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India: Growing Trends of Rejection of Tribal Claims on Forest Lands

Gayatri Raghunandan

In 2007 India Enacted the Forest Rights Act, which vests forest dwellers with individual and community forests rights to live in and cultivate forest land occupied before 13th December 2005.

It specifies authorities at the village, block, district and state level who are responsible for implementing the Act. The Act assigns the village Gram Sabha (the smallest local level unit of authority) the authority to initiate the process of identifying the nature of individual or community forest rights.

Further, it elaborates on the procedure of implementing the Act and on the provision of penalties in the form of a fine to those who commit any offence under this act. The implementing rules for the Act were issued on 1 January 2008.


The use of GPS instruments has spread all over the world as an important tool to demarcate the lands and territories of communities. Among indigenous communities the mapping has been a successful tool in the defence of indigenous land rights in Malaysia and Indonesia for example. However, these instruments have also proven a challenge for many communities.

The use of GPS instruments without adequate proprietary software can create room for logistical errors akin to those made by humans. This would defeat the very purpose of moving towards a technologically equipped approach.


This briefing note points to some of the challenges occurring when using the technology systems, and brings forward recommendations how to improve the use for the benefit of the users, such as;

1. Development of a user-friendly interface by eliminating the restrictions of GPS on visual triangulation on other maps which creates boundary overlaps, leading to conflicts and land disputes.

2. Enhance community capacity building and training along with the use of technology. With the advancement of hand-held devices as more user-friendly, there is scope for revolutionising this form of GPS data collection.When complemented with community participation, this can enable easy and fast linkages, thus, expediting the validation process with enhanced transparency.

Gayatri Raghunandan is Research Associate at the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.



2017 June 30
8 pages