Tribal activists demand withdrawal of Forest Conservation Act amendment.

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Gadchiroli Aug. 24 (District Correspondent) Gotul Samiti, an organization of the tribals from Bhamragad area have demanded that the recent amendment to the Forest Conservation Act made by the central government’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change be withdrawn immediately to save the forests and tribals depending on it.

A delegation of the Samiti workers met the Tehsildar of Bhamragad recently under the leadership of noted tribal leader and former ZP councillor Adv. Lalsu Nogoti and submitted him a memorandum addressed to the Governor of Maharashtra.

BJP under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi has established power in the country for the second time. However, the current central government wants to hunt down the tribals of the country who are completely dependent on forests by putting guns on their shoulders. Policies are being made to sell water, forest, land and natural resources to local and foreign companies at exorbitant prices. This will destroy the existence, identity and self-respect of tribals in the country, said the memorandum.

Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change amended the Forest Conservation Act, 2006 to make the rules favourable to private companies. Also, amendments have been made in other three Acts related to Forest and Environment. The new rules will evict forest dwellers, tribals and other traditional forest dwellers from the forest. This rule is in violation of the traditional rights of the forest dwellers over the forest and their constitutional rights too. Also, PESA, Forest Rights Act 2006 and the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of India will be widely affected, the memorandum pointed out.

The rules amended by the central government are in direct violation of some important judgments of the Supreme Court such as 2013 Supreme Court judgment on Niyamgiri mine case, it said.

Through these revised rules, the process of selling the country’s water, forest, land and mineral resources to multinational companies at very low prices has been made easier in the name of development. It is very regrettable that the central government can give final approval without the consent of the Gram Sabha. The opinion of the tribals living in the forest and other forest dwellers has no value, it appears.

In this whole process, the natives living in this country will be in dire state. The amended provisions do not mention anywhere about resettlement and compensation of displaced families. The main objective of this amendment is to provide a convenient way for the violators of environmental and pollution control laws. Even if an industrialist creates pollution by illegal action, he is not punished. Only a nominal fine has to be charged, pointed out the memorandum.

Due to revised rule not only the existence, identity and self-esteem of the tribals in the country is threatened, but the environment is also endangered.  Climate change will end human life. Giving large amounts of fertile land to multinational companies for mining and similar industries will create a food crisis in the country. The common people will have to beg, said the memo further.

While amending the provisions anti-democratic process has been imposed on the people without any opportunity to raise objections. Due to such policies of the governments, iron mines have been forcibly started at Surjagad Hills of Gadchiroli district despite the strong opposition of the people. The government intends to resume 24 other proposed mines in Gadchiroli district and hand over lakhs of hectares of land in the district to multinational companies, said the memo.

This has created a threat to the community forest rights of Gram Sabhas. Also, there is a great threat to the habitat of Madia, a very vulnerable tribal community, and there is a fear that the culture, customs, traditions, traditional leadership of this community will be permanently destroyed, stated the memorandum.

In such a situation, the amendment in Forest Conservation Act, 2006 and other Acts related forest and environment should be withdrawn immediately, demanded the memorandum.

Mr. Ashok Gaikwad, municipal councillor, Raju Wadde, former President of Bhamragad Nagar Panchayat, Chinna Mahaka, Raju Pungati were present in the delegation.

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