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New Forest Conservation Act More Suited for a Forest Corporatisation Act: Brinda Karat

The CPI(M) leader has written a letter to environment minister Bhupender Yadav seeking abeyance of the amended rules

New Delhi:  Seeking abeyance of the new rules for the the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) gazetted on June 28, 2022, CPI(M) polit bureau member has written a letter Bhupender Yadav, Union Minister of Labour and Employment, Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, asking for a public discussion by all stakeholders, as also sending it to the parliamentary standing committee concerned.

“The (changes in rules) should also be sent for examination to the relevant Standing Committee of Parliament and the opinions of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs which is the Nodal Ministry for implementation of the Forest Rights Act must be included,” she said in the letter written on Monday.

“The changes in the Rules are so far-reaching in their aim  to help corporates and private companies to gain access and control of India's forests that in honesty the Government could well have brought a new law, so that people of India could understand the Government's priority,” she said, adding that “taking the Rules in their entirety, it is more suited for a Forest Corporatisation Act rather than a Forest Conservation Act.”

Explaining further, she said the earlier Rules had provision for diversion of 100 hectares or more, in the new Rules the "more" has now been quantified as "more than 1000 hectares"- a huge amount of forest land.

She said the Ministry of Tribal Affairs had objected in 2019 to some of the provisions which had been suggested by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC), and its views should be sought again.

“The new Rules stipulate a two stage approval process- in principal approval and final approval. Shockingly to get either of these approvals from the Central Government, in the list of compliances, the condition for the consent of gram sabha and settlement of rights have been completely eliminated.  Leave alone in the process before in-principle approval, or as part of in principal approval now even the final approval will be given by the Central government under Clause 9 (b) (i) with no reference to gram sabha or settlement of rights,” the letter read.

She said it was “objectionable, condemnable and unacceptable” how the amended Rules have totally eliminated the rights of gram sabhas and of tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers living in forests.

“The Rules of 2003 were amended after the passage of the Forest Rights Act 2006. MOEF circular dated August 3, 2009 clearly stated the requirement of getting a letter of consent from each gram sabha prior to in principal approval. In 2017 under your government this was diluted but the necessity for gram sabha approval was retained,” she said, adding that the amended rules were “totally against the constitutional guarantees given to tribal communities, it is in violation of the  Fifth and Sixth Schedules, the PESA, the amended Wild Life Protection Act and finally and importantly the FRA. It is a violation of the Supreme Court judgement in the Niyamgiri mining case, 2013.”

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