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CAMPA: Government of India’s pro-corporate step at the cost of the common people, especially tribals

By Sadhan Mukherjee*
With the passing of the CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority) bill in the Rajya Sabha on July 28, the BJP government seems to have done away with the basic rights of the tribal people to forest produce who live near and in the forests.
This is one more pro-corporate step of the government at the cost of common people, especially many tribal groups who are socially and economically deprived.
A last minute bid by tribal groups who sent a petition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to stop the passing of the bill has failed. It spelt out: “We the Scheduled Tribes/Indigenous Peoples /Adibasis of India feel, it is anti-Adibasi and anti-Constitutional and we oppose the Parliamentarians move in diluting the rights of Gram Sabha in FRA 2006 in a very cunning manner,” the petition said.
It further added that such proposals are violating not just the domestic laws but also India’s international commitments.
There are several issues. Where will the land come for afforestation when “development” takes away large tracts of forest land? It will not be possible to provide contiguous areas. Already in Orissa, huge tracts of forest land are being used for Teak wood plantations replacing the traditional produce of millets, tuber, fruits etc., which indigenous tribal people were engaged in. Besides, they also had access to kendu, honey, medicines and many herbs from the forests besides fuel wood. On top of all that, they worshipped the forest gods and that will now be restricted.
In many parts of Jharkhand, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, forest lands are being used to set up factories and for mining industries. Jhinkpani in Jharkhand, Barbil in Orissa, Gua, Chiria, Kiriburu and Noamundi in Bihar and several such places are notorious for spreading pollution.
The Saranda forest zone is severely affected. Already nearly 50 per cent of forest cover is under mining lease. Industrial activities without adequate nature protection measures in these areas have already inflicted considerable damage on environment.
This situation is prevalent practically all over the country, not only in mining and factory-based industrial areas.
One really wonders why even non-NDA parties also allowed the bill to be passed when they profess so vociferously about the uplift of poor and the deprived.
FRA or the Forest Rights Act ensures the rights of these people to forest produce that sustains their livelihood. These rights were ensured by the FRA and overseen by gram sabhas which will have no role anymore and the whole thing including funds and the process of afforestation will be handled by the bureaucrats.
Not only that. Those forest lands vested in gram sabhas will now be out of their control. They will also not get any compensation for these lands. In a country where bureaucrat-capitalist nexus is well entrenched, one wonders how will bureaucrats ensure justice to the tribals.
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*Veteran journalist

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