Top forest officials and National Forest Rights Act Committee engage in a war of words
Top forest officials and members of the National Forest Rights Act Committee are on a collision course after the panel submitted its report to the government and stated that the Act was not implemented in its true spirit.
A war of words ensued after the panel, formed by the environment and tribal affairs ministries to review implementation of the Act, criticised the forest department and the tribal affairs ministry.
Non-official members of the committee accused Director General of Forests P J Dilip Kumar of misreading the report and said: “The DGF’s reading of what constitutes the non-tribal forest-dwellers is not as per the Act. He wrongly reports what the committee has said”.
While Kumar said that the panel recommended that government should not insist traditional forest-dwellers to have prior occupation of 75 years to claim forestland, the panel members said that prior occupation of 75 years applies to non-scheduled tribes to recognise them as other traditional forest-dwellers. It does not apply to their specific claims. The members have written to the minister of environment and forests Jairam Ramesh and tribal affairs minister Kantilal Bhuria criticising the DGF for not taking action as per the panel’s recommendations.
The DGF, on the other hand, has slammed the recommendations (See ‘Forest department’s snub’, Down To Earth, February 1-15). Accusing the panel of threatening forest officials in the field, V K Bahuguna, president of the Indian Forest Services (IFS) Association, sent a memorandum to the environment ministry. It stated: “Opposing illegal allotment of forest land by forest officials should not be construed as an impediment in the implementation of the Act.” IFS officers fully support lawful implementation of the Act, he said.
“It has been reported by some principle chief conservators of the forest that the committee members asked officials not to care for evidence while transferring forest land,” Bahuguna stated in the memorandum.
He also pointed a finger at the 10 non-official members of non-profits saying governance of forests should not be influenced by them. He accused them of having no accountability over forest resources conservation and branding the IFS officials as villains for their vested interests.
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