Seven Parties Support National Convention Against Illegal Takeover of Forest Resources, Delegates from Eleven States Join
On May 4th, 2016, in New Delhi, CPI(M) MP Com. Jitendra Choudhury revealed that he has written documents showing how the Prime Minister’s Office and the Environment Ministry have continuously attempted to empower bureaucrats and bypass citizens’ rights – even those enshrined in law in the Forest Rights Act. Notwithstanding a judgment of the Supreme Court and their own public professions of commitment to forest rights, the Narendra Modi government continues to try to bypass the law – even after its own Tribal Ministry has said such moves are “illegal”. Com. Choudhury noted that this is of a piece with the government’s general efforts to disempower people. As with the land acquisition ordinance last year, the NDA government appears hell bent on empowering bureaucrats and corporates and destroying all transparent, accountable procedures for handing over land.
The documents can be found here. A short explanatory note is here. To understand them, also read our timeline on attempts to sabotage the Forest Rights Act for corporate projects.
Com. Choudhury made these statements at the National Convention on Illegal Takeover of Forest Lands and Resources. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh and JD(U) leader Ali Anwar (Rajya Sabha) also condemned the NDA government’s systematic attempt to grab natural resources and marginalise people’s rights – especially in forest lands. Shri Jairam Ramesh explained how the Environment Ministry’s order of 2009, which spelled out the FRA’s requirements of gram sabha consent and completion of recognition of rights before diversion of forest land, is under systematic attack under the NDA. He noted that he had also faced tremendous pressure to privatise forest land for industry, but had resisted it; the NDA government then issued orders to that effect in August 2015. Shri Ali Anwar attacked the government for its anti-people policies and deliberate cultivation of corporates and the bureaucracy.
Leaders of the Telengana Rashtriya Samiti, Bahujan Samaj Party, Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India(Marxist Leninist) Liberation sent statements of support and expressed regret that due to Parliament and other obligations they could not attend.
Over 250 delegates from mass organisations and people’s movements from ten States – Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and Himachal – joined the convention and spoke about the struggles in their States and the illegal grabbing of resources and lands. From every state the same pattern repeated – Centre and State governments conniving in failing to recognise people’s rights over forest lands, as well as the Central government facilitating the illegal takeover of forest land through encouraging diversion without consent, plantations on people’s lands, and funding of parallel institutions intended to displace the powers of the gram sabha.
The Convention ended with a condemnation of the consistent and criminal attack on transparency, accountability and democratic control over natural resources by the NDA government and by most State governments.
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