Civil society objects to amendments in Forest Act

 The civil society has objected to the proposed amendments in the rules of Forest Rights Act to ease diversion of forest lands for projects. The civil society organisations have alleged that the proposed rules would violate the rights of Gram Sabhas who have indefinite power to determine the rights over forest lands.

The proposed amendments give district collectors right to complete the process of settlement of rights within 30 days to 60 days by taking consent of the Gram Sabhas “whenever required”.

The group of civil society organisations, the Campaign for Survival and Dignity says that the district collector is not an authority under the Forest Rights Act. “The power to initiate the process of determination of rights lies with each gram sabha in the concerned area. The Sub-Divisional and District Level Committees have the power to “examine” and to “consider and approve” claims for rights respectively. The District Collector is merely the chair of the latter committee,” says the Campaign for Survival and Dignity.

“The stated purpose of this amendment is to “expedite” the process but such illegal shortcuts will in fact result in further conflict and, in fact, in delays in the process,” it says.
 The organisation has said that the fixing a deadline for completion of the process is against the Forest Rights Act as the Act does not provide for any deadline.

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