Friday, July 22, 2016

Govt of India "undermining" Forest Rights Act through CAMPA Bill, "handing over" gram sabha rights to babus

By Our Representative
The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), which claims to have played a vital role in the enactment of historic Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 in the country, has urged major opposition political parties in Rajya Sabha to halt passing of Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) Bill, 2016 in the Rajya Sabha.
CSD’s statement has come following reports that, after the meeting of Arun Jaitley with the senior Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh and Digvijay Singh, the Congress and the ruling BJP parties have reached an understanding on the Bill to be passed in the Rajya Sabha in the current monsoon session, which began July 18, 2016.
CSD has alleged that the CAMPA Bill in its present form violates the letter and spirit of the “historic” FRA, which enacted to redress all injustice done to the triabls and forest dwellers since British period. 
"It not only provides for recognizing individual and community rights over forest and forest land but also authorizes the local community (Gram Sabha) to take final decision on all activities to be done within their community forest resource (CFR) area so also in case of diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes", the statement said.
CAMPA Bill, said CSD, is based on the Kanchan Chopra Committee Report instituted by the Supreme Court of India which fixes compensation for forests diverted for non-forestry use based on the net present value (NPV) of diverted forests and costs of compensatory afforestation.
The NPV and compensatory afforestation are in the range of Rs 5 lakhs to 11 lakh/ per hectares (ha), depending on the type of forests and condition of forests. Accordingly, the UPA Government first brought the Bill in 2013. The Bill was withdrawn after opposition by civil society for over-empowering the forest bureaucracy and neglecting the FRA.
After the formation of NDA government at the Centre, the CSD said, a revised bill was introduced in Parliament in 2015 and was passed by the Lok Sabha. It alleged, the new bill makes cosmetic changes in the original bill, but retains most of the retrogressive features.
CSD said, the most critical problem with the bill is, it effectively allows the forest bureaucracy at the state and national level to decide how to use the vast monies that accumulated in the CAMPA fund.
CSD added, it had appraised the major opposition political parties including Rahul Gandhi’s office and Left parties on the discrepancies in the BJP’s CAMPA Bill duly passed in the Lok Sabha and placed in the Rajya Sabha in last Parliament Session and had mobilized and convinced them to bring amendment in the CAMPA Bill.
As a result, it said, Indian National Congress Party through Jairam Ramesh moved an amendment requiring Gram Sabha’s approval for plantation in CFR area and Gram Sabha certification before taking up any planation over any forest land ascertaining settlement of individual forest rights (IFR) of the tribals and forest dwellers over that forest land. As a result the CAMPA Bill could not pass in the last Parliament session.

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