Do new conservation rules dilute forest rights law? Congress and BJP clashed – The New Indian Express

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said on Sunday that the new forest conservation rules “do not dilute or infringe” the provisions of the Forest Rights Act 2006, appeasing the fears that the new rules will allow the felling of forests without the consent of the forests. inhabitants.

The minister posted a note on his official Twitter account, refuting Congress’s allegation that the Narendra Modi government is abdicating its responsibility to protect tribal rights and watering down rules for “ease of grubbing up forest land”.

The Ministry of Environment notified the Forest (Conservation) Rules 2022 under the Forest (Conservation) Act on June 28 to replace the earlier rules, notified in 2003.

The Forest (Conservation) Act (FCA) of 1980 was enacted to help conserve the nation’s forests.

It strictly restricts and regulates the de-reservation of forests or the use of forest land for non-forest purposes without the prior approval of the Centre.

The Forest Rights Act (FRA) recognizes the rights of forest-dwelling tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers who depend on the forest for their livelihood and habitation.

Yadav said the new rules were enacted to streamline the approval process, introduce the concept of collective decision-making and address dynamic changes in the ecological values ​​of trees and forests.

The new rules will allow parallel processing of proposals and eliminate redundant processes, he said.

“The Forest (Conservation) Rules 2022 have been enacted solely to implement the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980. No rule or provision of any law is diluted. The process has been streamlined to reduce the deadlines for arriving at the final decision,” read the note posted by Yadav on Twitter.

“The processes and provisions contemplated in the Forest (Conservation) Rules 2022 are not inconsistent with other statutory laws, including FRA compliance, compliance with which may also be simultaneously ensured by their nodal implementing agencies to reduce the time and cost involved,” he said. .

While Congress Secretary General Jairam Ramesh said the new rules allow forest rights to be settled after final approval of forest clearings by the Center, the minister said states and union territories can ensure compliance with the FRA “at all times, as the provisions of the FC Regulations, 2022 do not prohibit authorities from doing so, but in any case it should be before handing over forest land to the user agency” .

“Central government approval under the FCA is only a prior approval that does not directly lead to non-forest use or destruction of forest land.

It is in fact the subsequent state government diversion order that authorizes the use of the forest land for its intended purpose and the release of the land to the user agency,” the memo reads.

The minister said the process envisaged in the FCA and the new rules is “more likely a parallel process”, which is “not divorced from FRA compliance and does not preclude the launch of the processes envisaged in other other statutory laws, including the FRA”.

“Approvals granted by central government under the FCA invariably stipulate FRA compliance before handing over forest land to the user agency.

The approval to be considered under the new Forest (Conservation) Rules Regime 2022 will also stipulate mandatory compliance with FRA provisions before the State Government/UT Administration issues a final diversion order for the return of the land to the user agency,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Congress accused the government of abdicating its responsibility to protect tribal rights and alleged that new forest conservation rules will weaken millions of ‘Adivasis’ and other people living in the areas. forests.

Former Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP-led government of watering down new forest conservation rules for “the ease of grubbing up forest land” and said his party strongly supports “brothers and Adivasi sisters”.

Ramesh said that the new rules released recently allow forest rights to be settled after final approval for forest clearing is granted by the Centre.

“Obviously this was done in the name of ‘ease of doing business’ for the chosen few. But it will end ‘ease of living’ for the many,” he said in a statement. communicated.

The former Union environment minister said it undermined the very purpose of the Forest Rights Act 2006 and its meaningful use when considering proposals to divert forest land.

“Once clearing is granted, everything else becomes a mere formality and almost inevitably no claim will be recognized and settled. State governments will come under even greater pressure from the Center to expedite the process of forest land diversion. “, said Ramesh. .

He said the new rules were enacted without any consultation or discussion with stakeholders, including the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, and will be challenged at the next session of Parliament.

Congress on Sunday accused the Modi government of abdicating its responsibility to protect tribal rights and alleged that new forest conservation rules would weaken millions of Adivasis and other people living in forest areas.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh said the new rules released recently allow forest rights to be settled after the final approval of forest clearings by the central government.

“Obviously this was done in the name of ‘ease of doing business’ for the chosen few. But it will end ‘ease of living’ for the many,” he said in a statement. communicated.

The former environment minister said it undermined the very purpose of the Forest Rights Act 2006 and its meaningful use when considering proposals to divert forest land.

“Once clearing is granted, everything else becomes a mere formality and almost inevitably no claims will be recognized and settled. State governments will come under even greater pressure from the Center to expedite the process of forest land diversion” , said Ramesh.

“The Modi government has abdicated the responsibility given to the central government by parliament to ensure that the Forest Conservation Act 1980 is implemented in a manner consistent with the Forest Rights Act 2006,” he said. said the leader of Congress.

He said these new rules were enacted without any consultation or discussion with stakeholders, including the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, and will be challenged at the next session of Parliament.

“If anything demonstrates Modi Sarkar’s REAL intention to protect and promote the interests of Adivasis, it is this decision, which will weaken millions of Adivasis and other people living in forest areas,” he said. he tweeted, using the hashtag “#AdivasiVirodhiNarendraModi”.

He shared a news report stating that the government is approving the felling of forests without the consent of tribals and forest dwellers.

Ramesh said the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, known as the Forest Rights Act 2006, is a landmark and progressive piece of legislation that was passed unanimously and enthusiastically by Parliament after long debates and discussions and that it confers land and subsistence rights – both individual and communal – to the Adivasi, Dalit and other families living in the forest areas of the country.

In August 2009, to ensure the fullest implementation of this law, the then Ministry of Environment and Forests stipulated that no permission to divert forest land under the 1980 law on forest conservation would not even be considered by him unless rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 were settled for the first time.

“This was done to protect and promote the interests of tribal and other communities traditionally living in forest areas,” he said.

This ensures that the rights of tribal and other communities must be addressed even before a decision can be made on forest and environment clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, it said. he declared, adding that he required that “free, prior and informed consent of the families concerned be obtained for such an exercise to be lawful”.

“Now, in a new set of rules released very recently, the Modi government has allowed the settlement of forest rights after the final approval of forest clearing by the central government,” he said.

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