CPI-M leader Brinda Karat has asked the Environment and Forest Ministry to withdraw the Draft National Forest Policy, 2018, and demanded that it be redrafted within the framework of the Forest Rights Act and other laws, which protect and recognise the role of tribal communities in preserving India’s rich bio-diversity and natural forests.

In a note submitted to the ministry on behalf of her party, Brinda said that a committee comprising organisations and individuals working to preserve the environment, forests and the rights of tribal communities and traditional forest dwellers can be set up to redraft the policy.

The CPI-M said “the main thrust of the Draft National Forest Policy 2018 is to privatise and commercialse forests. We see the policy document as a continuation of the unjust and pro-corporate process established by the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act (CAFA). This highly flawed law had eliminated the rights of tribal communities, other traditional forest dwellers and gram sabhas for access and management of forests and their produce”.

The draft policy takes this approach even further, the party said. In fact the word “tribal” appears only once in the entire document reflecting the British colonial mindset which considered tribals as “encroachers” on their own forest lands, the CPI (M) note said.

CPI-M alleges the new draft policy is intended to commercialise forests to serve the interests of industry.