Skip to main content

Order "undermining" gram sabha in diverting forest land would "promote cronyism, corruption": NGO

By Our Representative
Prominent people’s organizations have begun to object to the latest Government of India move to undermine the right of the tribal gram sabhas (or general body meetings of villagers) to be consulted before kickstarting any non-forest activity in the forest areas. In a strongly worded letter to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, the Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, said the move funs against the spirit of the “historic” Forest Rights Act, 2006 passed by under the previous UPA government.
Pointing out that such “diversion” without gram sabha approval was unacceptable, the NGO said, “The Act was supported by all parties and lauded as a step towards addressing the historical injustice done to forest dwelling communities in the country.” Targeting the MoEF, the CSD alleged, “We are dismayed to find that the Ministry appears to be intent on undermining this Act, destroying its transparent processes, and giving all powers to officials.”
In its order dated October 28, the MoEF had said, following “representations” from several Union ministries, and after obtaining “concurrence” of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, it has decided that projects – like construction of roads, canals, laying of pipelines/ optical fibres and transmission lines etc., “where linear diversion of use of forest land in several villages are involved” – should be exempted from the requirement of obtaining consent of the concerned gram sabha.
Saying that the MoEF was acting in an “ill-intentioned” manner, the CSD said, “MoEF’s repeated attempts to restrict the requirement for the consent of the gram sabha before diversion of forest land are unfortunate. Despite the Supreme Court's ruling in Orissa Mining Corporation vs. Union of India - which clearly upheld this requirement, flowing from section 5 of the Act - the Ministry continues to try to exempt various projects from this requirement.”
Calling it a “patently illegal order”, the NGO said, the effort was to empower district collectors to decide whether or not the Forest Rights Act is applicable in a particular area. It added, “The requirement for the consent of the gram sabha is in no sense a source of delay for project clearances and is the minimum requirement if the Forest Rights Act is to have any meaning. There is no point in empowering people to manage forests if those forests can then be destroyed on the whim of a bureaucrat”.
CSD said, “The attempts to empower district collectors or other officials to decide when the rights recognition process is complete (as in the Forest Conservation Rules notified in March). This is also illegal as it is in direct violation of section 6(1) of the Forest Rights Act. Moreover, it amounts to empowering precisely the same officials who are responsible for the denial of forest rights till date.” It added, “It is no surprise that in every single case where a Collector's certificate of rights recognition has been inquired into, it has been found to be false.”
CSD further said that the October 28 order was seeking to “incite” companies and government officials to “violate the law and commit criminal offences under the Forest Rights Act and the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act in the name of easier clearances". It was seeking to “mislead” investors and project proponents that the Forest Rights Act could be bypassed.
Calling this as nothing but an effort to promote “corruption and cronyism”, the letter warned, “Ignoring the actual sources of illegality, corruption and arbitrariness in the clearance process” is in “direct violation of the orders of the Supreme Court and will lead to a flood of litigations.” It added, “We hope that the Ministry will take swift action to ensure that diversion of forest land takes place in accordance with the law, without incitement to illegality and corruption.”

Comments

TRENDING

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Gujarat refusal to observe Maulana Azad's birthday as Education Day 'discriminatory'

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government decision not to celebrate the National Education Day on !monday has gone controversial. Civil society organizations have particularly wondered whether the state government is shying away from the occasion, especially against the backdrop of "deteriorating" level of education in Gujarat.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Post-Balakot, danger that events might spiral out of control is 'greater, not less'

By Tapan Bose*
The fear of war in South Asia is increasing. Tensions are escalating between India and Pakistan after the Indian defence minister's announcement in August this year that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. According to some experts who are watching the situation the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.

'Favouring' tribals and ignoring Adivasis? Behind coercion of India's aborigines

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Tribal people account for 8.2% of India’s population. They are spread over all of India’s States and Union Territories. Even so they can be broadly classified into three groupings. The first grouping consists of populations who predate the Indo-Aryan migrations. These are termed by many anthropologists as the Austro-Asiatic-speaking Australoid people.