FRA imbroglio in Manipur

Jajo Themson *

The Act called Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of forest rights) also known as FRA, 2006 in short was enacted on 18th December, 2006.Presidential Assent was given on 29th December, 2006.

It was officially enforced since 31st December 2007. Cut off year for implementation of this act is 13 December, 2005. Enactment of this Act was the result of years of struggles endured by forest communities to get their rights over their forest, land and homes recognised by the Government of India.

The recognised rights of the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) include the responsibilities and authority for sustainable use, conservation of bio-diversity and maintenance of ecological balance and thereby strengthening the conservation regime of the forests while ensuring livelihood and food security of the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe and OTFD.

The cardinal objective of the FRA, 2006 is to undo the 100 years of historical injustice done to the tribal and traditional forest dwellers in India by recognising their rights over the land, forest and natural resources that they conserved and managed traditionally for generations.

As per the Section 3 (i), (b), the FRA, 2006 will pave way for the very concept of Revenue village. The act intends to protect the traditional linkage between community and forest. Section 6(1) of the act empowers the Gram Sabha/Village Assembly to pass resolution recommending its reservation.

Section 4(2) states-Neither forest right holders be resettled nor right affected unless (a) Packages arranged (b) Free and Prior Informed Consent (EPIC) taken and (c) Relocate site arranged. Section 4 (5) of the act also states that No member of a forest dwelling ST or OTFD shall be evicted or removed from forest land under their occupation till the recognition and verification procedures are complete.


Even though the FRA, 2006 is considered as animal, human and eco-friendly, it is marred with several challenges in the actual implementation. The most complicated part in the act is its extent of applicability. There are questions of whether states are under scheduled areas or not.

It is applied only to those eligible 10 states which are under the 5th scheduled like Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan. Four states in the North Eastern region of India under the 6th scheduled of the Indian constitution such as Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya are entitled to this act.

Moreover, as per the recommendation of the Indian Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) dated 1st January, 2008, clause (2) of the section 1, this act is applicable to the whole of India except state of Jammu & Kashmir.

According to the Ministry, “Large forest dwelling populations also live outside the scheduled areas which previously may not have had such rights. Now all forestdwelling populations whether within scheduled area or outside them, are covered under the FRA”. Read with section 4(1) (a) of the act, it is applicable for all ST & OTFD who have settled at least 75 years (3 generations).

Major tussle of FRA implementation

There are 33 recognised scheduled tribe communities in Manipur. They mostly confined in the hilly regions of the state. However, these areas are neither under 5th nor 6th scheduled. In practical, the act is applied only in the abovementioned 14 states. It was on this pretext, FRA, 2006 was exempted in almost all the big projects in the state including the Mapithel dam forest case.

Perplexingly, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Eastern Zone Kolkata Bench in its judgment dated 6 December 2017; State Govt of Manipur and Irrigation and Flood Control Department (IFCD), now Water Resource Department are directed to ensure compliance of all necessary conditions stipulated under the FRA, 2006.

The basis of passing the judgment was as per the clarification made by the Environment Ministry on the linkage between the FRA and Forest Conservation Act (FCA) 1980 withcircular issued in 2009. The requirement of consent from Gram Sabha and the completion of recognition process is mandatory prior to any forest diversion can be given effect.

Question of revenue in tribal areas

There have been contentious issues of revenue whether applied in the hill areas of the state or not. Section 3 (i), (b) of the FRA, 2006 intends to develop the very concept of Revenue village. Whereas in Manipur, there have been lot of debate over villages in the hill areas whether the idea of revenue village is in practice literally. This invites question if this act can be enforceable in the non-revenue tribal hill areas making the principle of the FRA, 2006 rather dim.

Controversial point of Primitive Tribal Group (PTG)

Demand of compliance of FRA, 2006 in the forest clearance of ADB sponsored Road in Chandel district was out-rightly rejected on the pretext of terming Maram Nagas as the sole Primitive Tribal Group (PTG) exist in the state as such consent of the Gram Sabha under the FRA was exempted. The same also invokes big issue of categorization of tribal communities as eligible and non-entitlement to this act.

Tribal land law system

Even thoughJharkhand is within 5th scheduled, the FRA, 2006 is not applied in this state because it has its own parallel customary land laws. Likewise, it is apparent that tribal communities in Manipur have their own traditional land laws or system of land holding as per respective tribe. The same unveils limited scope and non-applicability of the act in Manipur taking the example of Jharkhand state.

In spirit implementation of FRA in Manipur

A formality application of FRA was found in the forest matter of Mapithel dam. While there was claim of non-prevalent of scheduled area, Deputy Commissioner of Ukhrul convened a District Level Committee meeting for implementation of this act in respect of villages of Phungyar Sub-Division, Ukhrul District (Particularly for Mapithel dam area), held on the 12th March, 2013.

That was just a nominal process, total flawed and devoid of substance of the act. Nominal applications of the act are also observed in some areas where there are reserve or protected forest serving series of Show Cause Notices inviting the tribal and OTFD communities to proof ownership of forest land under the provision of FRA, 2006.

FRA Compliance checkmate

In compliance of the FRA, there are mandatory procedures in acquiring forest clearance in any developmental projects. While implementing the necessary conditions stipulated in FRA, 2006, one of the most important thing the project authority has to do is to seek Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of the affecting community people. As per the Union MoEF & CC Circular of 3rd August, 2009 on FRA compliance under section 3(1)I, 3(1)e and 4(5), a series of six fundamental documental evidence are required to be enclosed to prove the compliance of FRA.

Remarkably, nothing of such mandatory procedures are everfound applied or carried out in the entire history of mega developmental interventionin Manipur like 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose project, Khuga dam project, Singda dam, Mapithel dam, Limestone mining at Hundung, Trans-Asian Railway project in Tamenglong district and Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other corporate sponsored road projects in the state.


It is worth maintaining that the recommendation of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) as Nodal Ministry for this act superseded the basis of scheduled area in application. Non-compliance or implementation would be a violation.

As such, there is need of right interpretation of the controversial areas like the concept of revenue village, Primitive Tribal Group, balance out the clash between tribal land laws and the FRA and steps required to be taken for letter and spirit implementation of the act.

If it is the case the FRA, 2006 is to be actually implemented, emphasis need to be given to the human and eco-friendly areas like protecting the traditional linkage between community and forest. Further, another human-friendly part in the Section 4(2) of the act should be properly executed whereby neither forest right holders be resettled nor right affected unless (a) Packages arranged (b) EPIC taken and (c) Relocation site arranged.

Moreover, complying the Circular of 3rd August, 2009 of the Union MoEF-CC on FRA compliance under section 3(1)I, 3(1)e and 4(5), Gram Sabhas have to be empowered for effective exercise of their inherent rights under the act.

Finally, State Govt. and project developers should recognise and respect the rights of the tribal communities as provided in Section 4 (5) of the FRA, 2006 in the interest of effective forest conservation, indigenous communities’ right safety and enhance environment protection regime.

* Jajo Themson wrote this article for
The Writer can be contacted at thmsontezonge(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on September 29 2023 .

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