Have not taken any stand on new forest conservation rules: National ST body chief
NCST has not taken any stand on the new forest conservation rules and a dialogue with the Union Environment Ministry on the matter will continue, its Chairman Harsh Chouhan said on Tuesday
The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has not taken any stand on the new forest conservation rules and a dialogue with the Union Environment Ministry on the matter will continue, its Chairman Harsh Chouhan said on Tuesday.
"The commission is a constitutional body having the powers of a civil court. We are not a political entity and have taken any stand (on the new forest conservation rules). The NCST's objective is to evaluate policies and inform the government about any violations of tribal rights through the President," Chouhan told PTI. The commission had written to the Environment ministry last September, saying the Forest Conservation Rules, 2022, would have "serious" impacts on the rights of Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers (OTFDs). The NCST had rued that the ministry did not consult it on such an important amendment and asked Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav to keep the rules in abeyance.
Reports on Tuesday quoted Chouhan as saying that the NCST's position on the matter "will be the same".
The Forest Rights Act (FRA) grants substantial access and management rights over forest land and forests to STs and OTFDs traditionally residing in those areas.
Any diversion of such forest land for non-forest purposes requires the consent of the rights-holders.
To ensure this, FRA compliance in forest conservation processes requires recognition of rights in the proposed forest to be diverted, titles issued, details of the proposal and impacts on STs and OTFDs placed in front of gram sabhas and their free prior informed consent sought before sending the proposal for Stage I clearance.
"The current rules have done away with the requirement of seeking consent all together and have left the process of recognition of rights to be carried out after stage I clearance or even Stage II clearance," Chouhan had said in his letter to the Environment ministry.
In a letter to the commission in November, Yadav asserted that the new rules mandated state governments and Union Territory administrations to issue orders for diversion of forest land only after fulfilment and compliance of all provisions, including settlements of rights under FRA.
The Environment ministry had notified the new rules under the Forest Conservation Act on June 28 to replace the earlier rules notified in 2003.
The Forest Conservation Act, 1980, was enacted to help conserve the country's forests. It strictly restricts and regulates the de-reservation of forests or use of forest land for non-forest purposes without the prior approval of the Centre.