In Chhattisgarh state, nearly half the land area is covered with forests that are essential to the livelihoods and culture of the indigenous communities there. Tree felling has escalated in the past decades, with natural forests replaced by teak plantations. The article narrates the struggles of AAS, an organisation of indigenous women, for restoration of land and forest rights to the indigenous communities. It shows the importance of people’s organisations and their struggles for natural resource justice. Women have challenged the state, using a range of strategies.

En el estado de Chhattisgarh, casi la mitad del territorio se encuentra cubierta por bosques que resultan esenciales para proporcionar los medios de vida de las comunidades indígenas que ahí habitan y además se encuentran estrechamente ligados a su cultura. En las últimas décadas, ha repuntado la tala de árboles; ello ha dado lugar a la transformación de los bosques naturales en plantaciones de teca. El presente artículo narra las luchas de aas, una organización de mujeres indígenas que busca restaurar el derecho a la tierra y los bosques de las comunidades indígenas. Además, da cuenta de la importancia que reviste la organización popular y sus luchas para obtener justicia en cuestiones vinculadas a los recursos naturales. Mediante varias estrategias, las mujeres han desafiado al Estado.

Dans l’État de Chhattisgarh, presque la moitié de la superficie terrestre est couverte de forêts qui sont essentielles pour les moyens de subsistance et la culture des communautés autochtones qui s’y trouvent. L’abattage d’arbres s’est intensifié au cours des quelques dernières décennies, et les forêts naturelles ont été remplacées par des plantations de teck. Cet article relate les luttes menées par AAS, une organisation de femmes autochtones, pour rétablir les droits fonciers et forestiers des communautés autochtones. Il montre l’importance des organisations de la population et des luttes qu’elles mènent pour obtenir la justice en matière de ressources naturelles. Les femmes ont remis l’État en cause en utilisant une variété de stratégies.

Introduction

In 2006, in Chhattisgarh state, the state-owned Forest Development Corporation (FDC) started felling nearly 40,000 hectares of dense natural forests involving around 20 million trees. The intention was to replace these natural forests with commercially-cultivated teak.

Chhattisgarh is a new state, which split from Madhya Pradesh state in 2000. Koriya district is situated in the north-west corner of Chhattisgarh. It is one of the most densely forested areas of Chhattisgarh, with a forest cover of 62 per cent (FSI 2011Forest Survey of India (FSI) (2011) ‘Chapter 9: Forest and Tree Resources in States and Union Territories, in India State of Forest Report, 2011’,http://fsi.nic.in/cover_2011/chattisgarh.pdf(last checked 29 August 2017) [Google Scholar], 115). In the 2011 Census, Koriya district’s population was estimated to be 658,917 (Directorate of Economic & Statistics CG 2013Directorate of Economics & Statistics, Chhattisgarh (2013) ‘Statistical abstract of Chhattisgarh-2011-12’,http://descg.gov.in/pdf/publications/allpub/4.Statisticalabstract2011_12.pdf(last checked 1 September 2017) [Google Scholar], 14). Sixty-nine per cent of the population in the district live in rural areas (ibid., 14). The district is divided into five administrative units or blocks: Manendragarh, Bharatpur, Sonhat, Khadgawan, and Baikunthpur. Nearly half (46 per cent) (ibid., 15) of the population are ‘Scheduled Tribes’ (that is, people belonging to various indigenous communities, including Gonds, Cherwas, Pandos, Agarias, Oraons, and Baigas11 For further information on the tribal communities of the district please see http://korea.gov.in/culture.htm(last checked 10 October 2017).View all notes). With this high proportion of indigenous population, Koriya falls under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of India that contains special provisions meant to protect and benefit indigenous communities living in an area.22 A Scheduled Area, under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of India (1949), has been identified based on the preponderance of tribal population, compactness and reasonable size of the area, viable administrative entity, and economic backwardness of the area as compared to the neighbouring areas. The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) in the Fifth Schedule Areas provides certain distinct provisions meant to protect and benefit indigenous communities living in the area and empowers the Gram Sabha or village assembly to(i) safeguard and preserve the (a) traditions and customs of the people, and their cultural identity, (b) community resources, and (c) customary mode of dispute resolution; (ii) carry out executive functions to (a) approve plans, programmes and projects for social and economic development; (b) identify persons as beneficiaries under the poverty alleviation and other programmes; (c) issue a certificate of utilisation of funds by the Panchayat for the plans; programmes and projects. (See http://pesadarpan.gov.in/en, last checked 1 August 2017)View all notes

The indigenous communities in Koriya are dependent on the forests for a large part of their livelihoods, as agriculture in most parts of the district is rain-fed and single-cropped. These sal and mixed forests, covering about two-thirds of the geographical area, are central to the lives and survival of indigenous people. Forest produce, such as wild mushrooms, leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, edible oilseeds, and tubers, are important sources of food security and nutrition for the people who live near and within the forest. Indigenous women use the produce to feed their families. Hence as in other tribal regions, forests provide greater resilience to indigenous communities while their destruction leads to impoverishment and migration for these communities (HLC 2014High Level Committee on Socio-Economic, Health and Educational Status of Tribal Communities of India (HLC) (2014Report of the High Level Committee on Socio-Economic, Health and Educational Status of Tribal Communities of IndiaMinistry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India,https://ruralindiaonline.org/resources/report-of-the-high-level-committee-on-socio-economic-health-and-educational-status-of-the-tribals-of-india/(last checked 1 September 2017) [Google Scholar]). Forests are also central to the spiritual and cultural traditions of the indigenous peoples who live in the forest. In India, indigenous peoples are able to draw on the laws on self-governance in indigenous areas to assert their rights over forests and natural resources. Yet these notions of indigenous peoples’ rights come into conflict with the commercial exploitation of water and forests.

Forest Development Corporations (FDCs) are profit-making bodies that have been set up in most states in India with the aim to undertake forest-based commercial activities, with different functioning in each state (ICFRE 2010Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) (2010) ‘Forest Sector Report India’, 2010,http://www.icfre.org/FSRI-REPORT_English.pdf(last checked 29 August 2017) [Google Scholar]). The FDC of Chhattisgarh was formed with the aim to ‘enhance productivity of the forests’ (http://rvvn.cgstate.gov.in/node/1, last checked 1 September 2017), one of the strategies being to improve production through replacing relatively slow-growing natural trees (like sal) with faster-growing species (like teak), deemed to have ‘higher economic value’ (http://rvvn.cgstate.gov.in/node/1). FDCs make profits and pay dividends to the state governments. At the point of clearing natural forest for commercial timber cultivation, FDCs can make a very significant amount of revenue by cutting and selling some of the best natural forests in the country. Over the years, huge tracts of forests have been handed over by various states to their FDCs (Deshpande 2004Deshpande Vivek (2004) ‘Free fall’, Indian Express, 1 August,http://www.indianexpress.com/oldStory/52142/(last checked 1 September 2017) [Google Scholar]). An estimated 60 per cent of India’s total timber is produced and harvested by the FDCs (ICFRE 2010Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) (2010) ‘Forest Sector Report India’, 2010,http://www.icfre.org/FSRI-REPORT_English.pdf(last checked 29 August 2017) [Google Scholar], 130).

During 2005, the FDC of Chhattisgarh had prepared and gained approval for Forest Improvement Working Plans relating to the three districts of Koriya, Sarguja, and Kawardha. The felling operations started in December 2005. The women of Adivasi Adhikar Samiti (AAS) (the Organisation for Rights of Indigenous People) took action in Koriya to protect the natural forest on which they and their families and communities depend. This article focuses on these struggles.

We were involved in the work ourselves as social activists, and draw on personal experience as facilitators of a movement for indigenous people’s rights in Koriya, set up in Manendragarh block, from December 2002 onwards. We were managing a civil society programme called the ‘Koriya Initiative’, working on issues of rights of indigenous people, especially on issues of health and food security. As we describe in the next section, this movement combined with community health workers (Mitanins) connected to a state-wide programme, to form the AAS in 2004. Quotations and details of discussions related here come from our notes taken during the time of the protests. We also draw on official documents related to the deforestation-projects, the legal case that was filed in the High Court, laws related to environment and forests, and subsequent media reports.

Struggle against felling of natural forests in Koriya district

The AAS and its inception

In 2002, the Mitanin Programme33 The Mitanin Programme has expanded since its inception, and there are currently more than 60,000 Mitanins in Chhattisgarh state (Nandi and Schneider 2014Nandi, Sulakshana and HelenSchneider (2014) ‘Addressing the social determinants of health: a case study from the Mitanin (community health worker) programme in India’, Health Policy and Planning29(suppl 2): ii7181,https://academic.oup.com/heapol/article/29/suppl_2/ii71/587209/Addressing-the-social-determinants-of-health-a(last checked 1 September 2017) doi: 10.1093/heapol/czu074[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar], ii72). Lessons from this programme have also informed the development of the nationwide ASHA CHW programme under the National Health Mission in India (Nandi and Schneider 2014Nandi, Sulakshana and HelenSchneider (2014) ‘Addressing the social determinants of health: a case study from the Mitanin (community health worker) programme in India’, Health Policy and Planning29(suppl 2): ii7181,https://academic.oup.com/heapol/article/29/suppl_2/ii71/587209/Addressing-the-social-determinants-of-health-a(last checked 1 September 2017) doi: 10.1093/heapol/czu074[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]).View all notes was launched by the Government of Chhattisgarh in collaboration with civil society (Sundararaman 2007Sundararaman, Thiagarajan(2007) ‘Community health-workers: scaling up programmes’, The Lancet 369: 20589 doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(07)60326-2[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]). It was a major initiative focusing on community health (Sanders 2008Sanders, David (2008) ‘Revitalisation of primary health care and health system development: the potential of community health workers’, Presentation at International Symposium to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,http://www.flinders.edu.au/medicine/fms/sites/southgate_old/documents/Event/2009/19Mar09%20DavidSanders_Adelaide2009LSHTM_CHWs.pdf(last checked 30 August 2017) [Google Scholar]). Each rural hamlet/village (typically around 30–70 households) selected a woman health volunteer called a Mitanin (‘friend’ in Chhattisgarhi dialect). Each Mitanin is trained as a community health worker and activist. The Mitanins were to provide health services, but also work on the social, economic, political, and cultural determinants of health (Nandi and Schneider 2014Nandi, Sulakshana and HelenSchneider (2014) ‘Addressing the social determinants of health: a case study from the Mitanin (community health worker) programme in India’, Health Policy and Planning29(suppl 2): ii7181,https://academic.oup.com/heapol/article/29/suppl_2/ii71/587209/Addressing-the-social-determinants-of-health-a(last checked 1 September 2017) doi: 10.1093/heapol/czu074[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]). The Mitanins set up community monitoring committees at the hamlet/village level, focusing on a wide range of issues, from domestic violence, to assessing the functioning of the Panchayats (village councils) and Gram Sabhas (village assemblies),44 The Gram Sabha is the village assembly. The Panchayat is one level higher in the structure of governance, consisting of more than one village.View all notes and the state-run health and food programmes (Garg 2006Garg, Samir (2006) ‘Grassroot mobilisation for children’s nutrition rights’, Economic & Political Weekly 41(34): 3694700 [Google Scholar]).

The Mitanins saw struggles over the forest and its resources as directly relevant to health, since people depend on them for their livelihoods, food security, and ultimately for health. The AAS was formed in 2004, when the Mitanin programme in Manendragarh block joined up with the movement for indigenous people’s rights that we had begun in 2002, which we referred to in the Introduction. The Mitanins formed the backbone of this women-led organisation, and provided leadership to it.

Subsequently, the AAS engaged in various struggles, not only for health rights but for food rights, gender equity, employment and education rights, right to participate in local governance, right to information, and against domestic violence (Nandi 2005Nandi, Sulakshana (2005) ‘Right to health action by Mitanins in Koriya district’, Medico Friend Circle Bulletin311: 1823,http://www.mfcindia.org/mfcpdfs/MFC311.pdf(last checked 30 August 2017) [Google Scholar]).

In early January 2006, the Forest Development Corporation of Chhattisgarh (FDCC), a state-owned profit-making corporation, started felling natural sal55 The sal (shorea robusta) is a huge, slow-growing tree that is native to the Indian sub-continent.View all notesand mixed forests in Koriya. The AAS, though still in its formative years, was strong enough to provide resistance. It argued that it is critical for the lives and well-being of indigenous communities that natural resources and forests are not commercialised, and a formula for sustainable human development must be found in which women gain greater say and control over decisions about natural resource use, and large-scale resource development projects. Strategies women used in the struggle since have included mobilising village assemblies, monitoring and resisting tree-felling activities, and making representations to government. They combined ground level consensus building, petitioning, street protest, direct action (snatching tools and stopping trucks), and litigation.

In the next sections, we explore key aspects of this struggle further, before highlighting some of the key lessons that emerge from it to inform future activism to further natural resource justice.

The struggle against forest felling

On 10 January 2006, during a regular monthly meeting of the AAS leaders facilitated by the authors in Manendragarh town, the Mitanin from Badkabehera village arrived with a group of other women from her village. They wanted to discuss large-scale felling taking place in forests around their village, which they had put a stop to before coming for the meeting. The Mitanin from Badkabehera narrated the story. About a week back, felling of trees had begun and men were employed from her village to work as labourers and a watchman. These men had not been given any information about the nature or scale of the operations.

She stated:

When the felling continued for a week, I, along with other members of the AAS, decided to intervene. We held meetings in our hamlets and convinced our men not to work as labourers in felling operations. After some debate, the men from the village agreed. But the contractors then got labourers from neighbouring areas of Anuppur district (Madhya Pradesh). This was not acceptable to us and so on 9 January, about 100 of us women from three of the surrounding villages went to the tree felling site, took the axes and saws from the labourers and chased them away. That same evening some forest officers came with policemen to my house and threatened us. The rest of the women gathered and we put up a united front. We refused to give them back their tools and demanded that they put a stop to the felling.

On hearing this, everyone present realised that more information was urgently needed on the felling operations. AAS leaders went to the State Forest Department office, to submit an application asking for a copy of the Working Plan for the felling, citing the Right to Information Act 2005. The FDCs prepare Forest Improvement Working Plans, for approval from the State Forest Department, and the Central Government of India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). They were directed to the new FDC office, where they obtained a copy of the Plan and a permission letter issued by MoEF. In Koriya district, the FDCC planned to fell trees in 11,093 hectares (Ha) of natural forests, mostly (9,332Ha) dense natural sal and mixed forests, and then replace them with commercial plantations of teak (CRVVN 2004Chhattisgarh Rajya Van Vikas Nigam (CRVVN) (2004) Working Plan in Koriya District 2004-05 to 2014-15 [Google Scholar], xix).The details of the Working Plan were reviewed and discussed with AAS leaders, and the organisation unanimously decided that this Plan had to be challenged. An elderly Mitanin from Badkabehera village recalled:

When the FDCC starting felling trees near our village, we were reminded of 40 years ago when our forests were full of bamboo. But all the bamboo was felled and sold when a big paper mill came up in the neighbouring area. That time too it was our men who had felled and sold the bamboo. As a result, today bamboo has disappeared from our forests. But this time we were organised and aware of our rights and strength. We wanted to ensure that history should not be repeated and we will protect our forests for our children and grandchildren.

Below, we list some of the strategies used by activists.

Assessing and recording information

After the meeting on 10 January 2006, the organisation began the task of assessing and recording the felling and associated damage already done through extensive surveys, focusing on the species and girth measurements of all felled trees, and documenting violations by the FDCC, like felling of fruit bearing trees, trees designated as sacred, and trees with birds’ nests.

Building mass support

Subsequently the AAS built up mass support, conducting meetings in the affected villages, and building consensus among the villagers, including the Panchayat members and members of the Forest Protection Committees (FPCs) which are formed by the government as part of its regular Joint Forest Management programme. The affected villages passed resolutions, with thousands of signatures, opposing the felling operations. Forest Protection Committees (FPCs) in most of the affected villages passed similar resolutions. This was not easy to accomplish, as forest officials enjoyed a fair degree of control over the village Forest Protection Committees (FPCs), as they were the ones who had formed them. The officials also tried to divide communities by promising that each FPC would get a 10 per cent share in profits once the planned teak plantations matured after 15 years, and tried to persuade the FPC chairpersons to oppose the agitation (personal experiences, February 2006). However, the FPC chairpersons in most villages had to bow down to the community’s opinion.

In March 2006, the AAS made a representation to the Ministry demanding quashing of the Working Plan on the grounds of damage to their livelihood and the environment. It also highlighted the violations by the FDCC of the National Working Plan Code and the current Working Plan. However, MoEF did not formally acknowledge receipt of the complaint and did not take any action until the court case compelled them to intervene.

This meant that only through direct village-level action could the trees be saved. Due to the action by the women in Badkabehera village, felling had stopped in surrounding villages. But as news kept coming in about new villages where the felling had started, the movement to stop the felling gained momentum. It spread to the neighbouring block, Bharatpur, where, though Mitanins were active, the larger organisation had not been formed. The President of AAS, whose parental home was in Bharatpur, took it upon herself to mobilise the Mitanins and other women against the felling. She toured the villages in Bharatpur along with Mitanins, undertaking meetings and building consensus on the issue. Here too, village assemblies adopted resolutions opposing the felling. In Badkadol, the first village in Bharatpur block, where they were able to stop the felling, villagers pleaded with the labourers saying:

Our ancestors have saved these trees and if you cut them, how will we live? We use these trees in our ceremonies, our livelihoods and in living our lives.

In the face of mass protests, the FDCC officials promised that the felling work would be suspended, until the people were convinced about its benefits. However, despite promises, felling continued in many villages.

Taking direct action collectively

In the villages where felling had continued despite the FDCC officials being told about community wishes that it should be suspended, women stormed the felling sites in large numbers and snatched the felling equipment from the labourers, thereby putting a stop to the operations. After taking this direct action and confiscating the tools from the labourers, the women would go to the police to inform them about the incident and to hand over the list of the confiscated tools. However, in most cases, the police refused to give a receipt. In the first instance, on 13 January 2006, when few leaders from Badkabehera went to the local police station in Kelhari, the police refused to take their affidavit. The official showered abuses at them, threatening to disrobe, beat, and arrest them (personal communication, January 2006).

The women returned on 16 January 2006, along with nearly 200 women. Women leaders went inside the police station to talk to the officer in charge, and give him the affidavit which listed the confiscated tools. He took the paper but did not give them a receipt for it, saying that he would get into trouble if he did. After this incident, the police did not trouble them further, and the women filed a formal complaint against the police officer who had threatened them earlier.

However, the FDCC staff continued to threaten the women whenever they could. They also regularly sought intervention from police and filed complaints in various police stations against hundreds of Mitanins, women leaders, and other community members. Seeing the mass support AAS had, and the community consensus against the felling, the police did not intervene much.

This phase of action proved to be decisive, and the FDCC had to suspend its felling operations in Koriya. Once felling was stopped, in February 2006, the FDCC attempted to transport the already felled wood to their depot. But the organisation and the community members maintained that as these trees were the property of the village assemblies, a receipt had to be given to the Gram Sabha on the number and types of trees transported. A receipt was needed to record the number of trees felled, once logs had been transported out. The leaders kept constant vigil on the possible movement of trucks in the area where felling had taken place.

Another example of collective action was in Badkabehera, where, on 15 May 2006, the FDCC loaded a truck in the middle of the night. However, the women, who were on guard, stopped it from leaving. The driver ran away leaving the truck in the forest. That night nearly 25 women slept under the open sky in the forest, protecting the loaded truck. In the morning, the authors and the FDCC officials, according to whom women had ‘hijacked’ a truck, went to the village. After lengthy discussions, the officials agreed not to transport any more logs, and gave the women a receipt for the logs they had transported up to that day (personal communication).

Solo direct action

Sometimes, lone activists prevented the logs from being transported. In one instance, the Mitanin from Larkoda village stopped a loaded truck and asked the driver for a receipt. When he refused, she lay down on the road in front of the truck and challenged him to run her over. The driver got down from the truck and ran away. The next day, he came back with the police, who threatened to arrest the women. The women told them to first send a woman police officer to arrest them, as this is the law. They also told them to make arrangements in prison for their children and their cattle, whom they would have to take along. The police retreated, empty-handed.

In villages which were not to be directly affected by the felling, the Mitanins and organisation leaders contributed in any way that they could. The FDCC had started to develop an area near Kelhari and Manwari villages as their ‘log depot’, to store the wood. The women of these villages dug up trenches at the entrance so that trucks couldn’t enter the depot. They did this twice, after which the FDCC gave up trying to fix the pits. In an attempt to create division between women and men, the FDCC stopped all labour payments, saying that payments would be made only when the logs reached the depot. After some initial antagonism, the labourers did not trouble the women and the organisation helped them to file applications to the government demanding their wages.

Framing the protest as a legitimate issue for Mitanins

The FDCC attempted to slander the reputation and intentions of the AAS and the authors. They contended, how could health workers (Mitanins) fight for forests as their work is only to give medicines and provide healthcare? The Mitanins themselves countered this and maintained throughout the struggle that the end of the forests meant an end of their lives and therefore for living healthy lives, forests were crucial.

Using songs in activism

Mitanins and leaders prepared songs about the forests and their struggle, which they would keep singing as they went into the forests to challenge the FDCC staff.

We’ll keep on going … oh sisters … we’ll not look back
With the green of the forests in our eyes … our hearts dance as we behold it (the forests)
They are destroying the forests by cutting it … slowly slowly we have to stop them
We’ll tread cautiously on our way … oh sisters … we’ll not look back
We live our lives with mahua, tendu, serai and amla
Together we’ll save the forests … oh sisters … we’ll not look back
FDC people search for us and not for our husbands … we are the ones to make our organisation stronger
We’ll never falter … oh sisters … we’ll not look back
We have made Adivasi Adhikar Samiti … we have rights over our forests
Even if we lose our lives in this struggle, we’ll not let them touch our forests

Mitanins also discussed the issue with school children and held drawing competitions in schools on the theme of forests. The drawings illustrated the intimate relationship between forests and the life of the indigenous communities, through the eyes of the children. The connection with forests was so pronounced that even a child could not miss it. One child showed blood coming out of a tree as it was being hacked.

Garnering support from experts and advocates

On 29 April 2006 more than 3,000 women and 1,000 men gathered in Tarabehra village of Manendragarh block for a Public Hearing on the Forest Felling issue. Indigenous women and men from the affected villages presented their testimonies. Government officials though invited, did not turn up. An independent panel of experts on environment and law, along with representatives and activists from organisations of indigenous people from all over Chhattisgarh, however listened to the testimonies and expressed solidarity with their struggle. The people who gathered at the Public Hearing reiterated their demands for putting a stop to the felling. The issues of pending labour payments, and abusive behaviour by the police and FDCC were also presented before the panel. The assembly pledged to save their forests at all costs (Kohli 2009Kohli, Kanchi (2009) ‘Two crore trees and the livelihood of thousands are at stake’, Infochangeindia,http://www.infochangeindia.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5746:two-crore-trees-and-the-livelihood-of-thousands-are-at-stake&catid=150&Itemid=38(last checked 30 August 2017) [Google Scholar]). The police kept a constant vigil on the gathering.

The organisation also wrote to the Supreme Court Commissioners on the Right to Food, urging their intervention on the loss of livelihoods and possible starvation due to loss of forests. Responding to their request, the Supreme Court Commissioners wrote to the Chhattisgarh Government on 3 February 2006, with the subject of the letter as ‘Impending starvation in Koriya, Sarguja and Kawardha districts due to large-scale felling of Sal trees and other NTFP bearing trees’ (Saxena 2006Saxena, Naresh Chandra (2006) ‘Impending starvation in Koriya, Sarguja and Kawardha districts due to large scale felling of Sal trees and other NTFP bearing trees’, Letter dated 3 February 2006 to the Chief Secretary, Government of Chhattisgarh from Commissioner to the Supreme Court of India in the Case: PUCL Vs UOI & ORS. Writ Petition (Civil) NO. 196 of 2001 [Google Scholar]) requesting an urgent review of the project. The Member of the Legislative Assembly from the neighbouring area, who was sympathetic to the cause, issued statements to print media against the felling.

Taking legal recourse

There were a number of issues in the Working Plan that had a bearing on various ecological, cultural, nutritional, and economic aspects that had to be contested. Some of these issues are enumerated below:

  1. The FDCC had obtained project approval by misrepresenting the facts and stating that the forests were ‘open and degraded’ forests (WP No. 676/ 2006 Rejoinder, 1). However, the areas selected for felling were lush dense forests with thriving wild life. The Working Plan itself mentioned that the forest’s canopy density66 The Forest Survey of India classifies forests on the basis of their canopy density into three categories as follows (ICFRE 2010Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) (2010) ‘Forest Sector Report India’, 2010,http://www.icfre.org/FSRI-REPORT_English.pdf(last checked 29 August 2017) [Google Scholar], 8):very dense forest (VDF) with canopy density more than 70 per cent;moderately dense forest (MDF) with canopy density between 40 and 70 per cent; andopen forest (OF) with canopy density between 10 and 40 per cent.View all notes was 40–60 per cent which is considered as dense forests and not open or degraded forests (CRVVN 2004Chhattisgarh Rajya Van Vikas Nigam (CRVVN) (2004) Working Plan in Koriya District 2004-05 to 2014-15 [Google Scholar], xix).

  2. The most commonly found species in the forest were sal trees, whose leaves, seeds, and resin have valuable commercial uses. However, the Plan only mentioned its use as timber and was completely silent on the non-timber produce of the tree and its vital role in the livelihoods and lifestyle of the indigenous communities.

  3. The Working Plan said about 30,000 tribal people in 72 villages were going to be directly affected in Koriya; and 100,000 people across 200 villages if we take all three districts into account (WP No. 676/ 2006, 4). Among these were the Baiga and Pahadi Korwa communities, identified as particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs), who were already facing impoverishment and chronic hunger due to destruction of traditional forest-based livelihoods (SC Commissioners 2008Commissioners of the Supreme Court In the case: PUCL v. UOI & Ors. Writ Petition (Civil) No. 196 of 2001 (SC Commissioners) (2008) ‘Eighth report of the commissioners of the supreme court: a special report on most vulnerable social groups and their access to food’,http://www.hrln.org/hrln/pdf/rtf/reports/Eight%20report%20.harsh%20tanveer%20final%20aug%2020%2008.pdf(last checked 1 September 2017) [Google Scholar]).

  4. Along with the sal trees, the FDCC planned to fell fruit bearing trees which would have a direct bearing on the food and livelihoods of the indigenous communities. More than 22,000 trees including hundreds of fruit bearing trees had already been felled across 14 villages in Koriya district alone, by May 2006.

  5. The felling would also completely destroy the natural habitat of existing wildlife. The Working Plan mentioned about 27 species of fauna in the selected forests.

Because of these and other considerations too numerous to detail fully in this article, it was possible to argue that the entire Working Plan and the permission by MoEF appeared to be flawed. AAS decided to file a Public Interest Litigation in Chhattisgarh High Court.77 Writ Petition No. 676/2006 in Chhattisgarh High Court, in the matter of Adivasi Adhikar Samiti and another vs. State of Chhattisgarh and four others.View all notes The case put forward the arguments of the AAS in demanding a stop to the felling. In addition to the evidence emerging from the Working Plan and its implementation and the subsequent action taken by the organisation, the petition used previous cases on forest rights and rights of indigenous people over natural resources,88 T. N. Godavarman Thirumulkpad vs. Union of India and ors (WP No 202 of 1995) concerning the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (http://forestcaseindia.org/godavarman-case, last checked 10 October 2017) and Samatha vs. State of Andhra Pradesh, 1997 8 SCC 191 (http://www.samataindia.org.in/documents/SAMATA_EDIT1.PDF, last checked 10 October 2017).View all notes and other supporting arguments focusing on forest policies of the state and anthropological evidence. Key arguments were that firstly, the local tribal communities did not want the felling to happen and secondly, that the plan would destroy the ecology of the area.

As the PIL progressed in the High Court, the Central Government (Ministry of Environment and Forests) agreed to institute an Enquiry99 Enquiry Committee constituted through Order No.6-1/2001(FOR)/Pt-II/1282 Dated 12-17/07/2006 of Ministry of Environment and Forests Government of India.View all notes to probe the allegations made by AAS. In July 2006, the Court issued a Stay Order on the felling operations and asked MoEF to submit its report in a month’s time. The MoEF Enquiry Committee consisted of senior forest officials from the Government of India, and the state government.

They visited the affected villages in Koriya district on 9 and 10 August 2006, along with leaders of AAS, the authors, and senior officials of the FDCC and Forest Department. In each village they were greeted by hundreds of women who came forward and registered their testimonies and submitted written petitions to the Chairperson of the Committee. The Panchayat representatives also made representations in support of the people’s demands. The women pointed out the violations and other problems at felling sites. In conversation with the authors during the course of the visit, the Enquiry Committee admitted that the Working Plan was completely flawed. The union government officers said that being grossly under-staffed, they hadn’t studied the Working Plan well before approving it. The Committee’s report that was submitted to the High Court in September 2006, vindicated the stance taken by AAS. Its main findings were:

  1. The forest selection was wrong as these were young dense forests, instead of being degraded or over-mature forests that would be fit for new plantations. They noted that the selection of sites was based on subjective judgement of the FDCC authorities and not on any scientific silvicultural considerations.

  2. The precautions needed to conserve biodiversity were not followed.

  3. Removal of sal trees from the forests which are close to villages might affect the livelihood of the villagers related to sal seed collection.

  4. The Forest Compartments transferred to the FDCC were very close to the villages from where the villagers, mostly indigenous people, meet their daily needs and have user rights, for fuelwood, housing materials, fodder etc. In such forests, it was of paramount importance to activate the Joint Forest Management Committees before taking up any operation. However, this did not take place. Moreover, the principles of Joint Forest Management had not been addressed with sincerity and earnestness, leading to issues like removal of fruit bearing trees, trees of religious importance, destruction of special habitat of wildlife and birds, and depletion of sal seeds.

  5. In four of the villages the Committee visited, they found that 25 fruit bearing trees had been felled by the FDCC that was against the norms.

Through this report, the MoEF was able to absolve itself from any wrongdoing and it also added credibility to the charges made by the AAS. The High Court took serious cognisance of the report. The final hearing of the case took place on 14 November 2006 in which the MoEF retracted its approval of the Working Plan, putting a stop to the project. The judges placed on record their appreciation towards AAS for raising such an important issue, and directed the FDCC to pay an amount of Rs.10,000 to AAS for legal expenses incurred (Final Order on WP 676/2006 passed on 14 November 2006).

Realising the extent of the breakdown of environment governance and the urgent need to review existing Working Plans involving tree felling in dense natural forests, AAS filed an application (Application no. 1009/2007) in the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) (on environment issues) of the Supreme Court in early February 2007, through Samir Garg (co-author).

This application presented a case against state-sponsored large-scale felling. It also highlighted the fact that though the Forest Policy says that production forestry has to be secondary to conservation forestry, in practice, the opposite happens. The CEC admonished the FDCC for practising such archaic measures with no concern for the environment (personal observation, October 2007). Soon after, the FDCC’s operations involving such type of felling significantly reduced in Chhattisgarh. The FDCC subsequently realised that if it continued felling in the other two districts, Sarguja and Kawardha, it might have to face more legal action, even criminal proceedings, and it stopped work there too. Thus through agitation and legal advocacy, AAS was able to save around 20 million trees from being felled.

Subsequent struggles

The movement and win against the FDCC forest felling strengthened the AAS and built its knowledge and capacities in working on forest rights. Therefore, in January 2007, when the Chhattisgarh State Forest Department started implementing its ten year Working Plan in Koriya, which involved a totally separate plan of felling of trees in three blocks (Manendragarh, Bharatpur, and Sonhat), the AAS members were quick to take cognisance. This plan focused on felling trees as part of the ‘scientific management’ of forests for the purpose of ‘forest improvement’ regularly undertaken by the Forest Department (Forest Department Chhattisgarh 2005Forest Department, Government of Chhattisgarh (2005) Working Plan in Koriya Forest Division 2005-06 to 2014-15 [Google Scholar], 139).

Though the scale of felling was smaller than the FDCC felling, the AAS feared that without vigilant monitoring, this felling could cause a lot of destruction to the forests.

The women in Manendragarh and Bharatpur once again undertook extensive surveys of the felled area, and found that many of the rules pertaining to girth, fruit trees, and endangered species were being flouted. Moreover, the community objected to the fact that according to the Working Plan, ‘old, dying and diseased trees’ (ibid., 111) were to be felled, as these dry ones were the only trees that the local community had the rights over, to use for their daily needs like firewood.

The movement spread to the neighbouring block of Sonhat, which had not been part of the previous struggle. Similar strategies were used as in the previous struggle. Leaders from Manendragarh went to the area to train the Mitanins and other women on the procedures for checking and recording the felled area. Women in Sonhat adopted a similar method of first trying to persuade the labourers to stop the felling, and then taking away the tools from them in case they did not stop. The Forest Department filed a number of police reports against the leaders. This time too, the village assemblies passed resolutions against the felling. However, the Forest Protection Committees (FPCs) did not agree to stop the felling as they were to receive part of the money from the sale of the felled logs. The organisation organised public events in all the blocks and presented the report based on their survey of the felled area and their demands to the District Forest Officer (DFO). The leaders persuaded the DFO to visit some of the villages with them and survey the trees which had been marked for felling. When the DFO visited some of the villages, he, along with the leaders, identified more than 250 trees that were wrongly marked for felling. The DFO realised the mistakes and ordered all felling be stopped until the forest staff had been trained properly.

Another set of struggles took place later in 2007. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 or the Forest Rights Act, had been passed by the Parliament of India. It was a landmark act that entitled indigenous people in the forest areas to obtain land deeds giving legal recognition of entitlement to the land they had been tilling for generations. The condition for claiming rights was that the land had to be in the possession of the family prior to 13 December 2005.1010 In line with ‘The Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006’.View all notes This prompted the Forest Department in Koriya to undertake plantations on indigenous people’s lands forcibly during the rainy season (June–September) in 2007, in order to ‘take back’ the land before the indigenous people could apply for land deeds.

All throughout the district there were cases of the Forest Department destroying people’s standing crops of maize and other millets, and digging pits for sapling transplantation on the land. In some of the villages in Manendragrah, the Mitanins, along with other women leaders, resisted this in their own fields. The women would keep filling the pits back at night. The department retaliated with brute force this time. In Paradol village, the forest staff came to meet the women along with a plain clothes man with a rifle and told them to stop filling the pits. They slapped and verbally abused the women and threatened them with the gun. Once they left, the women and the Mitanin went to the police station where the police refused to write their report. Meanwhile the Forest Department staff had already filed police reports against the women (personal experiences and communications).

Similar incidents of intimidation by the Forest Department and inaction by the police took place in other villages. However, despite this, resistance to the forced possession of land continued and hundreds of indigenous families saved the lands that they had been living on or cultivating for generations.

Since then, the AAS has been able to thwart other threats to natural resources. In 2008, AAS successfully thwarted a second threat to natural resources in their areas, in the form of a proposed power plant. In 2013, a third threat to these forests emerged in the form of a Coal-Bed-Methane1111 Coal-Bed-Methane is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds.View all notes extraction project. The women feared that the extraction of methane would deplete their ground water resources, pollute drinking water, and adversely affect the natural forests and the ecosystem. Using similar strategies as before, they effectively stalled the project for three years. However, the MoEF granted the go-ahead to a private corporation in 2016 and the struggle is still on. Though there has not yet been any implementation on the ground, a letter (dated 15 April 2017) was received by the co-author just as this article was being drafted, which stated that they will soon be starting the operations.

Discussion: emerging issues from these struggles

The first issue that emerges from a consideration of these struggles is the impact on the environment and biodiversity that forest felling represents. Natural forests are the richest source of biodiversity. Their commercial value may be low but they have very high biological value. Therefore felling of natural forests on a large scale and replacing them with commercial plantations would have caused severe damage to the environment and biodiversity. A commercial plantation can never fill the ecological gap created by removing a natural forest ecosystem. In this case, teak was an alien species for this ecological zone: The Imperial Gazetteer of India (1908The Imperial Gazetteer of India (1908-1931 [v. 1, 1909]New Edition, Published Under the Authority of His Majesty’s Secretary of State for India in CouncilOxfordClarendon Press,http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/(last checked 1 September 2017) [Google Scholar]1931The Imperial Gazetteer of India (1908-1931 [v. 1, 1909]New Edition, Published Under the Authority of His Majesty’s Secretary of State for India in CouncilOxfordClarendon Press,http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/(last checked 1 September 2017) [Google Scholar]), first published in 1909, shows that there was no teak in Koriya at that time, while it lists sal and bamboo as being in abundance. In terms of fauna, the Working Plan itself listed over 23 species of wild animals (like panther, bear, hyena, fox, jackal, and deer), and 30 species of wild birds found in the forests in question (CRVVN 2004Chhattisgarh Rajya Van Vikas Nigam (CRVVN) (2004) Working Plan in Koriya District 2004-05 to 2014-15 [Google Scholar], 119–24).

Second is the issue of livelihoods and food security of forest-dependent people. Most forest dwellers, especially indigenous communities, depend on forests for their livelihood (HLC 2014High Level Committee on Socio-Economic, Health and Educational Status of Tribal Communities of India (HLC) (2014Report of the High Level Committee on Socio-Economic, Health and Educational Status of Tribal Communities of IndiaMinistry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India,https://ruralindiaonline.org/resources/report-of-the-high-level-committee-on-socio-economic-health-and-educational-status-of-the-tribals-of-india/(last checked 1 September 2017) [Google Scholar]). In Koriya too, a large part of the annual cash income of families came from collection of minor forest produce. The impact that deforestation could’ve had on tribal livelihoods can be gauged from past experiences which show that areas that have experienced deforestation have high migration rates (HLC 2014High Level Committee on Socio-Economic, Health and Educational Status of Tribal Communities of India (HLC) (2014Report of the High Level Committee on Socio-Economic, Health and Educational Status of Tribal Communities of IndiaMinistry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India,https://ruralindiaonline.org/resources/report-of-the-high-level-committee-on-socio-economic-health-and-educational-status-of-the-tribals-of-india/(last checked 1 September 2017) [Google Scholar]). People losing their forest in their own area then have to collect produce from farther forests, resulting in numerous conflicts (ibid.).

Related to the issue of livelihoods is that of basic food security and nutrition of indigenous people. Forests are not just a source of cash income to them, but a very significant share of their nutrition comes from what the forest gives to them.1212 This includes a variety of wild mushrooms (local names boda, khukdi, putu, chhatnietc.), leafy vegetables (over 20 wild species), fruits (like guava, mango, jamun, tendu, gular etc.), nuts (like chironji), edible oilseeds (like mahua seeds, sal seeds etc.), and several species of edible tubers. These are important sources of nutrients to them as they would otherwise be left with mainly rice or millets in their diet. These food items have evolved along with the natural forests and exist and grow naturally in them.View all notes Almost none of these could be found in a teak plantation. Destruction of their natural forests can severely increase nutritional deficiencies and under-nutrition in tribal people.

Third is the non-economic, broader impact on the culture and way of life of indigenous communities. When states consider the economic benefits of clearing forests for cultivation, they are missing the key point that the forest has worth which is not monetary. While the entire human race gains non-economic benefits from the natural environment, for indigenous people, forests form the core of their way of life. Forests are not just resources important for livelihoods, but a living part of their culture. Most of their cultural practices and spiritual beliefs are based on the forests. Rituals related to the birth of a child, marriage or death, and most festivals cannot be completed without trees and animals. However, the ‘mainstream’ society does not recognise this.

A limited awareness of the importance of non-economic aspects was present in the Working Plan for the FDCC felling project, which said that that trees having religious importance would not be cut. As noted earlier, women checked what had actually been happening after felling operations had occurred, and this aspect was something they noted. However, the FDCC held only those trees as sacred which belonged to dominant organised religions (for example, the Banyan and Pipal trees are sacred to Hindus). Trees like sal or sendha hold importance in tribal animistic spirituality (Xaxa 1998Xaxa, Virginius (1998) ‘Cultural dimension of ecology: a case study of the Oraons’, in Baidyanath Saraswati (ed.) The Cultural Dimensions of EcologyNew DelhiIGNCA,http://ignca.nic.in/eBooks/Culture_n_Development_04.pdf(last checked 1 September 2017) [Google Scholar]), but these were not listed as trees of religious significance in the Working Plan (CRVVN 2004Chhattisgarh Rajya Van Vikas Nigam (CRVVN) (2004) Working Plan in Koriya District 2004-05 to 2014-15 [Google Scholar]).

Moreover, destruction of natural forests would cause irreversible damage to the indigenous health systems of tribal people. The forests in question provided over 50 types of plants having recognised medicinal value. These plants are central to the medical tradition and practices of the indigenous communities.

Another issue which emerges from this experience is the implied clash between natural resource use by the state for economic development, and the rights to self-governance of indigenous people. As noted, the areas where felling took place fall under the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1995 provides for the village assemblies of people in these areas to exercise control over their natural resources. Subsequent Supreme Court judgements have also upheld that people’s wishes should be respected regarding bringing in large industrial projects in tribal areas. The MoEF’s National Working Plan Code 2004 made it mandatory for state governments to enter into formal MoUs with local communities to identify the areas where any felling operations are to be done. But as the experience with the FDCC showed, these stipulations were mostly ignored by the state government.

This has serious implications for the idea of local self-governance that the law intended to provide to the indigenous people. The Forest Department and FDCs continue to treat forests as their sole property, and the concerns of the indigenous people were left unheard even when complete removal of forests around them was planned. In Chhattisgarh, the state government gave away the prime forest area of dense natural forests to the FDCC, the prime concern being that of revenue earning.

The question with respect to the Forest Development Corporations is not just regarding their role in felling but their entire reason for existing. FDCs were created nearly four decades ago to enable state governments to bring in institutional finance for ‘forest development’. But for FDCs and governments, ‘forest development’ has always meant commercial exploitation of forests for timber. In our view, and the views of the women whose actions we have discussed in this article, the FDCs serve no conservation purpose now. Therefore the time has come when they should be disbanded altogether.

Final thoughts: promoting civil society action for natural resource justice

This struggle, and the success it achieved in putting a stop to deforestation, provides some good lessons for promoting civil society action for natural resource justice. Building organisations led by women is a key step. It is also important that such organisations are built around a broad-based justice-based agenda, which has the flexibility to evolve and to accommodate challenges as they emerge. The grassroots organisations need to have the autonomy to make such changes in the agenda and the freedom to take-up issues as per their dynamic priorities and confidence. Straight-jacketed projects therefore are not the ideal form for promoting such action as they tend to freeze the agenda and even strategies for grassroots action. There is a need to develop ways of promoting projects which have such flexibility built-in.

Another important lesson relates to how a combination of strategies – ground level consensus building, petitioning, street protest, direct action (snatching axes and stopping trucks), and legal options (PILs), seeking support from journalists, media, sympathetic politicians, lawyers, and larger networks was also useful. While middle-class activists did play a role in seeking the linkages and legal intervention, the struggle was a product of the local initiative of the AAS. This is reflected in the fact that AAS members initiated their direct action spontaneously to stop the felling. The confidence that AAS exhibited in taking up such a struggle drew from its previous successes in securing food and health entitlements.

Finally, it is interesting how Mitanins played a central role in this struggle. They opposed state action, while being part of a government-run health programme (Sanders 2008Sanders, David (2008) ‘Revitalisation of primary health care and health system development: the potential of community health workers’, Presentation at International Symposium to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,http://www.flinders.edu.au/medicine/fms/sites/southgate_old/documents/Event/2009/19Mar09%20DavidSanders_Adelaide2009LSHTM_CHWs.pdf(last checked 30 August 2017) [Google Scholar]). This was made possible by various factors, in our view. The design of the Mitanin Programme gives Mitanins a fair level of autonomy to interpret their role in delivering, fostering, and supporting health. They were able to work in a holistic and wide way that focused on the social issues that determine health. They also played dual roles as service providers as well as activists. Another very important factor was the movement-building that went on with Mitanins working together with other activists, and organising as AAS, for the activism around forest felling. Subsequent writings and presentations have highlighted this (Sanders 2008Sanders, David (2008) ‘Revitalisation of primary health care and health system development: the potential of community health workers’, Presentation at International Symposium to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,http://www.flinders.edu.au/medicine/fms/sites/southgate_old/documents/Event/2009/19Mar09%20DavidSanders_Adelaide2009LSHTM_CHWs.pdf(last checked 30 August 2017) [Google Scholar]; Sundararaman 2007Sundararaman, Thiagarajan(2007) ‘Community health-workers: scaling up programmes’, The Lancet 369: 20589 doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(07)60326-2[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]). This case shows that the two roles were in fact mutually supportive and not contradictory. CHW programmes need to be designed keeping this in mind.

Notes on contributorsSulakshana Nandi is Joint National Convener of People’s Health Movement India. Postal address: House no. 28, New Panchsheel Nagar. Raipur, Chhattisgarh. Pin Code- 492001. Email: 

Samir Garg is Senior Programme Coordinator of State Health Resource Centre Chhattisgarh, India. Email: 

 

Notes

1 For further information on the tribal communities of the district please see http://korea.gov.in/culture.htm (last checked 10 October 2017).

2 A Scheduled Area, under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of India (1949), has been identified based on the preponderance of tribal population, compactness and reasonable size of the area, viable administrative entity, and economic backwardness of the area as compared to the neighbouring areas. The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) in the Fifth Schedule Areas provides certain distinct provisions meant to protect and benefit indigenous communities living in the area and empowers the Gram Sabha or village assembly to

(i) safeguard and preserve the (a) traditions and customs of the people, and their cultural identity, (b) community resources, and (c) customary mode of dispute resolution; (ii) carry out executive functions to (a) approve plans, programmes and projects for social and economic development; (b) identify persons as beneficiaries under the poverty alleviation and other programmes; (c) issue a certificate of utilisation of funds by the Panchayat for the plans; programmes and projects. (See http://pesadarpan.gov.in/en, last checked 1 August 2017)

3 The Mitanin Programme has expanded since its inception, and there are currently more than 60,000 Mitanins in Chhattisgarh state (Nandi and Schneider 2014Nandi, Sulakshana and HelenSchneider (2014) ‘Addressing the social determinants of health: a case study from the Mitanin (community health worker) programme in India’, Health Policy and Planning29(suppl 2): ii7181,https://academic.oup.com/heapol/article/29/suppl_2/ii71/587209/Addressing-the-social-determinants-of-health-a(last checked 1 September 2017) doi: 10.1093/heapol/czu074[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar], ii72). Lessons from this programme have also informed the development of the nationwide ASHA CHW programme under the National Health Mission in India (Nandi and Schneider 2014Nandi, Sulakshana and HelenSchneider (2014) ‘Addressing the social determinants of health: a case study from the Mitanin (community health worker) programme in India’, Health Policy and Planning29(suppl 2): ii7181,https://academic.oup.com/heapol/article/29/suppl_2/ii71/587209/Addressing-the-social-determinants-of-health-a(last checked 1 September 2017) doi: 10.1093/heapol/czu074[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]).

4 The Gram Sabha is the village assembly. The Panchayat is one level higher in the structure of governance, consisting of more than one village.

5 The sal (shorea robusta) is a huge, slow-growing tree that is native to the Indian sub-continent.

6 The Forest Survey of India classifies forests on the basis of their canopy density into three categories as follows (ICFRE 2010Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) (2010) ‘Forest Sector Report India’, 2010,http://www.icfre.org/FSRI-REPORT_English.pdf(last checked 29 August 2017) [Google Scholar], 8):

  1. very dense forest (VDF) with canopy density more than 70 per cent;

  2. moderately dense forest (MDF) with canopy density between 40 and 70 per cent; and

  3. open forest (OF) with canopy density between 10 and 40 per cent.

7 Writ Petition No. 676/2006 in Chhattisgarh High Court, in the matter of Adivasi Adhikar Samiti and another vs. State of Chhattisgarh and four others.

8 T. N. Godavarman Thirumulkpad vs. Union of India and ors (WP No 202 of 1995) concerning the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (http://forestcaseindia.org/godavarman-case, last checked 10 October 2017) and Samatha vs. State of Andhra Pradesh, 1997 8 SCC 191 (http://www.samataindia.org.in/documents/SAMATA_EDIT1.PDF, last checked 10 October 2017).

9 Enquiry Committee constituted through Order No.6-1/2001(FOR)/Pt-II/1282 Dated 12-17/07/2006 of Ministry of Environment and Forests Government of India.

10 In line with ‘The Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006’.

11 Coal-Bed-Methane is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds.

12 This includes a variety of wild mushrooms (local names boda, khukdi, putu, chhatni etc.), leafy vegetables (over 20 wild species), fruits (like guava, mango, jamun, tendu, gular etc.), nuts (like chironji), edible oilseeds (like mahua seeds, sal seeds etc.), and several species of edible tubers. These are important sources of nutrients to them as they would otherwise be left with mainly rice or millets in their diet. These food items have evolved along with the natural forests and exist and grow naturally in them.

References

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