A Forest Policy that Wasn’t, But which still snatches Forest Rights away

Coming from a government and party that claims sole proprietorship over ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’, the Modi regime is determined to snatch the legal safeguards and rights over Indian forests and peoples who live on them, hard earned after struggles that lasted over a century. That this exercise seeks to sneakily bypass Parliament makes it even more dangerous

Photo: Anisha Sheth / The Hindu

Last week, the Ministry of Environment and Forests uploaded a "draft National Forest Policy" and invited comments within a fortnight (two weeks). Then, faced with questions, inexplicably, the government declared that it was not a draft at all, but just a "study". This is odd, considering that the document is titled "National Forest Policy (Draft)."

A detailed note sent out by the Campaign for Survival and Dignity has analysed these developments.

This analysis states that the ‘policy document’ of the Modi government, that is and is not a policy (!) directly incites State Forest Departments to violate the single most important forest law passed since independence – the Forest Rights Act of 2006 – by supporting their disastrous Joint Forest Management policies and rechristening it "community forest management." 

This move is particularly problematic, says the Campaign given the fact that, as per international studies, almost half the forest land in the country actually belongs to communities, as per law. Nowhere in the Modi government policy are the words "forest rights" contained and there is not one reference even to a path breaking legislation that made statutory obligations on the government towards forest land.

The track record of Ministry, of Environment and Forests over the past two years has been abysmal. Consider this:

The single most consistent theme behind this policy is – the grant of executive immunity to the Environment Ministry and forest officials, bypassing parliament; ignore local communities, and treat them as if they are persons with no legal rights.

This dangerous tendency to empower bureaucrats with sweeping, illegal powers –that contravene the law as it exists on statute books –is not just dangerous but is an authoritarian way of bypassing Indian parliament.

The final irony?
A self proclaimed "nationalist" ruling party obsessed with accusing others of being "anti-national" has been systematically involved in seeking to restore the colonial system of forest management and the colonial law on land acquisition denying Adivasis and other people who have rights over forest and farm land. The Environment Ministry of the Modi government leads in this reversal of basic human rights campaign.

1. The Signs On This Week’s Calendar
2. Has India betrayed its indigenous peoples, the Adivasis?
3. Blow to Adivasi Rights, this time from the Modi Regime itself
4. Is Shutting Your Eyes to Coca Cola's Misconduct in the "national interest", Mr PM?
5. Jairam's CAMPA bill change is unnecessary. We aren't diluting forest rights: Javadekar



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