On June 28, 2022, the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment published the new rules or regulations of the Forest Protection Act, 1980. It said that the central government would give direct permission to private companies for various ‘developmental’ works or excavations on forest land. It is no longer necessary to seek the permission of the tribal. The government will grant permission through the Forest Advisory Committee, which is dominated by government bureaucrats. To give or not to give free prior informed consent to the tribal regarding the use of forest land for other purposes; The rule to review whether their rights are being eroded in that ‘other work’ has been removed.
Forest Rights Acts
According to the Forest Rights Act 2006 and the 2009 guidelines of the Ministry of Forests and Environment, consent of the village council is mandatory for any family to be uprooted from the forest or to change the character of the forest land – be it by the state or a non-governmental organization. If you want to uproot from the land, you have to arrange for rehabilitation first. The new rules of the Central Government’s Forest Protection Act have given this protection in case of changing the character of forest land.
The Centre wants to put the responsibility of protecting tribal rights over forests in the states. The center will allow the eviction, and the states will have to see if the consent of the tribes is obtained before cutting down the forest. It has also been said that the state government will check whether the Forest Rights Act has been followed or not before handing over the land to the forest land user organization. The rule was that the amount of forest land transfer permit would be given, an equal amount of land should be arranged outside the forest, and afforestation should be done on that land as compensation.
The environmental value or Net Present Value (NPV) of deforestation and ecosystem destruction has to be deposited with the Union Ministry. The question is, once the center takes the money, is it possible for the state government to cancel the project in any way?
Canceled projects in various states
In several states rich in minerals and iron ore – such as Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha – many projects have been stalled or canceled due to non-approval or resistance by gram sabhas. This new rule will pave the way for those projects. The central government’s statement about the need for this new rule, various complicated legal battles, step-by-step clearances, and time-consuming file movement between different departments, this new rule is to get rid of all this. The real reason is probably to get rid of the condition of obtaining Gram Sabha’s permission.
It is seen from various information that the central government is currently permitting changing the character of forest land for various projects. In most cases, the permission of Gram Sabha is not taken. In many cases, permission is obtained by various inducements, or by coercion.