But Real Interests Are Elsewhere

At a press conference today, the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a federation of tribal and forest dwellers' organisations, 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 haste that any proper scientific investigation and decision-making will be impossible.  A 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).