India: Forest dwellers rights still unclear despite new law

Rajya Sabha member and Communist Party of India leader D. Raja sought
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention on Tuesday “against
forcible displacement of forest dwellers and depriving them of their
statutory rights.” This, he said, was due to lack of clarity in the
Central government’s guidelines and rules under the Scheduled Tribes
and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights)
Act.

In two letters written to the Prime Minister, who also holds the
charge of Ministry of Environment and Forests, he raised the issue of
“illegal diversion of forest land in violation of the Act” and the
“problems in the implementation of the Act.” He alleged that
forestland was being used for industrial, commercial and other
projects, driven mostly by increased pressure from the private
industry, especially mining companies. This had emerged as a major
threat to the rights of forest dwellers. Yet, the Ministry continued
with forest diversion for large projects as was the case in Sikkim,
Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. He pointed out that
under the Act no forest dweller could be removed from his or her land
until recognition of rights was complete. “Natural justice” required
that forest lands on which other rights — such as minor forest produce
— were exercised could also not be diverted. The Act empowered forest
dwelling communities to protect and conserve forests and gave
Primitive Tribal Groups and pre-agricultural communities a right to
their habitats.
http://www.hindu.com/2008/12/24/stories/2008122456041400.htm

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