Govt to amend Forest Act to end tribals` harassment

The amendment is aimed at ending harassment of tribals by forest officials, Jairam Ramesh said.

Updated: Jan 03, 2011, 18:19 PM IST

New Delhi: To put an end to harassment of tribals by forest officials, particularly in Naxal-affected areas, the government is likely to bring in amendments to the
Indian Forest Act in the next session of Parliament, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said here on Monday.

"In the forthcoming session of Parliament, I hope to
introduce these amendments. It is Section 68 of the Indian
Forest Act (IFA) 1927 and the main purpose of this amendment
is to end the harassment of tribals and ordinary people by
local forest officials," the minister said after receiving a
report by the National Committee on Forest Rights Act (FRA)

Section 68 of IFA, 1927 deals with the power to
compound offences.

With this step, Ramesh said, the government hopes "to
end the system of foisting of cases on tribals and locals who
are using forests for meeting their daily livelihood."

Speaking at the function, which was also attended by
Tribal Affairs Minister Kanthilal Bhuria, Ramesh noted that
the amendments were awaiting the approval of the Law Ministry.

"We are bringing about amendments to Indian Forest Act
in order to ensure that these large numbers of cases are not
foisted on tribal communities people who are going into forest
daily and picking up their daily requirements. That is one big
complaints against the Forest Department.

"In Naxal-affected areas, a large number of cases are
registered against the tribals... that has also been reported
by the Home Ministry... so we are amending the Forest Act,"
the minister said.

Ramesh said the UPA`s flagship Forest Rights Act, 2006
in many ways, was the first systematic attempt by the
government to bring about democratic structure of the forest
management in our country.

Citing that 60 per cent of India`s forest area is in
180 districts of the country which have a very substantial
tribal population and 250 million people depend on forests for
their daily livelihood, the minister pitched for a "dramatic
change" in the present model of forest management and urged
the Forest Department to change its mindset on the Forest
Rights Act.

"The people who get the rights are not going to
de-forest. They are actually going to be partners in
sustainable forestry. They are going to be partners in
conservation of forest. We cannot any longer look up on
people and tribals as enemies of forests. This model of forest
management has to undergo a dramatic change," he said.