The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, (Forest Rights Act or just FRA hereafter), enacted by the Indian Parliament in 2006, did not emerge from unproblematic and consensual deliberations. Rather the struggle to pass the act, and to keep the key elements intact, was fraught with intense contestation. Central to the process of policy development in this case has been the use of collective pressure through an unusual coalition of interests spread across the states of India, which ultimately paved the road to the new institutional settlement. The case of the FRA throws light on the importance of 'protest' or 'campaign' politics in India, and the simultaneous importance of activists to form effective 'coalitions' involving individuals and groups in order to influence the course of legislation. While the preponderance of politics in matters of economic decision-making gets highlighted, the process underlying the legislation of the FRA also reveals the multi-actor and multi-layered (given the federal structure of the Indian polity) nature of the Indian State and the significant role of intra-state politics in promoting or thwarting pro-poor institutions.
Discussion Paper Series, Research Programme Consortium for Improving Institutions for Pro-Poor Growth, Manchester, UK, No. 39, 30 pp.