Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh Friday raised in the Rajya Sabha the issue of neglect of community forest rights of dwellers and the rejection of their claims under the Forest Rights Act without following due process.
Raising a special mention in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress member raised concerns over the proposed amendments to the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and demanded wider consultations on the proposed changes with all concerned.
"It is also a matter of grave concern that there have been reports of amendments being proposed in the Indian Forest Act, 1927 that will completely destroy the pitch and substance of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
"I would urge that there be widespread and meaningful consultations on these changes not just with state governments but also with various civil society organisations and activist networks," Ramesh said.
The Congress leader said these amendments not only undercut the Forest Rights Act but are also possibly in conflict with PESA -- the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act -- that was passed by Parliament in 1996 and indeed the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution itself.
Ramesh said Parliament has passed the historic Forests Right Act thirteen years ago and since then over 16 lakh individual rights have been settled but a very large number of claims have also been rejected and lakhs of tribal and other traditional forest dwelling families are now under the threat of eviction.
"It is incumbent upon the central and state governments to ensure that the due process of examination and verification of claims as stipulated in the legislation is followed strictly and transparently. There are wide-spread reports that such a process has not been followed and rejection has been done summarily. This only compounds historical injustices," he said.
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