12 Fellows selected for the Eleventh CSE Media Fellowship - Justice at Bay : The Forest Rights Act
This fellowship was supported by Jamshedji Tata Trust
February 10, 2011 – April 10, 2011
Millions of people are linked to forests, some derive their livelihoods from them, others call them home. The forests, however, are subjected to continuous exploitation due to varied reasons beyond the realm of sustenance, rendering the forest dwellers most vulnerable.
To protect these communities against harassment, eviction, displacement and encroachment, the Forest Rights Act was introduced in December 2006. For the first time in history, these villagers got recognition of their rights to their homeland and awarded the responsibility of managing the forests and forest resources.
Industry and the state, however, continue to have a vested interest in forests. Corporates entice the state with their ambitious proposals and dreams of development, fell the forests, dig out the minerals and leave without reclamation displacing the entire forest community.
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) offers a media fellowship to Indian journalists to study, investigate and report on the implementation, violation and drawbacks of the act and its fallout on the forest dwelling communities.
Applications accompanied by their resumes, samples of work and letter of support from their editors were received from across the country. A total of 54 applications were received out of which 39 were shortlisted for final selection.
A jury comprising of legal experts and senior media professionals was constituted to select the fellows. The jury members were
* Mr Sanjay Upadhyay: Managing Partner, Enviro Legal Defense Firm, NOIDA
* Mr Manish Mitta: Senior Editor -Legal, Times of India, Delhi
* Mr Pankaj Pachauri: Senior Desk Editor (Hindi) - NDTV, Delhi
* Ms Sunita Narain: Director, CSE
* Ms Lata Jishnu, Senior Editor, Down To Earth
* Mr Richard Mahapatra, Senior Editor, Down To Earth
The parameters for assessing the candidates included originality of ideas; grasp of issues covered; relevance of the issues covered; range of the issues covered; analytical skills; writing skills; and initiative. The jury was requested to finalise the selection of journalists for the fellowship, enrich proposed story ideas with fresh perspectives and suggest ways to make future fellowships more challenging and meaningful.
The jury selected the 12 most promising candidates for awarding the fellowship grant. The fellows are given from february 10 - April 2011 for working on their subjects. We present to you the fellows and their proposals.
The reports and articles published by our fellows are available as an exposé of the ground reality of the plans.
Deputy Chief Reporter
The Statesman, New Delhi
Abhijeet will research on and publish a series of articles in The Statesman. Concentrating on Kandhamal and Kalahandi districts, he will report on
a) Changes in the way of functioning of the forest department after the act was rolled out. b) Loopholes in the Forest Rights Act. c) Why the tribals are not getting rights to the land they have been cultivating for years. d) Investigate the situation of the tribes which practice shifting cultivation – they may not be covered under the Forest Rights Act. e) Stories on tribal art and cultural with reference to Forest Act.
Aloka Freelance Journalist
As per Aloka's proposal, she will research on and publish a series of articles in Nai Dunia. Concentrating on Khuti-Nidhiya, Torpa, Marcha, Kunda; Gumla-Raideh Block; Lohardagah Kudu; Chatra-Simaria; Hazaribag-Badkagaon; Palamu-Betla Areas, she will report on
a) Land rights and allotment of land under various Acts and regulations b) Rights to MFPs c) Women and how they have benefited/can benefit from the Act d) Status of revenue villages e) New forests which were promised to be planted – status f) Displacement of forest villages.
The jury would also like her to report on (a) the tenancy laws in the state and (b) the connection between scheduled areas governance and forest areas governance.
Anil S Senior Reporter
The New Indian Express
Anil will research on and publish a series of articles in The New Indian Express. Concentrating on tribes and regions like Irula, Muduga, Kurumba and Malapandaram, he would cover
a) Promised land to the tribal families inside the forested areas- status b) Construction activities inside the forest, migration threat faced by tribals due to activities inside the forest at Sabarimala and Wayanad. c) The tribal in the district of Wayanad where interests are hijacked by various agencies. d) Currently the state government is undertaking the ‘Bhoomikeralam’ project for distributing land and giving title deeds to tribal families and hamlets.
Besides these, the jury would also like him to write a story on ecological fragile land issues.
Atul Kumar Singh
Sr Sub Editor
Atul will research on and publish a series of articles in Hindustan.
a) The Act’s negative impacts – especially on nomadic tribes. b) Recommendations of the Renke committee report c) The effects of the implementation of the Act on the wildlife. d) History of forest regulation in India
The jury would like to see reports from Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat and South Rajasthan.
Baba Mayaram Freelance Reporter
As per Baba's proposal, he will research on and publish a series of articles in Daily Chhattisgarh. He would be reporting, concentrating on Hoshangabad, Harda and Betul districts about
a) The individual and community rights allotted to tribals and the forest dwellers under the Act -- status
b) Role of the committees which allots these rights. c) Status of villages inside the Satpara tiger reserve d) The rights of non-tribals. e) Displacement in the name of removing encroachments and afforestation -- tribals are left homeless.
The jury also suggested him to cover villages in Chhattisgarh, as there are a lot of similar issues.
G Srinivas Freelance Journalist
As per Srinivas' proposal, he will research on and publish a series of articles in Dhimsa highlighting the issues that he has listed concentrating on Srikakulam, Vishakapatnam, Vizianagaram and East Godavari Districts of A.P
a) Discrepancy in constitution of FRC. b) Why claims in bauxite mining lease areas not accepted c) Divergence between the area claimed and the title deed d) Mystification over the area covered under VSS. e) Lack of awareness about CFR. f) Community participation g) Formation of implementing agency.
Besides these areas of research, the jury would also like him to do a series on the Pollavaram issue.
Jupinderjit Singh Bureau Chief
The Tribune, Jammu
Jammu & Kashmir
As per Jupinderjit's proposal, he will research on and publish a series of articles in The Tribune, highlighting the issues that he has listed in Jammu and Kashmir
a) Non implementation of FRA affecting Gujjars and Bakkarwals. b) Conflicts arising due to non settlement of forest lands. c) CAMPA fund vis-a-vis J&K. d) Encroachment of forests. e) Case study of Shopian forest land. f) Identification of commoners like Shashi Kumar Kesri.
Rajnish will research on and publish a series of articles in Chauthi Duniya among other dailies. He plans to concentrate on Dudhwa National Park and write about
a) The displacement issues under the act. Relocation and resettlement under the act. b) Analyzing the condition of people who fall under the provisions of this act. c) The status of the tribal population.
Apart from that, the jury would also like him to look at the “fixed land demand” issues (a term for village).
Doordarshan Kendra, Imphal
As Rajkumar's proposal, he will research on and broadcast a series of stories in Doordarshan Kendra. He will be concentrating on Ukhrul and Chandel districts in Manipur about
a) The importance and urgency of implementing the Forest Rights Act, 2006 in the state of Manipur. b) Conservation of bio-diversity and maintenance of ecological balance in the forest – main role of the tribals. c) Prospects of sustainable development of forest resources. d) Alternative means of livelihood through various programmes, resettlement policy, good transport and communication under the Forest Rights Act. e) Tribals have always believed the jungle to be their property – potential of conflicts in context of the Act.
Reshma S Jathar Freelance Reporter
Reshma will research on and publish a series of articles in Lokprabha. She will be concentrating on Kattkari, Thaaka, Mahadev Koli, Vaarali tribal communities living in Raigad district about
a) Implementation of community forest rights (CFR) provisions of the FRA in Raigad.
b) Understand the potential impact of CFRs claimed by the communities on the concerned forests and the future strategies, in any, for their management and sustainable use.
c) Gauge the communities’ understanding of the conservation aspect of CFR provisions.
d) Understand communities’ traditional practices pertaining to the uses of common forest resources that are claimed under CFR provisions.
e) The status of CFR claims.
f) Management strategies for CFRs being planned by the communities if any, and institutional structure for implementation of the above mentioned management plan.
Women’s participation in planning for CFRs at the community level.
Shalini Singh Senior Reporter
The Hindustan Times
Shalini will research on and publish a series of articles in The Hindustan Times highlighting the following
a) Taking Vedanta and POSCO projects as models where the tribals won their rights over power giants using FRA- b) How other states in the country can learn from these examples c) How has the Forest Rights Act(FRA)2006 played out in these two cases? d) Where has it worked/not worked? e) Through these examples, looking at the broader issues of development and the FRA in context to Naxalism
Soma Basu Staff Reporter
Soma will research on and publish a series of articles in The Statesman. Concentrating on West Midnapor and North Bengal forest dwelling tribes
a) Illegalities and the abnormalities in the implementation of the FRA b) The harassment the tribals are subjected to. c) Illegal felling of trees and timber smuggling, and illegal way of settling land claims. d) The 90 million dollars World Bank – GEF funded India eco-development project a scam. e) Indigenous people dispersed and with them loss of language, culture and conversational practise of sustenance.
a) Widespread migration due to maoist migration. Tribals move towards fringes where they are susceptible to exploitation. b) Patta distribution illegal. c) Illegal mining.
Besides these, the jury would also like her to write a critic on the left party's achievements of implementation of FRA in the light of the upcoming elections.
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) is a New Delhi-based public interest research and advocacy organisation and is the recipient of the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize. It was recently ranked 17th among a global listing of top environmental think tanks in the Global Go To Think Tank Index, compiled each year by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program of the University of Pennsylvania in the US..