Draft amendment to Forest Act: Javadekar denies, but different pictures at states

Forest department of Telangana has held consultations to amend its forest Act

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Wednesday 07 August 2019
Photo: Getty Images

Even as the Union government refuted claims of clearing a proposal to amend the Indian Forest Act (IFA), 1927, a few states have started amending their forest Acts.

“Let me make it clear that we have not proposed a single amendment to the Indian Forest Act. It’s a zero draft for discussion. Officers had drafted it. It’s not a government-approved draft,” Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, was quoted as saying in a news report on August 5, 2019.     

Javadekar had, however, told Parliament on June 28 that the first draft of comprehensive amendments to the IFA had been circulated to forest departments of all states and Union Territories on March 7 seeking their views and comments.  

In April, Telangana created a draft of the Telangana Forest Act (TFA), 2019. It incorporated provisions of the ‘zero draft’, according to a leak.

“TFA has all the provisions of the proposed IFA amendment. The forest department has been given more powers, including the power to use fire arms; the idea of production forests has been brought in and the forest rights Act has been undermined,” said Palla Trinadha Rao, an Andhra Pradesh-based tribal rights activist.

Rao claimed the Telangana government was holding meetings with forest officials to push its Bill.  

The forest department of Maharashtra has also held consultations on the proposed IFA amendments.   

“If there is no proposal to amend the IFA, then the government should issue a statement saying as much and withdraw the draft,” said Neema Pathak Broome of non-profit Kalpavriksh.

“States are following the March 7 letter and spending public money to organise consultations; if there is no proposal to amend the Act, why incur this expense?” Broome said.

Javadekar had told the Lok Sabha that the IFA needed to be amended to match developments in the last nine decades and state Acts. They were proposed after a techno-legal analysis by a core drafting committee, he said.

Circulating such drafts was a method for the Centre to instruct states, alleged CR Bijoy of Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a national forum for forest dwellers which was active in getting the FRA implemented in 2006. "We have seen this happen in the case of Tamil Nadu notifying its forest policy along the lines of the draft National Forest Policy 2018, and now it’s happening with IFA,” he added.

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