CPI (M) Politburo member Brinda Karat today wrote to Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Bhupendra Yadav that the Consultation Paper on proposed amendments in the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, circulated by his Ministry for comments, did not include the actual amendments.
She said the reading of the concrete amendments and their wording was critical in formulating a response to them. The circular had given only 15 days for sending in the comments, and not 30 days as called for by the pre-legislative consultation policy, she said.
She said studying the concrete amendments was necessary since at first reading the proposals appear to be designed to undo various Supreme Court judgements related to the protection of forests and payment of net present value compensation (NPV) and compensatory afforestation (CA) mandatory for diversion of forest land.
The Note showed that wherever any “inconvenience” was perceived for project proponents using forest land for non-forest purposes, it had proposed to simply waive the application of the Act.
Given the context of privatization of infrastructure projects which require forest land, the proposals will not only facilitate the takeover of forest land but make it cheaper and easier for corporates intending to take the benefits of privatization, she said.
The proposals tend to dilute the rights of the States to notify forests thereby further centralizing authority in the central Government. Further centralization is another ground to oppose the proposals, Karat said.
In the “Consultation Paper,” there is no mention, not even once, on the protection of the rights of tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers in any of the amendments proposed. The direction of the amendments proposed will directly impact the rights granted under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.