What can the Forests Rights Act decentralise: Protection or conservation?
The Rules for The Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (henceforth RFRA) were finally gazetted in January 2008. The six month wait in gazetting the rules, which first appeared in draft form in June 2007, is only representative of delays that have beleaguered the Act since its introduction as a Bill in 2005. Conflict prevailed between conservationists and tribal rights groups in the form of protests and lobbying. The very process of writing the provisions of the Act, wherein each lobby at different junctures in the nearly 3-year legislative career of the Act included and excluded favourable and unfavourable clauses and whole sections, reflects this conflict. This essay refers to such conflicts, especially the one that possibly prevailed in the changes made to the draft rules. It draws implications these changes could potentially have for how the RFRA achieves what is stated in its preamble, namely, to �strengthen the conservation regime of forests�.