TODAY -

Amendments to IFA 1927 are regressive, says KKM
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, October 09 2019: The Kendriya Karyakari Mandal (KKM) meeting of the Akhil Bhartiya Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram (ABVKA) was held at Haridwar on September 19.During the meeting, it was resolved that the proposed amendments to the Indian Forest Acts, 1927, are regressive and unfair to Janjatis and that extending absolute powers to forest bureaucracy is dangerous.

The KKM also resolved that the Government should bring a new draft by consulting all stakeholders.

ABVKA mentioned that the forest governance in the country has been under the colonial era Indian Forest Act 1927 (IFA) and moreover, Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, PESA Act 1996, Biological Diversity Act 2002 and the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 have been enacted since independence.

However, there has been long pending demand for amendments to the IFA concerning issues related to forestry, better forest governance, meeting developmental aspirations and international commitments, growing awareness for protection of forests and environment and concerns for addressing global warming across the world along with Paris Agreement for carbon sequestration.

It continued that the National Forest Policy (NFP) 1988, is still effective and added that the draft NFP 2018 could not be resolved due to the absence of consensus from all stakeholders.

As such, the IG (Forest Policy), Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) dispatched a draft of the proposed amendments in the IFA to all the PCCFs of all the States/UTs on March 7 this year, asking them to have consultations with all the stakeholders in their respective States and return their feedback to the MoEF by June 7 .

Stating that the said draft was only in English, it reasoned that any policy or legislative paper requiring consultation is drafted in Hindi as well as in English and neither the Ministry of Law nor the Ministry of Tribal Affairs was consulted on this draft.

This entire period of consultation and feedback pertained to the general elections for Lok Sabha in the country and no consultation was possible, it added.

Earlier, the Central Government constituted TSR Subramaniam Committee to suggest amendments to IFA in 2015 and then on July 23, 2016, another Committee was constituted comprising some MoEF officers, some PCCFs of some States and two advocates but none of these two committees had any representatives of Tribal Affairs Ministry nor the Janjatis or the traditional forest dwellers, it explained.

It then conveyed that there are many provisions in the draft which violate the legitimate rights of the Janjatis like unfairly depriving the Janjatis of their rights to livelihood from forests which FRA empowered them with, taking away their rights to cultivate forest lands allotted under FRA.

It alleged that the draft attempts to fraudulently take away their right to manage and develop such lands and conferred powers to the Forest Officers as per the scrapped Land Acquisition Act 1894, to acquire forest land allotted to or recognised in favour of the Janjatis under FRA.

The draft extends absolute powers to the Forest Officers to use firearms under the guise of protection of forest lands and wild lives and also provides protective shields to such officers, it mentioned adding that the draft further aids in framing charges of presumed denial in helping the officials in cases of forest fires or forest protection and debarring the whole community of their legitimate rights of collecting forest produces and other benefits for a certain period.

The draft also bars the State Governments from withdrawing cases even with due permission of the Courts against such fabricated charges without the permission of the Central Government, it added.

Considering all these points, ABVKA mentioned that the KKM resolved to demand the Central Government to revoke the amendments in IFA immediately, to prepare a new draft and consult the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), elected representatives of Janjatis and reputed voluntary organisations as well as other stakeholders in finalising the amendments, to enunciate and notify new National Forest Policy before initiating the amendments in the IFA and to make the amendments as per the mandate of the new NFP, to give appropriate and pertinent importance to the landmark legislation of removing injustice to Janjatis, the FRA 2006 and the PESA Act so as to provide self and good governance to the scheduled areas and the Bio-Diversity Act, while framing the new NFP and amending the IFA.

It also conveyed that the Janjatis and the forest dwellers are treasures of traditional knowledge of forests development and environment protection which should be fully used by making them partners in this task.

Stressing on the importance of winning the trust of the Janjatis and the forest dwellers, it explained that they will be developed and the Nation will also march ahead to a healthy and sustainable environment and narrated some examples like that of Mendhalekha and Baripada, Shiv Ganga, Jhabua, Jardhagoan regarding successful conservation and development of forest as well as Bishnoi community and Jaisalmer and Barmer in Rajasthan and Khonoma and Luhazpur in Nagaland.

KKM called upon the Janjatis, specially their elected representatives, heads of traditional institutions, youth and all the Nationalist organisations and workers of ABVKA across the country to build awareness in this regard so as to make the Central Government consider the issue in a positive light.

The KKM further urged all the State Governments, including Telangana, not to go ahead in enacting such a regressive Act in their States as it infringes on the legitimate interests of the Janjatis.

No country or society can develop in a state of unrest, it added.


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