Stating that the amendment proposal for the Forest (Conservation) Act (FCA) is a violation of Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006, the Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan called for a nationwide demonstration on November 12, 2021.
During a press conference on October 11, members of the All India Union of Forest Working Peoples (AIUFWP) and other farmers union leaders like Hannan Mollah highlighted how the FCA changes threatening rights of Adivasis (India’s indigenous people) and other forest-dwelling communities. They condemned the government for excluding the Tribal Welfare department from this decision, even though tribal communities are the primary affected group in this case.
AIUFWP General Secretary Roma Malik said, “These changes also go against the spirit of the Bio Diversity Act. Further, the government is trying to make the FRA, tribal rights and gram sabhas obsolete.”
Therefore, the leaders called for a pan-India protest at the grassroot level, on November 12, to condemn the “corporate” acts, akin to the farmers’ struggle that has continued for the past year. On the day,
“The forest department is the biggest mafia in India that owns 23 percent of land. To continue mining and other activities in these areas, they have introduced these changes,” said Malik.
She stressed that the ruling government in 2004 had already acknowledged the inclusion of forest rights in the legal field. Forest-dwellers and tribal groups demonstrated outside the Parliament for the same. She feels that the recent changes were introduced for corporatisation of another public resource – forests.
Similarly, Mollah said, “The intention of these amendments is fundamentally handing over the natural resources to the hands of corporates and denying the rights of natural-resource-dependent communities on forests. This amendment has bypassed the FRA entirely which acknowledged the historical injustice rendered to forest dwelling communities.”
He stressed that this is all the more apparent by the fact that the changes were announced in the English language alone, excluding many concerned communities. Core member of the Andolan Satyavan said that the news must be well disseminated to various stakeholders by translating the draft into other Indian languages. The group claimed that these changes work for better initiation of project proposals. As a result, the changes also supersede state government rights regarding forests.
“They are trying to concentrate all power in the Centre. They say state governments are arbitrary and subjective. If you talk about the people, it is called arbitrary,” said Mollah.
Moreover, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) member Vijoo Krishnan said that the hidden agenda is to allow corporates to start cultivation of oil-palms and plantations by giving them access to forest land.
“It in no way can provide any solution to address climate change; rather the people in the forests have their traditions of protecting the forests and technical solutions without vision will only hamper nature further and displace people,” he said.
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