Analysis Of Down To Earth Magazine: ”Ban on Forest Grazing!”
- Madras High Court in its recent order has restricted cattle grazing in the state’s protected forest areas.
- The court order was in response to a public interest petition by a Thirvadanai-based lawyer G Thirumurugan in July 2020.
- The petitioner sought a ban on grazing in Megamalai wildlife division (which includes a sanctuary) and the Theni forest division of Theni district, alleging destruction of grasslands and a threat of the cattle transmitting diseases to wild animals.
- The court order was in accordance with the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and on cattle trespass under the Tamil Nadu Forest Act, 1882.
Arguments against the decision
- The communities’ grazing rights in forest areas are already protected under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition Of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 or FRA. But instead of referring to FRA, the ruling refers to colonial-era laws like the Tamil Nadu Forest Act that are obsolete.
- It sets a legal precedent for further territorialising forests at the hands of the state and creates barriers between the people and their forests.
Existing Rules and Conditions Regarding the issue of Grazing Permits for non STs
- Grazing shall be allowed in reserve forests and in reserved lands under the control of the Forest Department only on permits issued by the Forest Department. Permits shall, ordinarily, be issued for a whole Forest Division. These permits, however, do not cover grazing in areas which are specially closed to grazing.
- Certain areas are liable to be closed to grazing either permanently, or temporarily. Closure is applied to areas under regeneration, to burnt areas and to those in which grazing is harmful. Forests may be closed to grazing in case of fires. Particular areas may be reserved for local, foreign or breeding cattle to the exclusion of others.
Scheduled Tribes And Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition Of Forest Rights) Act, 2006
- The Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 recognizes the rights of the forest dwelling tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers to forest resources, on which these communities were dependent for a variety of needs, including livelihood, habitation and other socio-cultural needs.
- The Act encompasses Rights of Self-cultivation and Habitation which are usually regarded as Individual rights; and Community Rights as Grazing, Fishing and access to Water bodies in forests, Habitat Rights for PVTGs, Traditional Seasonal Resource access of Nomadic and Pastoral community, access to biodiversity, community right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge, recognition of traditional customary rights and right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource for sustainable use.
India has a long history and culture of pastoralism, with several unique breeds. If these are to survive, then traditional grazing rights must be met.