Government planning an Ordinance on Forest Act

JAMMU: It has been reliably learnt that the Ministry of Tribal affairs is contemplating introduction of an Ordinance on the Forest Rights Act Bill in order to facilitate conferring of “Rights" in favor of various Tribes to circumvent the political opposition to the Forest Rights Act in the state. It remains to be seen whether the cabinet will send the Ordinance to the Governor for his assent to be promulgated as law.

A Forest Rights Act bill was to be tabled in the State Assembly in the just concluded session but the opposition prevented it.

The Act is supposed to benefit the tribes living in forests, and the implementation of which was being demanded by the Gujjar-Bakkerwal community for a long time in the state. It is claimed that the Act would partially correct the injustice caused by the absence or improper implementation of forest laws and make a beginning towards giving communities and the public a voice in forest and wildlife conservation. While the critiques argue that giving forest rights to the tribal community would lead to whole scale devastation of the forests in the state, causing ecological disaster.

The efforts to table and pass the Forest Rights Act bill have been allegedly ‘deliberately’ and continuously hampered by a few political parties. The ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has been against the extension of the Act in the state, citing its special status.

The Central Forest act link:

The Parliament had passed a Forest (Tribal) Rights Act in 2006, whereby the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers were legally equipped with the rights on forest land and other resources. It was implemented across all states in India except Jammu and Kashmir.

In absence of forest rights, around 12 Scheduled Tribe communities( Balti, Beda, Bot, Boto, Brokpa, Drokpa, Dard, Shin, Changpa, Garra, Mon, Purigpa, Gujjar, Bakarwal, Gaddi and Sippi) are facing hardships including evacuation from land on which they have settled, by Forest and Revenue department from time to time. Recently the Govt. had to face an embarrassing situation when a tribal community that had occupied a large chunk of land was asked to vacate as the same had been earmarked for setting up of AIIMS. The land located in Abdullian village in Vijaypur had been identified by the Govt. but the occupants have neutralized all efforts by the agencies to evict them. This has led to a piquant situation as the project which is high on PM’s agenda doesn’t seem to see the light of the day in case the Govt. goes ahead with this proposed ordinance.



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