At a press conference today, the Campaign
for Survival and Dignity, a federation of tribal and forest dwellers'
described how the government is holding up the Forest Rights Act
while engaging in manipulation meant to sabotage the entire process,
harming forests, wildlife and forest communities.
So far, most of this
information has not been made public. A note is attached with more
details. Documents seen by the Campaign indicate that the
government is pushing for "critical wildlife
habitats", a special provision under this Act, to be declared with such
that any proper scientific investigation and decision-making will be
relocation package consisting
essentially of cash compensation will
then be "provided" to those being resettled from these habitats,
allowing for large-scale
corruption and leaving people stranded with no livelihood.
Vested interests are pushing for this to be done before the Forest
Rights Act is brought into force. This is exactly what
environmentalists have condemned time and again as a failed model of
conservation, yet more than 1,000
crores has been allocated
for this process for the next year. We suspect that accessing
these enormous funds is a key motivation for these moves.
Meanwhile the Rules to the Act are being undermined to make it easier for vested interests to misuse the Act, while genuine forest dwelling communities are denied their rights through various mechanisms. This is a formula for forest destruction and land grabbing. (please see attached note)
Finally, there are evictions taking place in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and elsewhere, using the delay in the Act to forcibly remove as many people as possible.
The constant theme is this: remove people from their homes, drive out the genuine forest dwellers of this country, through whatever means possible. The land is then free for "conservation", or, as we know is more likely, for being diverted later for big industry, timber mills or mining. In the last five years, more than five lakh hectares of forest land have been destroyed for such purposes.
We condemn this assault on the rights of India's forest communities. On October 2nd, across India, tens of thousands will court arrest in response to this violation of their historic and fundamental rights. This sabotage will not be allowed to pass unanswered.The press conference was addressed by Priya Sreenivasa (Campaign), Shankar Gopalakrishnan (Secretary, Campaign), Trepan Singh Chauhan (Chetna Andolan, Uttarakhand), Lucy (Bharat Jan Andolan, Jharkhand) and Mangi Lal (Jangal Jan Jameen Andolan, Rajasthan).