Journal of Forest Economics > Vol 39 > Issue 1

Can Social Mobilizations Democratize Forest Governance? The “Making” and “Unmaking” of India’s Forest Rights Act

Priyanshu Gupta, Assistant Professor, Indian Institute of Management Lucknow, India, , Arnab Roy Chowdhury, Associate Professor, School of Sociology, HSE University, Moscow, Russia,
Suggested Citation
Priyanshu Gupta and Arnab Roy Chowdhury (2024), "Can Social Mobilizations Democratize Forest Governance? The “Making” and “Unmaking” of India’s Forest Rights Act", Journal of Forest Economics: Vol. 39: No. 1, pp 39-75.

Publication Date: 11 Apr 2024
© 2024 P. Gupta and A. Roy Chowdhury
Forest Rights Act 2006forest policysocial mobilizationpolicy designIndia


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In this article:
1. Introduction 
2. Forest Governance and Democratization: Theoretical Considerations 
3. The Context of Forest Governance and the “Making” of FRA in India 
4. The “Unmaking” of the FRA 
5. Roots of Failure Inherent in the Moment of Success? 
6. Conclusions 


Sustained advocacy by the indigenous people and a coalition of civil society organizations led the government to pass the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) in India. But the Act failed to democratize forest governance as its implementation failed, and subsequent dilutions resulted in its unmaking. Using primary data – collected through ethnographic fieldwork-based observations and in-depth interviews in Chhattisgarh from 2014 to 2020 – and secondary data, we critically analyze the stages and processes of the making and unmaking of the law. We argue that the coalition structure of the mobilizing groups was loose and its efficacy and longevity limited; framing its demands after the FRA was passed proved too challenging for the coalition; the Act had shortcomings; and a new political regime came to power in 2014 and subverted the intent of the Act and diluted its governance framework and provisions, which finally led to its unmaking.