NEW DELHI, 10 Jul: The Congress accused the Narendra Modi government on Sunday of abdicating its responsibility towards protecting tribal rights and alleged that the new forest conservation rules will disempower crores of Adivasis and others living in forest areas.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP-led government of diluting the new forest conservation rules for the “ease of snatching forest land” and said his party stands strongly with the “Adivasi brothers and sisters.”
“‘Modi-Mitr’ Sarkar at its crony best! For ‘ease of snatching’ forest land, the BJP government has come up with new FC Rules, 2022 diluting UPA’s Forest Rights Act, 2006,” Gandhi wrote on Twitter.
“Congress stands strongly with our Adivasi brothers and sisters in their fight to protect ‘Jal, Jungle and Zameen’,” he added.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the new rules issued recently allow forest rights to be settled after the final approval for forest clearances has been granted by the Centre.
“Obviously, this has been done in the name of ‘ease of doing business’ for a chosen few. But it will end the ‘ease of living’ for the vast many,” he said in a statement.
The former union environment minister said this destroys the very purpose of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and its meaningful use while considering proposals for diversion of forest land.
“Once forest clearance is granted, everything else becomes a mere formality and almost inevitably, no claims will be recognised and settled. The state governments will be under even greater pressure from the Centre to accelerate the process of diversion of forest land,” Ramesh said.
“The Modi government has abdicated the responsibility given to the central government by Parliament to ensure that the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 is implemented in a manner consistent with the Forest Rights Act, 2006,” the Congress leader alleged.
He said that the new rules are promulgated without any consultation and discussion with the stakeholders, including the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, and will be challenged in the forthcoming session of Parliament.
“If anything demonstrates the Modi Sarkar’s TRUE intent on protecting and promoting interests of Adivasis, it is this decision, which will disempower crores of Adivasis and others living in forest areas,” Ramesh said in a tweet, using the hashtag ‘#AdivasiVirodhiNarendraModi’.
He shared a news report that said the government is approving cutting down of forests without consent from tribals and forest-dwellers.
Ramesh said the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, known as the Forest Rights Act, 2006, is a historic and progressive law passed unanimously and enthusiastically by Parliament after extensive debates and discussions and it confers land and livelihood rights – both individual and community – to the Adivasi, Dalit and other families living in forest areas.
In August 2009, in order to ensure the fullest implementation of the law, the then ministry of environment and forest had stipulated that no clearances for diversion of forest land under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 would even be considered by it unless the rights provided under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 were first settled.
“This was done to protect and promote the interests of tribal and other communities traditionally living in forest areas,” Ramesh said.
This ensured that the rights of tribal and other communities will have to be settled before a decision can even be considered on forest and environmental clearance by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, he said, adding that it mandated that “free, prior and informed consent of the families affected be obtained for such an exercise to be lawful.”
“Now, in a new set of rules issued very recently, the Modi government has allowed for forest rights to be settled after final approval for forest clearances has been granted by the central government,” the Congress leader claimed. (PTI)