Stopping Timber Mafia from misuse of ‘Hak Hakook’ forest rights

Stopping Timber Mafia from misuse of ‘Hak Hakook’ forest rights

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The timber mafia had usurped the ‘Hak Hakook’ rights of people to get wood from the forest for their traditional usage. The system was being misused by timber mafia in connivance with corrupt forest officials. Our initiative is to make guidelines for a transparent system and accountability of officials so that the people once again get their lawful forest rights.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The primary problem being addressed by us is that people on whose behalf trees are being cut should get the benefit that is due to them. The marginal farmers and villagers will now get their forest rights. We are also exposing corruption in the government and a criminal–bureaucracy nexus. We are also saving the environment.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Misuse of Hak hakook (which literally mean ‘right of rights’ in Urdu) happened due to a nexus between criminals and corrupt forest department officials. Since the people were afraid to confront this timber mafia, we decided to file public interest litigations in Supreme Court of India to expose the scam and enable the poor villagers to get their forest rights. We filed five PILs and are in the process of filing two more to highlight how in only in a dozen villages 7000 trees were felled illegally. If properly investigated the scam would easily be of a few billion rupees. Not only are we praying Supreme Court of India for punishment of the guilty but also wanting to make guidelines which make the system transparent and the forest department officials accountable in case of misuse. The system will be made more people friendly. It will ensure that in future the people get their forest rights and are aware of what is happening in the 'system'.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

For 10 villages about 7000 trees have been cut illegally. Imagine the amount of forest property that is due to the marginal farmers of Uttarakhand that is going to the timber mafia illegally. A proper investigation will expose this billion dollar loot of the forests which is happening in the pretext of forest rights of the people of Uttarakhand. None of this wood is going to the beneficiaries. Infact they do not even know about it. Our initiative will bring greater transparency in the application and sanction process of HakHakook as well as in the monitoring of the tree felling. The officials will be made more accountable and be held for any irregularity in their jurisdiction. Fixed period for the application will be made in the villages where a forest department official will also be present.
About You
Himalayan Chipko Foundation
Section 1: About You
First Name

Jaya Prakash

Last Name



, DL

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Himalayan Chipko Foundation

Organization Phone

++91 9868277171

Organization Address

C-112, Flat No. 5, Pandav Nagar, Delhi-110092

Organization Country

, DL

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, UL

Do you have a patent for this idea?


We have already filed five PILs and the Central Empowered Committee of Supreme Court of India has agreed to made guidelines for Hak Hakook which will bring transparency and accountability. But they have so far not agreed to punish the officials involved in the scam. We will fight for punishment to the officials who have violated the law. The slow judicial process is causing problems for us. There is no point if it takes ages for the Supreme Court to decide the matter relating to the punishment of the officials.


People will be better informed about their rights relating to the forest property. There would be transparency in the system. There would be accountability of the officials. The villagers would get the forest wood which is entitled to them.This will depend on how fast the Supreme Court decides our case.
Thousands of trees will be saved.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


If so, how?

With the framing of guidelines we will directly impact on public policy.
The beneficiaries will now be able to know the exact date when the meeting will be held in the village for noting the ‘Hak Hakook’ requirement of the individuals. A forest department personnel will also be present in the meeting. The exact location of the tree felling will be notified to the beneficiaries. The felling will be done in the reserved forest closest to the village. Forest Department officials will be accountable for the movement of the wood and in the event there is any illegal felling then they will be held responsible. The wood will not be allowed to be transported to the market and will get transport permit from the site of felling to the village of the beneficiary. It cannot be taken for processing outside the village of the beneficiary. The forest right will not be transferable or used for commercial purpose.

What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with government?

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation.

After the Supreme Court guidelines are made and implemented we would have partnerships with various NGOs to spread the message in their areas of operations. The media will be used for greater outreach. All those who have contested elections will also act as deterrents to the elected village heads against any misuse. We shall provide them with the required information.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

We have so far not received any 'funding' for our activities. We have also not been sanctioned FCRA registration because of which we are unable to get any foreign funding. We keep our activities limited and the volunteers and board members and their friends and relatives give donations to keep us going. Most of the volunteers do not factor their expenses to the Society.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

My initiative saved thousands of trees from illegal felling by exposing misuse of forest rights in Uttarakhand.
Before Indian Forest Service looked after forests and wildlife, villagers protected them from forest fires and other calamities and in return grazed their cattle, lopped trees for fodder and collected dry wood for fuel. They had ‘hak hakook’ rights to certain amount of wood (only dry & uprooted trees) each year for their traditional uses like building houses, making ploughs, marriage ceremonies and cremation of dead etc. These rights were formalized during British rule.
Now this is misused. The timber mafia obtained permission for cutting thousands of trees in the pretext of ‘Hak Hakook’. The smugglers cut many more trees than the sanctioned number usually far away from the villages making it unviable for the villagers to transport the wood to their villages. Moreover, the rules for transit and transportation of wood being very cumbersome made it impossible for the poor simple villagers to get the permission easily.
• The wood was cut in market required sizes. The marginal villagers had no clue. The village ‘pradhans’ made applications on their behalf and gave to Forest officials for a consideration.
• After sanctioning, the applications were sold to the mafia. Today, only the 'timber mafia' have access to the wood derived from hak hakook. The poor villagers who actually need the wood never get it and are too scared to speak up.
• More trees were axed than the permitted number and the stumps set on fire to hide evidence. Even green trees were felled. Even Sal (Shorea Robusta) trees which cannot be grown in nurseries were cut. This was in connivance with Forest officials and not surprisingly the police (as the trucks transporting the wood passed through check-posts).
• Forest Department denied any illegal felling. The Central Government enquiry corroborated the facts mentioned by me.
• The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of Supreme Court after hearing my objections and assured to make the system transparent and the officials accountable. But they refused to punish the involved officials. Nor have they allowed an investigation by a Central Agency.
None were prepared to take on the timber mafia. I decided to intervene through the innovative process of PILs. Democracy does not mean a powerful legislature, executive and judiciary. It means an empowered people. I will show how it happens.
I want Indian Forest Service officials to be punished and accountable in case of misuse. I will raise this issue in the final hearing of the Supreme Court.

Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.

Dabral an MBA gave up a senior executive position twenty years back to fight for people’s causes. He challenged the formidable timber mafia through PILs in Supreme Court.
In the Tehri Dam transmission line he saved 85 % of the 90000 trees sanctioned for felling by the government for construction of the transmission line. A ‘Chipko’ style movement drove away the forest contractors. The politician-bureaucrat-mafia nexus of timber mafia weakened the movement by weaning away the poor, needy locals and greedy selfish politicians with threats, bribes and petty contracts. Dabral was offered Rs. 10 million in exchange of silence. When bribes failed, death threats started. He personally argued his case in Supreme Court against a battery of senior advocates representing various government departments. Eventually, Central Empowered Committee of Supreme Court restricted the felling of the trees and saved 85% of the sanctioned 90000 trees. Now for all transmission line construction in the country, tree felling is not allowed on the entire ‘right of way’. It is only allowed under the conductors and the area where towers are constructed.
Through other PILs he:-
• Stopped the felling of Deodar (Cider) trees by Forest Department in Tarakeshwr, a unique micro-eco-system and Government withdrew the contract.
• Tried to make laws so that contractors do not roll the excavated earth down the slopes of the fragile mountains. Eventually, the timber lobby which gets permission of cut trees on the route of the road also manages to cut all the trees below the road.
• After nearly a fourth of the 800 elephants died in a decade in Uttarakhand Himalayas, Dabral filed a PIL after which the incidence of elephant deaths and tree felling in the sanctuary has reduced considerably.
• Unscientific resin tapping by contractors resulted to irreparable damage to pine trees. Oozing resin droplets ignite during forest fires. The bio-mass burns in a few minutes but the resin droplets create a cavity in the trunk. Eventually the tree collapses. Forest Mafia removes it. Higher incidence of forest fires have become an annual feature since 1987. It allows forest officials to record that the trees planted get destroyed by forest fires. Dabral seeks a ban on tapping of resin in the pine forests to save the environment of the Himalayas.
• Dabral has exposed the misuse of the system of ‘Hak Hakook’

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Newsletter from Changemakers

If through another source, please provide the information.

Ashoka Foundation

Which (if any) of the following strategies apply to your organization or company (check as many as apply)

Policy advocacy to strengthen property rights or increase security of tenure.

Please explain how your work furthers one or many of the above strategies (if you selected “other”, please explain your strategy)

The people of Uttarakhand had rights to forest wood for traditional usage. The cumbersome ‘system’ ensured that only the timber mafia managed to get the wood. Our initiative has enabled the people to once again get their forest rights due to a more transparent system and know what is happening to their applications. It also ensures that the forest mafia does not get the wood.