MoTA raises objections to environment ministry’s FRA compliance circular

In the circular, the ministry had clarified that FRA compliance certificates would not be required in Stage I of the forest diversion process

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Friday 12 April 2019

Under secretary at the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), Uttam Kumar Kar, on April 5, 2019 wrote to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) regarding its circular doing away with Forest Rights Act (FRA) compliance while granting the Stage I in-principle approval for forest land diversion projects under Forest (Conservation) Act (FCA).

The letter, sent to MoEF&CC’s Deputy Inspector General Shrawan Kumar Verma, drew his attention to the views arrived at during a joint meeting between MoTA and MoEF&CC on January 12, 2018.

“While MoEFCC had maintained that it (FRA compliance) would be required to be obtained by project proponent at Stage II FCA clearance, the views of MoTA is that this would prove to be fait accompli as by that time the project proponents would have made sufficient progress and the tribals living in the forest area, earmarked for use by project, would be put to a great disadvantage and it has been seen that many a times the project applies for FRA clearance only in the last minute and this results in the project getting delayed for want of FRA clearance and as such, the project proponent should produce proof of having initiated FRA clearance process at the point of going for Stage I FCA clearance itself,” it said.

The process of granting Forest Clearance by MoEF&CC under FCA, 1980, is divided in two parts — Stage I and Stage II. The Stage I is in-principle approval; while the project proponent has to get all other clearances like environment clearance to get the Stager II approval.  There is usually a gap of two to three years between the two stages of approval.  

Down to Earth had reported about the circular issued by the MoEF&CC on December 5, 2018 and its reiteration on February 26 this year. In the circular, the ministry had clarified that FRA compliance certificates would not be required in Stage I of the forest diversion process.

MoTA also raised the issue of sending the circular without consulting with it first. “It has further been observed by MoTA that the said circular, which is about the stage of compliance of FRA, has been circulated to Principal Secretaries/Secretaries (Forest) of all states/UTs, but it has not been endorsed to MoTA, which is the competent Ministry relating to FRA as per Allocation of Business Rules, and as such even if MoEF&CC does not insist on compliance to FRA, it cannot be said that this authorises them to violate FRA,” states the letter.

“Violation of FRA is a punishable offence under section 7 of FRA and an authority deemed to be guilty of an offence under FRA are liable to be proceeded against if found that due diligence has not been exercised to prevent commission of such offence.”

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