Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to re-evaluate the Forest Conservation Rules, 2022, saying that the indigenous communities of the state will be severely impacted by the new notification.
In his letter, Soren stated that the new rules “brazenly dilute” the power of the local gram sabha.
“They (the rules) brazenly dilute power of local gramsabha & uprooting the rights of millions, members of forest dwelling communities, particularly the Adivasis,” he said in the letter dated December 1.
The chief minister further said that the rules have eliminated the earlier mandatory requirements of obtaining the prior consent of the Gram Sabha before utilising forest land for non-forestry purposes.
“These new rules will end up uprooting the rights of these people who have called the forests their home for generations but whose rights could not be recorded. Their traditional lands may get snatched away in the name of development, and these simple, pure-hearted people of our country will have no say in destroying their habitat,” Soren said in the letter.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MOEF) in 2009 clearly stated that no clearances for diversion of forest land under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 would even be considered by it before Stage-1 (in-principle) approval unless rights provided under FRA were first settled, the letter pointed out. In 2019, this provision was diluted to the extent that consent of Gram Sabha would be required before stage 2 clearance, the letter further mentioned.
“However, in the new notifications of 2022, this condition for the consent of the Gram Sabha has been shockingly completely obliterated,” it added.
“I implore that you step in and ensure that this fait accompli that has been created is done away with and the voice of the tribal man, woman, and child is not silenced under the guise of progress. Our laws must be inclusive,” the letter said.