Skip to main content

A 'fillip' to land grab: Sitharaman's Rs 6,000 crore offer for compensatory afforestation

Counterview Desk
The Community Forest Rights - Learning and Advocacy (CFR-LA), a national advocacy ground, demanding transfer of compensatory afforestation funds to Gram Sabhas, has said that any plan to transfer these to state forest departments will allow land grabs for commercial plantations, even as increasing distress in tribal areas.
Taking strong exception to finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman allocation Rs 6,000 crore to the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) as part of the elf-reliant India economic package, CFR-LA said in a statement that it would lead massive diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes without forest dwellers’ consent.

Text:

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced that plans worth Rs 6,000 crore would be approved under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)* as part of the Atma Nirbhar or “self-reliant” India economic package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The issues of deprivation and lack of healthcare facilities persisting in tribal areas that may severely limit the capacities to curb the spread of the disease, tribal migrants stranded in cities, lack of institutional mechanisms and access for procurement and distribution of minor forest produce (MFP), forest land diversions, non-implementation of progressive legislations like Forest Rights Act, 2006 etc. have not been addressed.
On the contrary, funds have been approved under the CAMPA which has a potential to destroy the livelihoods and employment of tribals and cause further displacement and exploitation of the tribal people.
In the past, CAF Act has been opposed by tribal goups, opposition parties and even government’s own Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA). In a letter to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) written in March 2018, MoTA had argued that the draft CAF rules dilute the provisions of the Forest Rights Act (FRA).
This announcement for releasing CAMPA funds to the states for employment generation ignores the earlier concerns raised by tribal groups on violation of land and forest rights by CAMPA plantation. Tribal groups have earlier opposed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act and rules which allow for illegal transfer of Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) to the forest departments. The compensatory afforestation causes double deprivation of the communities by
  • Diverting forest land for non-forest purposes without forest dwellers’ consent. This results in a loss of access to ecosystem services on which their survival depends. They derive numerous benefits from forest resources, including their livelihood and food security, through the gathering of fruits, roots, tubers and so on.
  • CA activities which are intended to be taken up on lands not recorded as forests in lieu of the diverted forests. These lands of various categories like village forest, village commons, zamindari forests and government/ Panchayat lands all carry certain rights of access, recorded or unrecorded, legal or customary, for collecting fuel wood, grazing animals and so on. 
Since the time the CAF Act was proposed (in 2016), the tribal groups have consistently demanded for a democratic management of CAMPA funds by transferring the funds to the Gram Sabhas and ensuring that the CA activities are taken up with free prior consent of Gram Sabhas (GSs) as mandated by FRA and the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA).
This demand has been further reiterated in the light of Covid19 outbreak, so that the Gram Sabhas can utilise the already collected CAMPA funds standing at a massive 57,000 crores today, to implement FRA and respond to the local needs due to the diversity of the geographical and regional areas in which many of India’s tribal communities are located.
Past experience says that over the years the state forest department (s) have used CA funds to set up plantations (mostly monoculture and commercial species) in lands cultivated and used by tribal communities leading to violation of their rights and conflicts.
Economic relief package announced by PM and FM fails to address the economic distress of tribal communities caused by Covid-19
The monocultures have also destroyed local biodiversity, Non-timber forest produce (NTFPs) and forest foods used by tribals. Not only that, massive corruption and irregularities have been reported in administration of CA funds by the forest department with serious charges of ghost plantations, replacement of natural forests with monocultures being reported from across the states. Even the MoTA has earlier raised concerns about violation of tribal rights due to CAMPA.
Therefore the announcement of transferring CAMPA funds (Rs 6,000 crore) can further exacerbate the distress situation that tribals are already facing and is far from providing any relief to them. There are already reports of forest department carrying out plantation activities during lockdown period causing hardships to the tribal communities. There are also reports of eviction taking place during this time.
Overall the economic relief package announced by the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister fails to address the economic distress of tribal communities caused due to Covid-19 outbreak and the unplanned lockdown measures.
Earlier, on May 4, a group of civil society organisations, activists, researchers and experts working with tribals and forest dwelling communities submitted a report to MoTA. The report highlights the socio-economic distress situation in tribal areas arising out of Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown measures.
The report was also submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR), Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), Prime Minister’s Office and the Niti Ayog, and to the National Disaster Mitigation Authority. The report clearly highlighted the need to come up with a Covid 19 response package for tribals which included the demand to transfer the CAMPA funds to the Gram Sabhas.
Many of these concerns were reiterated by political leaders and experts Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor of Congress, Vijoo Krishnan of the All-India Kisan Sabha (CPI-M), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), apart from leading environmentalists and forest rights experts Ashish Kothari, Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Kanchi Kohli, tribal rights activist Hansraj Meena, historian and writer Ramachandra Guha and hundreds of others on Twitter (hashtag: #covidandforestrights).
***
*Compensatory afforestation means the afforestation of plantations of an equivalent area of non-forest land or of double the area of degraded notified forest to compensate for the loss of forests diverted for development activities. The user of this diverted forest is required to pay its ‘net present value’ to the forest department for this purpose. On the direction of the Supreme Court, a law has been enacted and rules framed to manage the money collected for afforestation. 
The contents of this legislation and the manner of its enforcement have, however, led to a severe reduction of the tribals’ access to forest resources, forcible plantation on their village commons, pastures and even on patta land, and the relocation of their settlements from forests, thereby violating their rights in land and forests. It has also led to severely eroding their means of livelihood besides creating a perverse incentive for deforestation. 

Comments

TRENDING

JP advised RSS to give up Hindu Rashtra, disband itself: Ex-IAS officer tells Modi

Counterview Desk
Major MG Devasahayam IAS (Retd), chairman, People-First, in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of Jayprakash Narain’s (JP’s) death anniversary (October 11) has wondered whether he remembers “a patriot called Jayaprakash Narayan”. Recalling what JP thought on issues such as communalism, freedom, democracy, Hindutva etc., Devasahayam says, Modi has been been doing “the very opposite of the principles and values for which JP lived and died.”

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

UP chief secretary, DGP have 'surrendered' to political diktat: 92 retired IAS, IPS officials

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, 92 retired IAS, IFS and IPS bureaucrats, commenting on “blatant violations of the rule law” following the Hathras incident, have blamed that the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police for abjectly failing to exercise control over a “highly compromised” administration the state.

Hathras reflects Manu's mindset dominates: 'Women are false, it's in their nature to seduce'

By Parijat Ghosh, Dibyendu Chaudhuri*
The woman died and then we woke up to protest. She was alive for two weeks after the heinous incident. Many of us even didn’t notice what had happened at Hathras, how she fought during the next 15 days. Those who noticed, many of them were not sure what actually had happened. So much so, we as a nation were more busy in finding out who among the Bollywood actresses were taking drugs, who smoked weed, who had ‘inappropriate’ or more than one relationship, what kind of private conversations they had in their chat boxes and what not!

Gujarat literati flutter: State Akademi autonomy curb a Sahitya Parishad poll issue?

By Dankesh Oza*
The 115-year-old Gujarati Sahitya Parishad is in election mode. More than 3,000 life members of the Parishad are set to elect its 52nd president and 40 plus central working committee (CWC) members, which in turn will elect its executive and two vice presidents, six secretaries and a treasurer for the coming three years (from 2021 to 2023).

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Atrocities against Dalits: Why don't MPs, MLAs from the community ever speak up?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
In Gujarat, a young Dalit activist lawyer Devji Maheshwari, belonging to the Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMSCEF) was killed in Surat, allegedly by a goon who was warning him against his Facebook posts not to speak up against Brahmanism. Facts have come to light suggesting there are other issues also which led to the murder, mostly related to land disputes, many a time ignored by activists.

Delhi riots: Even British didn't accuse Bhagat Singh of reading Lenin, Jack London

By Vikash Narain Rai*
After the #BlackLifeMatters movement seriously tested the credibility of police across America, the Houston police chief Art Acevado talked of ending “lawful but awful” policing. No comparison, but in India, a citizens’ committee comprising former top judges and bureaucrats is now set to inquire into the role of the state machinery and media in handling the February 2020 Delhi violence, which followed protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), “as the investigation by the Delhi Police has evoked extensive critical commentary in recent times.”