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

ISKCON UK 'clarifies' after virus infects devotees, 5 die due to big temple meet

By Rajiv Shah
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), United Kingdom (UK), has admitted that at least 21 of its devotees were infected because of the spread of the coronavirus amongst the UK devotee community following the March 12 funeral and March 15 memorial of the Bhaktivedanta Manor temple president, in which about 1,000 people participated. Regretting that five of the devotees have passed away, the top Hindu religious in Britain body does not deny more may have been infected.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Gujarat construction workers walk home as Rs 2,900 crore welfare fund lies unused

By Our Representative
Situated behind the Gujarat University, some of the families of the migrant construction workers from Dahod and Panchmahals districts of Gujarat, and a few from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, who had stayed put in make-shift shanties in Ahmedabad’s sprawling GMDC Ground, have begun a long journey, by foot, back to their home villages in the eastern tribal belt of Gujarat.

Industrial pollution: Supreme Court asks 3 Gujarat units to pay Rs 10 crore each

By Our Representative
The Supreme Court has asked three top Gujarat-based industries, Alembic Pharmaceuticals Ltd, United Phosphorus Ltd and Unique Chemicals Ltd, to deposit a compensation amount of Rs 10 crore each with the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), which should use the money for "restoration and remedial measures" to improve the quality of environment in the industrial area in which the industries have been operating.