuable and amenable to sustained exploitation. Overall state control of reserved forests was sought, involving either the relinquishing or transfer of other claims and rights. Very occasionally, limited access to these forests was granted. Legally, the process of reservation of forests could be challenged though rural communities had little experience with legal procedures, and illiterate villagers were often unaware that a survey and demarcation was in progress (Poffenberger et al, 1998).

Protected forests were similarly state-controlled, but some concessions were granted conditional to the reservation of commercial tree species when they became valuable. Protected forests could also be closed to fuelwood collection and grazing, whenever it was deemed necessary to do so. As demand for timber increased, many protected forests were re-designated reserved forests so that the state could exercise complete control over them.

This Act also provided for the classification of forests as village forests, apparently to meet the needs of people residing in villages so that they could be kept away from commercially valuable reserved and protected forests. According to Gadgil and Guha (1992), however, this was not exercised by the colonial government over most of India. People were, by and large, disenfranchised from accessing their traditional forests and no alternative was provided to them.

The mapping of forests allowed the implementation of scientific management. There is no denying  that the British introduced the concept of scientific management of forests in India, but its dominant paradigm very evidently was to pursue maximum sustainable yields and management practices were organised around this principle.

The Indian Forest Act of 1927 replaced the earlier 1878 Act. This Act embodied all the major provisions of the earlier one, extending it to include those relating to the duty on timber. The Act is still in force although there have been several amendments made by state governments (5). The preamble of the Act states that it seeks to consolidate the law relating to the transit of forest produce and the duty leviable on timber and other forest produce. There is therefore a clear emphasis on the revenue-yielding aspect of forests.

British India’s first forest policy

The British Indian government announced its first forest policy by a resolution on October 19, 1894. The policy emphasised state control over forests and the need to exploit forests to augment state revenue. All the management strategies, principles of scientific management and creation of institutional framework in the form of a forest department to carry out these objectives were clearly geared towards a single goal: the augmentation of revenue generated by the British Empire. The people residing in the forest, their livelihood concerns, conservation and protection of forests and wildlife -- none of these issues were of any concern to the Empire at that time.

In short, during British rule, a forest department was organised, a systematic inventory of trees carried out, customary rights of people over forest land and produce curtailed and transformed into concessions to be enjoyed at the will of forest officials, and, most important, forests became a major source of revenue for the government.

Forest governance in independent India, 1947-2011

Forest governance in independent India may be divided into three distinct phases. In the first phase, the idea very clearly was to ensure that forests be made to work to generate revenue which, in turn, would support development and the country’s industrialisation. Inspection of any government policy document of the time makes this amply clear, and is discussed below. Gadgil and Guha (1992) are absolutely right when they argue that in post-Independence India, ‘the demands of the commercial-industrial sector have replaced strategic imperial needs as the cornerstone of forest policy and management’.

The second phase was when conservationists had a field day and their exclusionist conservation agenda was the dominant tool of forest management. Legislation on forest and wildlife conservation was enacted; people’s rights were also given their due place in these enactments but were not implemented with the same spirit on the ground.

It wasn’t until 1988 that the third phase in forest management can be said to have begun, when, for the first time, the national forest policy articulated that people living in and around forests and dependent on them for their livelihood and sustenance should have first charge of forest produce. After this, the government did take small but significant steps in the form of Joint Forest Management (JFM) to make forest-dwellers stakeholders in the governance of forests. The FRA was a watershed in the history of not only tribal rights but forest governance as it changed the game in favour of tribals and forest-dwellers forever, at least on paper, by creating a legal mandate for recognition and verification of their rights over the forest land they had been living on for generations.

Focus of forest management in newly independent India was to serve agriculture, development and industrialisation

In 1947, after Independence, food security for the millions of starving and hungry Indians, industrialisation and development activities such as irrigation projects and large hydroelectric power projects were some of the important issues that needed immediate attention. The main objective of forest management those days therefore was to serve the purpose of industry and agriculture. Rural forest-dependent people and their livelihood needs was the last thing on the minds of people involved in forest management. This sentiment is very clearly echoed by the GOI’s National Forest Policy Resolution of 1952, which stated:

“Village communities in the neighbourhood of a forest will naturally make greater use of its products for the satisfaction of their domestic and agricultural needs. Such use, however, should in no event be permitted at the cost of national interests. The accident of a village being situated close to a forest does not prejudice the right of the country as a whole to receive the benefits of a national asset.” And: “Restrictions should be imposed in the interests not only of the existing generation, but also of posterity.” (Kumar, 1992, page 63)

The 1952 National Forest Policy has been widely credited with further eroding the legitimacy of communities’ claims on the commons (Gadgil and Guha, 1992, Poffenberger and McGean, 1996) while also explicitly asserting the monopoly right of the state (Guha, 1983).

Wildlife Protection and Preservation Act, 1972

In 1972, at the request of the states, the federal government (6) passed the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Though not directly related to forests, the Act did have a significant impact on their management and therefore also on people living in forests and dependent on forests for their sustenance and livelihood. The focus of the Act, as the name suggests, was protection and conservation of wildlife, protection of plant and animal species, and ensuring ecological and environmental sustainability. It did not pay adequate attention to forest-inhabiting and forest-dependent communities and made their customary rights and privileges subservient to the cause of wildlife protection and management. However, the Act did include provisions for the settlement of rights of people living in forest areas before any such area could be finally notified as a protected area in the form of a wildlife sanctuary or national park (7).

India, as of 2007, has 14 biosphere reserves (8), 96 national parks, 510 wildlife sanctuaries, 28 tiger reserves, and 25 elephant reserves covering 5% of total area as protected forests (9). National parks enjoy a greater degree of protection than sanctuaries. Certain activities that are regulated in sanctuaries, such as grazing of livestock, are prohibited in national parks. Nearly 80% of protected areas in India are yet to have final notifications issued (10). This continues to be the situation despite Supreme Court directions very long ago in the matter of Centre for Environmental Law, WWF vs Union of India and Ors WP(C) 337 of 1995.

In its present form, the WLPA has provisions whereby certain legal provisions of protection are applicable as soon as the first notification is issued. This is a major provision, extending added legal cover to most protected areas despite the fact that the final settlement proceedings may not be complete. Final notification as per the governing law can only be issued once the rights of people residing in these areas are determined and compensated. But since the intention notification allows the concerned authorities to go ahead with their conservation agenda, and the determination of rights of people inhabiting these areas is not a priority, forest-dwellers are left in the lurch. The attitude of the government in this regard is made amply clear by an amendment, in 2003, in the WLPA (11) whereby a time period of two years was fixed for the completion of determination of rights of any person in or over the land comprised within the limits of such notified area. On the other hand, it was mandated that if such determination could not be completed for any reason it would not cause the notification to lapse. If the government were really serious about determining the rights of affected persons it would have ensured stricter provision in this regard.

The proposed amendment in the WLPA seeks to do away with this provision and will treat all protected areas lacking final notification as “proposed”. This could have a major impact on a large number of protected areas. Unfortunately, no reliable data was maintained at the national level when this Act came into force, ie 1972, on the number of people who were affected and had to be displaced due to protected area notifications. This situation was finally rectified when the states submitted the information, in the form of affidavits, in the abovementioned WWF case when they were directed by the Supreme Court. No data has been compiled at the national level that reveals how many rights settlement cases were completed and how many are still going on.

The irony of wildlife protection legislation and the way it has been implemented is that it did not collaborate with the people living in these areas. They were not part of the conservation drive and the results are clear for everyone to see. Indeed, there is anger among these people without whose help the state has been unable to deal with the menace of poaching and illegal trade as effectively as it would have liked.

National Commission on Agriculture (1976) recommended objectives of forest management to serve industrialisation

In its report, the National Commission on Agriculture (12) advocated commercialisation of forests with complete disregard for adivasi and other forest-dwelling communities. It asserted that ‘production of industrial wood has to be the raison d’etreof the existence of forests’ (p 32-33). This commercial bias was evident in the statement that ‘free supply of forest produce to the rural population and their rights and privileges have brought destruction to the forests and so it is necessary to reverse the process’. The commission recommended that the revised national forest policy be based on important needs of the country. All forest lands should be classified into protection forests, production forests and social forests. It gave the highest priority to production forests and the lowest priority to social forests. The commission recommended that the objective of forest management should be that ‘each hectare of forest land should be in a position to yield a net income of many more times than is being obtained at present’. It recommended the enactment of a revised all-India forest Act.

Forest Conservation Act reflects changing concerns in management and governance of forests from exploitation to conservation

The Government of India (13) promulgated the Forest (Conservation) Ordinance on October 25, 1980, prohibiting state governments from allowing the use of forest land for any other purpose without the approval of the central government. The ordinance was later passed as an Act (No 69 of 1980). By a later amendment, in 1988, state governments were prohibited from assigning, by way of lease or otherwise, any forest land or any portion thereof to any private person or authority not owned, managed or controlled by government without previous sanction by the central government. The emphasis and the focus of this legislation was conservation; people living in these forests and dependent on them were made subservient to conservation objectives once again.

First paradigm shift towards recognition of rights of forest-dwelling and forest-dependent communities on forests echoed by National Forest Policy of 1988

The moving of the forest department from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, in 1985, helped shift the emphasis from revenue to environmental concerns in the forest management strategy. The National Forest Policy of 1988, for the first time in the history of forest management and governance, changed its goals and priorities, admitted that local forest-dependent communities were legitimate stakeholders (14), and recommended community participation in forest regeneration (15). The resolution stressed the welfare of forest-dwelling communities as a major objective of the country’s forest policy, and categorically stated that the life of tribals and other poor living within and near forests revolves around forests and that the rights and concessions enjoyed by them should be fully protected. For the first time it was conceded that their domestic requirements of fuelwood, fodder, minor forest produce and construction timber should be the first charge on forest produce. Subsequently, there has been a clearer shift in state policy towards recognising that rural communities have the right to manage and govern their immediate environment, as seen by the 73rd Amendment of 1992, the PESA, and statements made in the National Conservation Strategy, National Environment Policy, and National Biodiversity Action Plan.

From the above discussion it is amply clear that till the 1988 forest policy, the concerns of forest-dependent communities and tribals were never sufficiently articulated by any official law or policy document of the GOI. Protection, preservation and conservation of wildlife, ecosystems and forests in general were seen exclusively; people who had been residing in such areas for generations and who were dependent on forest resources for their sustenance were somehow never considered stakeholders in conservation strategy. Perhaps they did not have enough of a voice; or maybe their voice simply did not matter. This aspect needs to be explored further.

Joint Forest Management -- another small step in making people stakeholders in forest management

After the National Forest Policy of 1988, some progress was made in the direction of involving people living in forests in their management and conservation. However, social forestry schemes like Joint Forest Management are run only as programmes; there is no tenurial security for people associated with such programmes. When forest land has to be converted for non-forest use, forest-dwellers and forest-dependent people are left high and dry because their rights are treated as concessions accorded to them by the forest department without them having any legal sanctity.

The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 (16) also acknowledged the importance of local people’s participation in any attempt towards conservation of biodiversity, and envisages the constitution of a Biodiversity Conservation Committee at the panchayat level. This Act therefore does not disenfranchise the local community from participating and having a say in the management of their biodiversity.

FRA and its objectives

The FRA is the first of its kind in the attempt to undo the “historical injustice” done to tribals and forest-dwellers, to use the oft-repeated phrase. It is a much delayed but right step in the right direction. It envisages recognition of customary rights of forest-inhabiting and forest-dependent scheduled tribe and non-scheduled tribe communities long after legislation for the protection and conservation of wildlife, ecosystem and forests was put in place.

To quote from the preamble of the Act itself, this enactment was made to recognise and vest forest rights and occupation on forest land with forest-dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest-dwellers (OTFD) who have been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be recorded. The Act also offers a framework for recording the forest rights so vested and the nature of evidence required for such recognition and vesting with respect to forest land.

The Act envisages sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of the ecological balance to strengthen the conservation regime of forests and ensure the livelihood and food security of forest-dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest-dwellers. This indicates a very clear diversion from the previously practised exclusionist approach adopted to meet conservation objectives, hopefully heralding a new era in forest management where people living in forests and dependent on forests for their sustenance are not considered a hindrance in the conservation of biodiversity, maintenance of ecological balance and protection of wildlife. The Act also enumerates a process in the event of conflict of interest between livelihood needs and wildlife conservation, and accords due importance to the latter wherever necessary. For the first time, not only have historical injustices to forest-dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest-dwellers been acknowledged, they have been accepted and recognised as an integral part to the very survival and sustainability of forest ecosystems.

A law of such far-reaching consequences was sure to face a lot of opposition from the very well-entrenched proponents of exclusionist conservation. By integrating the livelihood needs of forest-inhabiting and forest-dependent tribal and non-tribal communities in overall forest management and governance strategies, and by making the participation of these people mandatory in forest management, the law brings in a much-needed democratisation in the field of forest governance.

FRA implementation status

To ensure optimum efficiency we must ensure that laws, systems and processes do not function only because of the benevolence of the people implementing/manning them but despite the apathy of implementers/incumbents of such laws and institutions. To minimise inequity, to encourage fair play and objectivity, our aim should be to fine-tune our processes and institutions and make them as independent as possible of the competence and intentions of the officers manning them.

In implementation of the FRA there are issues at two levels: law/policy, and actual execution. The first needs to be urgently looked into to address issues faced at the execution level. Review of the implementation process should be made mandatory at regular intervals. Any learning from such a review process should be taken as feedback and incorporated into the revised process.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) constituted a joint committee in April 2010 to review implementation of the FRA in India with a specific TOR outlined for the purpose. The overall finding of the committee is that, with notable exceptions, implementation of the FRA has been poor, therefore its potential for achieving livelihood security and changes in forest governance, along with strengthening forest conservation, has barely been realised. The commission grouped its findings on FRA implementation under the following heads:

  • Process and institutions
  • Individual forest rights
  • Community forest rights
  • Implementation of development projects
  • Implementation for special groups
  • Protected areas and critical wildlife habitats
  • Future structure of forest governance
  • Enhancing livelihoods through NTFP
  • Convergence of development programmes for STs and OTFDs

Generic issues being faced as hurdles in FRA implementation

The FRA basically envisages a three-step process to recognise the rights of forest-dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest-dwellers who have been living in such forests for generations.

It includes initiation of claims, verification of claims, and the vesting of rights upon verification. The claim can be for individual forest rights or community forest rights. For initiation of a claim, the interested person needs to follow the procedure laid down, fill up the claim form and submit the same to the Forest Rights Committee (FRC) at the village level (17).

There needs to be a generic system in place (18) that can be applied all over the country with some amendments and adaptations to ensure that there is enough awareness among people who are entitled to make a claim. We have to keep in mind that by conferring rights under this Act we intend to empower the most marginalised, impoverished, illiterate and vulnerable communities. The intended empowerment will remain a hollow promise if we don’t ensure that people are first made aware of their rights and then properly guided, assisted and helped in initiating their claims. The government can use the state-owned media and public relations department to spread awareness about the Act.

Government should urgently update national-level information on villages inside and adjacent to forests, through the Forest Survey of India, and provide this to the states. Subsequently, the states should proactively facilitate individual forest rights (IFR) and community forest rights (CFR) claims, something that has been recommended by the Saxena Committee as well. The state must also keep ready lists of all areas in which the intended beneficiaries live, and proactively seek them out to ensure that they are given their due. The state machinery will have to gear up to ensuring that all documents required to initiate a valid claim are provided to the intended beneficiary at his/her doorstep. The Saxena Committee report acknowledges that some civil society organisations, communities and officials have made innovative, proactive moves towards helping people make claims and vesting them with their rights. These include awareness programmes and the distribution of simple material in local languages, suo moto provision of documents by block- and district-level officials to gram sabhas, helping file claims and come up with evidence, advocacy to get the government machinery moving, etc. The committee also noted that forest records, maps and working plans are almost invariably not available to the FRC; if we can ensure access to all these documents, claims can be filed and verified quickly and easily.

The Saxena Committee recommended that MoTA circulate a simple ‘how to file a claim’ guide. The guide should be in simple, comprehensible local languages telling people exactly who is eligible for a claim (whether IFR or CFRt) under the FRA, the type and number of individual and community rights that can be claimed, and furnishing an exhaustive list of what constitutes evidence in support of the claim being filed. The guide should also clearly enumerate all documents needed to support the claim and the place or government functionary that will provide them with those documents, whether they happen to be part of the official government records or records that the government has access to. The guide should spell out the procedure, step-by-step, leading to the claimant filing his claim successfully with the FRC.

Once a claim is initiated, the process of its verification begins. The gram sabha (GS)/FRC must acknowledge receipt of the claim so that it can be tracked later on. The data must be put up in a public space, and information relating to the processing of claims should be accessible like any other public record. As the gram sabha is empowered to verify the claim we must ensure that it is competent to do so. The gram sabha or FRC should be extended all possible help by the state machinery. This should be made mandatory under the rules of the FRA. The gram sabha or FRC needs access to historical records and data in the actual process of identifying forest land in relation to which an IFR or CFRt has been filed. To verify the claim using traditional and technological methods, map the area, and then consolidate all claims in its jurisdiction. The Saxena Committee report acknowledges that application of spatial technologies (including remote sensing [RS], global positioning systems [GPS] and geographic information systems [GIS]) has the potential to help in rapid delineation of boundaries, immutable positional information, and objective determination of the physical status of claimed lands, provided skills are built, transparency ensured, and safeguards followed. Several states have used GPS technology for plot delineation. Only one state (Maharashtra) has used the full suite of technologies (RS+GIS+GPS) for all three purposes, in a relatively transparent manner. We must follow this successful model and replicate it throughout the country.

Once claims are verified, a resolution to this effect is passed and sent for approval to the Sub-Division Level Committee (SDLC). The SLDC examines the resolution and makes a record of the forest rights; this is then sent for approval to the District-Level Committee (DLC). There are checks and balances provided for in the Act itself. Anyone who is aggrieved by any action or inaction on the part of the GS/FRC, SLDC or DLC can approach the appropriate forum for redressal within a given timeframe. To ensure that the intended people avail of this redressal system, we must ensure that a system is in place to track the fate of any claim that has been filed and that the people affected are kept informed of its status at all times. The responsibility has to be fixed at a government level to ensure that claimants are kept informed of the progress and fate of the claims they have filed.

After verification has been successfully completed, the right is vested. Records of forests rights should be accessible to all interested persons, at all times. 


If the government is really serious about successful implementation of the FRA and wants to reach the maximum intended beneficiaries then the nodal ministry, MoTA, has a lot of work to do. It has to emerge from the mindset of doling out grants, scholarships and freebies and rise to the occasion of helping scheduled tribes and other traditional forest-dwellers get their just rights.

MoTA will also have to win a psychological battle with the forest department. The forest department needs to be re-oriented and trained all over again to make it understand the critical role it has to play in overall forest management. Without its active and willing support, the transition in management of forests from being state-centric to people-oriented -- where, along with conservation and protection of wildlife, biodiversity, flora and fauna, people’s rights too are looked at with the same respect and urgency -- cannot be achieved. Intensive training and reorientation programmes at all levels of forest departments in the state should be designed keeping in mind the new role that the department is called upon to play in the changing scenario. Without such training, officials of the forest department cannot be expected to change their mindset overnight just because legislation to that effect has come into force. Only those officials should be put in charge of FRA implementation who have successfully undergone the training-cum-reorientation programme. Without active and willing cooperation from the state forest departments, the task of reaching out to the intended beneficiaries and proper implementation of the FRA will remain a distant dream.

We have to strive for a fine balance between our wildlife, forests and indigenous peoples. None can be sacrificed for the other. They all have to co-exist and flourish.


1 This has been disputed by a latest independent study
2 ‘State of Forests Report 2009’ available at
4 This has also been highlighted by the N C Saxena Committee report which is a joint committee of MoEF and MoTA and was constituted to look into FRA implementation
5 The Government of India Act, 1935, created a dual system of government by setting up provincial legislatures and assigning certain subjects to them, of which forests was one. Thereafter, the provincial governments made several amendments to the Indian Forest Act of 1927
6 The subject of wildlife (protection of wild animals and birds) belonged on the state list. Parliament therefore had no power to make a law applicable to the state unless the legislatures of two or more states passed a resolution in pursuance of Article 252 of the Constitution empowering Parliament to pass the necessary legislation. The legislatures of 11 Indian states passed such a resolution and the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 was passed. However, in 1976, the 42nd Constitutional Amendment moved the subject of wildlife from the state list to the concurrent list and, subsequently, the Act was extended to all other states except the state of Jammu and Kashmir
7 The Amendment Act of 2003 provided for the creation of new types of protected areas called ‘conservation reserve’ and ‘community reserve’.  A conservation reserve is an area owned by the state government adjacent to a national park or sanctuary to protect the landscape, seascape and habitat of fauna and flora. It is managed through a Conservation Reserve Management Committee. The Amendment Act of 2003 also provided for the creation of a ‘community reserve’. The state government may notify any community land or private land as a community reserve, provided that members of that community or individuals concerned are agreeable to offering such areas for the protection of fauna and flora as well as their traditions, cultures and practices. The declaration of such an area is aimed at improving the socio-economic conditions of people living in such areas as well as conserving wildlife. The reserve is managed through a Community Reserve Management Committee. Of the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks that are declared under the Act of 1972, tiger reserves are areas that are notified for the protection of the tiger and its prey, and are governed by Project Tiger which was launched in the country in 1973.  Initially, nine tiger reserves were covered under the project; this has currently increased to 28, falling in 17 states (tiger reserve states). Project Tiger is a centrally sponsored scheme. The Amendment Act of 2006 provides for the constitution of a statutory authority known as the National Tiger Conservation Authority to aid in the implementation of measures for the conservation of the tiger. Tiger conservation plans which are prepared by state governments under Project Tiger objectives are reviewed and approved by this Authority. The twin objectives of Project Tiger -- conservation of the endangered species and harmonising the rights of tribal people living in and around tiger reserves -- are sought to be met through the provisions of this Act
8 Biosphere reserves are a special category of protected areas. This programme is run under the guidance of Unesco
9 Protection, Development, Maintenance and Research in Biosphere Reserves in India, published in October 2007 and available at
10 Article by Samir Sinha titled ‘A critical look at proposed changes to the WLPA to be tabled in Parliament’,
11 Section 25A of the WLPA inserted by Act 16 of 2003 (wef 1.4.2003)
12 The Ministry of Forests was originally part of the Ministry of Agriculture and, naturally, the National Commission on Agriculture treated it as such. The commission’s report published in 1976 covered forests in the 9th part of its multi-volume report
13 The subject of forests was included in the state list in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution (item 19) which divided legislative powers into central, state and concurrent jurisdiction. During the Emergency, the subject was transferred from the state list to the concurrent list through the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution (item 17 A)
14 One of the stated objectives of this policy is to meet the requirements of fuelwood, fodder, minor forest produce and small timber of rural and tribal populations
15 See the objectives and essentials of forest management in National Forest Policy, 1988
16 This Act was enacted as per its preamble to provide for conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources, knowledge and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto
17 Village as defined in the Panchayat Extention to Scheduled Areas Act
18 FRA rules

(Archana Vaidya is an advocate and Managing Partner, Indian Environment Law Offices, New Delhi)

Infochange News & Features, August 2011