A stream, chortle of birds in the background and a cherub holding a placard with the message "no forests, no water", might seem straight out of run-of-the-mill 'save the environment' iconography. But the sylvan settings do not obscure the fact that the images are part of a tele-advertising campaign against the Forest Rights Act.
To be fair, the ads, commissioned by the Mumbai-based organization Vanashakti, have little pretension of innocence. The placard carrying children in the advertisement have a final message: "Forest Rights Act, Stop it Before It's Too Late."
Vanashakti's website, www.vanashakti.in, elaborates the organization's stand. "The Act gifts up to 4 hectares of forestland to each tribal and other forest dwelling families. It renders the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and the Indian Forest Act, virtually invalid...It places individual ownership and usage of forests above the larger goal of conservation and national water security," the ad notes.
High pitched advertisement against legislations is a known practice in the us. This is perhaps the first time in Indian media history that a private group has launched such a campaign. Vanshakti representatives say that their's is an organization of concerned citizens. Tribal rights groups have, however, criticized the campaign as blinkered. One of them, The Campaign for Survival and Dignity, has come up with a point-by-point rebuttal--also put up on Vanashakti's site. "This Act has nothing to do with... "gifting" land to people. It has nothing to do with removing forest protection," the group argues.
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