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'Govt Has Withdrawn Draft on Amendment of Forest Act': Union Minister Javadekar Cites Rights of Tribals

File photo of union minister Prakash Javadekar addressing media persons. (PTI Photo)

File photo of union minister Prakash Javadekar addressing media persons. (PTI Photo)

Javadekar highlighted that the draft was not officially prepared by the Union government.

New Delhi: Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Friday announced that the government has withdrawn the 'officers' draft on amendments in the Forest Act, 1927 and stressed that the Narendra Modi government was committed to protect the rights of tribals and forest dwellers.

Javadekar highlighted that the draft was not officially prepared by the Union government.

"The government is committed to give more rights and justice to tribals and forest dwellers," the minister said in a press conference here.

"There was an exercise by some officers because some states came up with their own forest acts. So, to find a common ground, some advocates and officials created a zero draft. It was meant for limited circulation. There was hue and cry as the draft created an impression that government wants to amend the Forest Act and do away with its pro-tribal provisions," he said.

"We are completely withdrawing the so-called 'draft' so there should not be a doubt in anybody's mind that this government is taking away the rights of tribals," he added.

"Tribals will become the main stakeholders in forest development, their livelihoods will be enriched and their rights will be protected fully," Javadekar further said.

The minister also said that the Modi government has always worked in the interest of tribals and forest dwellers.

"We have supported them with more financial and welfare schemes. We also ensured minimum support price for forest produce and we have also allotted millions of hectares of land in these five years by giving them ownership title," he said.

"Modi government is known as the friend of tribals and they are important stakeholders in forest development," the minister said.

According to sources, the draft was circulated by Inspector General of Forests (Forest Policy) to all states on March 7 this year, seeking their comments on the first draft of the comprehensive amendments to the Indian Forests Act (IFA).

Each state had to conduct consultations with all its stakeholders, including non-profits and civil society organisations, and send the compiled feedback to the ministry by June.

The provision in the amendment which invited criticism was the one which allowed forest officials to use arms against people to prevent forest offence.

The provision read, "Any forest-officer, may if necessary, to prevent the commission of any offence under this Act or under the Wildlife Amendment proposed to provide indemnity to forest-officer using arms etc, to prevent the forest offence.This indemnity shall be in addition to the immunity provided under section 197 of Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 for certain categories of Public Servant."

first published:November 15, 2019, 19:12 IST