NCST firm on its stand, Forest Conservation Rules violate Forest Rights

The Environment Ministry has however dismissed these concerns despite some valid points raised

Forest Conservation Rules

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) through its Chairman Harsh Chouhan has cemented its stand against the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022 reiterating that the rules are violative of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change insists that these concerns are not legally tenable.

While speaking to The Hindu, Chouhan said, “The commission’s stand will be the same. It is the commission’s duty to intervene and recommend corrective measures whenever any rules run the risk of violating rights of tribespeople. This we will continue to do.”

Last September, the NCST Chairman wrote to the Environment Ministry asking it to put the rules on hold for the rules have taken away rights of Scheduled Tribes to consent to any diversion project in forest areas.

 About the Rules

The Forest Conservation Act, 1982 is an act to provide for the conservation of forests. The act states that state governments cannot pass any order, except with the prior approval of the central government, to take away the tag of reserve forest from any forest area; to permit the usage of forest area for non-forest purposes; to assign any portion of forest land to non-governmental organisations including corporates; to clear of the forest land from the naturally grown trees for the purposes of reafforestaton.

The FC Rules, 2022 state that the state government may pass an order, after the final approval from the Central Government, for de-reservation or diversion or assignment of forest land on lease etc. This means, neither Gram Sabha consent is required to be obtained before the grant of the In- principle approval, nor is it necessary for the collector to oversee the process of recognition and vesting of individual claims of forest rights before the grant of In Principle approval. The FC Rules, 2022 snatch away the participatory rights of the forest dwellers by making them simple bystanders to a process that affects their land and forest rights, their culture and livelihood. The issue of Gram Sabhas and FRA, according to the new rules, comes into play only after a final approval has been given by the Central Government.

The NCST pointed out that even before the Rules, there were violations in many cases. Between 2009 and 2018, of the 128 applications for forest diversion for mining, 74 were cleared at the Stage 2 and 46 at the Stage 1 and none of the rejections were based on FRA non-compliance; further in 14 cases, certificates that showed completion of FRA process were issued “in violation of ground realities”. Also, the Community Forest Resources process was also not completed.



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