Punish babus flouting forest law : Activists

 Rights organisations have demanded prosecution of officials of the Environment Ministry responsible for clearance of forest lands to projects without adhering to the Forest Rights Act.

They havealso asked for the reconstitution of Forest Advisory Committee (FAC).

On Saturday, in a letter to Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jayanti Natarajan, they accused officials of alienating tribal lands to private and government projects without regard for the law.

Rights organisations, Campaign for Survival and Dignity, KHOJ, Human Rights Law Centre, Samrakshan Trust, All India Forum for Forest Movements, Kashtakari Sanghatna, Kamgaar Va Majur Sangh, Adivasi Jungal Janjeevan Andolan and Bharat Jan Andolan–have cited the previous meeting’s decision of FAC of recommending clearance of 4,600 hectares of land for projects.

Under the Forest Rights Act, only the FAC and the ministry are allowed to approve or recommend any project only after it, first, receives certificates from the gram sabhas (village assemblies) concerned that the implementation of the Forest Rights Act is complete and that the gram sabhas concerned give their informed consent to the diversion of forest land, they said.

“Moreover, in two projects - both by Mahanadi Coalfields in Orissa - the committee recorded that the 2009 order of the Ministry had not been complied with, and went on to recommend the project for clearance anyway,” they said.

Despite repeated letters from Minister for Tribal Affairs Kishor Chandra Deb to the Environment Ministry, the FAC chose to take such decisions, the letter said.

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