The impact of the Forest Rights Act (2006) on deforestation, tribal welfare, and poverty

When the United Progressive Alliance came to power in the Indian general elections of May 2004, it published a Common Minimum Programme in which it promised to end the eviction of tribal and other forest-dwelling people from forest lands. In March 2005, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs presented the first draft of the Forest Rights Act that guaranteed the right of tribal and other forest-dwellers to continue to cultivate forest land that they had cultivated in the past. The draft Bill was tabled in Parliament on the 13th of December, 2005, and passed a year later after much contentious debate that was widely reported in the news media. The Government of India issued Rules under the Act in January 2008, and the Government of Rajasthan published its own Rules as required under the Act shortly after. The purpose of the project was to explore data availability in order to examine the feasibility of the following four research questions: 1. Did the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 lead to an increase in forest clearing in order to establish claims to individual title? 2. Does community control lead to better forest protection and soil conservation than state forest department control? 3. Has the FRA achieved its aim of “correcting historical injustices” by giving titles to the poor? 4. How are claims to title mediated by political and other networks, caste, and status?