Bhubaneswar: The State Chapter of the Forest Rights Campaign, Campaign for Survival and Dignity(CSD), Odisha has submitted its comments and suggestions on the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Rules, 2018 to the Ministry of Environment,Forest and Climate Change(MoEFCC), Govt. of India yesterday and has urged all the local sangathans and individuals across the State to send similar comments and suggestions by 15th March so that their points can get place in the final version of the CFA, Rules to be finalised.
Pointing out the maximum forest land diverted in the State of Odisha in the country, CSD opined that the Odisha tribals and forest dwellers would be more affected by the CAMPA fund. “They not only be affected by the proposed plantation under CAMPA fund but also lose non-forest community land over which they have occupancy over the period for their subsistence. The worst affected would be the tribals and forest dwellers living in the scheduled 5th districts where the concentration of community land ( the so called government land) is amount to 50 to 85 per cent of the total geographical area of the districts.” CSD asserted.
Fearing more evictions due to CFA Fund CSD alleged that “while the Government of Odisha always claims to be No.1 in issuing highest number of Individual forest rights titles in the State, most of the forest land issued in paper has not been demarcated in the ground. IFR claims of other traditional forest dwellers have been discouraged and illegally rejected by Govt. officials, recognition of community rights over forest has been very poor and the State Govt. continue violating FRA openly by promoting illegal Vana Surakshya Samittee(VSS) through “Aama Jungle Yojana” scheme which is not a statutory body. Besides, The State Forest Department has created a conflict like situation in the villages and has destroyed huge natural forest destroying the eco-system, fencing forest restricting community and cattle’s rights access to forest depriving from their natural rights.” “In this scenario, if the proposed CAF Rules get passed in its present form, the situation will be more grave and lead to more atrocities upon SCSTs of the State” CSD fears.
CSD is of the view that both the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016 and the draft Compensatory Afforestation Fund Rules, 2018 are in direct violation of FRA, 2006, PESA, 1996 and the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (amendment) Act, 2015 and have again urged the Govt. of India to real it.
Challenging the dominating role of Forest Department in National Authority and State Authority proposed in draft CAF Rules, 2018 CSD asserted that “As per FRA, 2006, (Section 3, 5 and 6 of the FRA) the gram sabha is the statutory authority of the forest and they have legal right to prepare their annual, short term and long term forest protection and management plan and not the forest Department.” FRA has discarded the so called scientific timber based top down model of forest protection and management and has empowered the local community to protect, conserve and manage the forest and wildlife with the traditional knowledge and wisdom” CSD asserted.
Calling the draft CFA Rules, 2018 as conspiracy of Forest Bureaucracy, CSD alleged that the MoEF after losing grounds after FRA, 2006 has trying to sabotage gram sabha authority over forest by reintroducing JFM Resolution in the CFA Rules where the forest officials have more control over forest and the community who are the real owner of the forest have used as scape goat over the period. CSD strongly suggests for adopting the MoTA’s Guideline issued on dated 23 April 2015 for the protection and management of Community Forest Resource area.
Discarding the proposed definition of “Gram Sabha” in the draft CFA Rules as per article 243(b) of constitution, CSD countered it as undemocratic. CSD says, “Under Panchayatiraj system, there is no recognition of a village as an independent unit of governance as panchayat is formed on the basis of population from 3000 to 3500. Under the parchayatiraj system, the villagers have no rights to hold meeting as and when necessary, they cannot write their resolution, cannot keep it at their village and land and forest issues never discussed in gram sabha meeting. Even the quorum of the gram sabha meeting at the Panchayat level is one tenth and it is not required in the second meeting if quorum fails to meet” CSD has proposed for definition of FRA-Gram Sabha to be used in the CFA Rules which it considered as more democratic rather direct democracy at the grassroots, empowering gram sabha as “Gram Sabha Sarkar” authoring them to hold meeting as and when they feel, providing quorum of 50 per cent etc. and advocated for the direct flow of CAMPA fund in the account of Gram Sabha.
Out rightly rejecting the proposed “consultation with the Gram Sabha or Van Sanrakshan Samiti or Village Forest Committee as the case may be” CSD strongly suggested to have “Free Prior Informed Consent(FPIC)” of the concern gram sabha while diverting forest land for non -forest purposes under FCA, 1980s or doing plantation in the CFR area. Highlighting the MoEF Order F.N,11-9/1998-FC(pt) dated 30th July 2009, CSD urged to follow it which was even upheld by Hon’ble Supreme Court, the highest Court of the nation in the Niyamgiri case on 18th April 2013.
Reminding the BJP Government on the promises made by Anil Dhave(the former MoEF Minister) in the Rajya Sabha, CSD urged the MoEF to respect the constitution and to cnsider their comments and suggestions while bringing out the final version of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Rules.
It is to be noted that CFA Act was passed in 2016 and MoEF brought the draft Rules after two years and made it Public on last 16th Feb seeking comments and suggestions on it within 30 days from the affected people.