Symbiotic Relationship And Tribal People
This Blog is written by Ravikiran M. Shukre | Column Editor
We have heard the word “environment” from our childhood. As time passed, we got to know the proper meaning of that word. We have learned that everything around us is a part of an environment; but the true meaning doesn’t stop there, it goes further explaining the inter-relationship of human beings with nature and other living creatures.
So now the next question is what is this inter-relationship? Does it matter more than our life? Why we need to understand and whether we are lacking behind in comprehending this relationship? Are we neglecting it? Well, we are about to find out all the answers to these questions!
Environmental Protection Act, 1986 defines the term ‘environment’ as – “one which includes water, air, and land and the inter-relationship which exist among and between water, air and land, and human beings, other living animals, plants, micro-organisms and properties.” This definition is inclusive and states that environment is nothing but the inter-relationship between water, air and land and human beings and other living animals. An assumption can be drawn from this definition that inter-relationship and inter-dependency between human beings, nature, and other life forms is the essence of the wellbeing of the human race.
It is evident for all of us to understand and take this definition of the term environment in eco-centric philosophy and then only we will be able to establish the symbiotic relationship of man with other living animals, plants.
INTER-RELATIONSHIP OF MAN WITH OTHER LIVING ANIMALS, PLANTS:
The environment embraces all life forms of life on our planet. It is our duty to protect it and nurture it properly for next generation and establish the importance of protecting the environment to them. In the case of T. N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v. UOI urgency was felt to preserve the sandalwood, an endangered species, Supreme Court held that “India has an obligation to the world to safeguard red sandalwood as the country is a signatory to conventions that hold red sandalwood in the red category and as an endangered species.”
In the case of T. N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v. UOI Supreme Court held that “Eco-centrism supports the protection of all life forms, not just those which are of value to human or their needs but underlines the fact that humans are just among the various life forms on the Earth.” Hon’ble Court further pointed out that, even before the western world thought about it, this eco-centric principle had its roots in Indian Isha Upnishad that teaches, “The Universe along with its creatures belong to the Lord. No creature is superior to any other. Human beings should not be above Nature. Let no species encroach over the rights and privileges of other species.”
SUSTAINABLE USE OF FORESTS – RIGHTS OF FOREST DWELLERS:
Nowadays we are witnessing tremendous growth in development not just in India but around the globe. No doubt humans have that curiosity to explore more and keep progressing, but the most important thing must be kept in mind is that preserving the forest land, because the location of development projects near or in forest area raises complex questions like conflict between short term benefits and long term benefits, tangible and intangible losses, social impact, etc. Not only that but rehabilitation of the local population and re-afforestation are of major concern.
The tribal population was supplied Bamboo at reduced rates to enable tribal people to eke out a living by making articles for sale in the open market. However, State forest officials blocked the transport of articles on the ground of possible exploitation of forest in a reckless manner. Then, Gujarat High Court held that this was wrong and laid emphasis on the rights of tribals to depend on forests, which was the only source of their livelihood. Once Bamboo was transformed by human labor into a commercially new and distinct commodity, for example, the bamboo chips, the article ceased to be the produce of forest.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the reservation of forests has had a crucial impact on tribal people.
We are witnessing tremendous growth in development not just in India but around the globe. No doubt humans have that curiosity to explore more and keep progressing, but the most important thing must be kept in mind is that preserving the forest land, because the location of development projects near or in forest area raises complex questions like conflict between short term benefits and long term benefits, tangible and intangible losses, social impact etc. Not only that but rehabilitation of the local population and re-afforestation are of major concern. We have seen agricultural poor people giving their lands in forest areas. Therefore, it is becoming a very difficult situation for tribal people as they might be under enslavement. It is becoming the need of the hour that tribal people should be saved from being exploited.
The State of Maharashtra enacted the legislation for the annulment of transfer of lands from the tribal people and for their restoration. The court held it valid.
TRIBAL PEOPLE – FRIENDS OR ENEMIES?
There are two important decisions regarding the tribal rights and privileges of tribal people in the forest areas. In the case of Pradeep Krishnan v. UOI Supreme Court held that if one of the reasons for the shrinkage is the entry of villagers and tribals living in and around the sanctuaries and national parks, there can be no doubt that urgent steps must be taken to prevent any destruction or damage to the environment, the flora and fauna, and wildlife in these areas.
In the case of Animal and Environment Legal Defence Fund v. UOI Supreme Court resolved the dispute between Madhya Pradesh & Maharashtra where Madhya Pradesh allowed fishing permits to displaced tribal people in Totladoh reservoir within Pench National Park, then govt. of Maharashtra objected on environmental grounds like a danger to felling trees, harm to crocodiles and turtles in the reservoir. Then Supreme Court held that “while an attempt to be made to protect the fragile ecology of forest area and protect Tiger Reserve, the rights of tribal community formally living in the area to keep body and soul together must receive proper consideration. Undoubtedly, every effort should be made to ensure that tribals, when resettled, are in position to earn their livelihood.”
Therefore, we understand that maintaining the status quo is quite a task. Balancing the rights of every citizen (i. e. balance of convenience) and giving proper justice is the aim of our judicial system.
The environment is the utmost important factor of our life. Once we understand how to cherish it and protect it, we will be living in harmony with nature and other animals.
 Sec. 2 (a) of the Environmental Protection Act, 1986.
 [(2012) 4 SCC 362, (p.369, 377)].
 [(2012) 4 SCC 362, p. 374].
 Fatesang Gimba Vasava v. State of Gujarat [AIR (1987) Guj 9].
 Lingappa Pochanna Appelwar v. State of Maharashtra [AIR (1985) SC 389].
 [AIR (1996) SC 2040 (p. 2047)].
 [AIR (1997) SC 1071].