Activists appeal to PM against dilution of forest rights

New Delhi


A group of activists, including a Left party MP, Friday appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against proposed dilution of forest rights of indigenous people when transferring forest land for infrastructure projects.

In a letter to the prime minister, Communist Party of India-Marxist MP Bajuban Riyan, a member of the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch, and other activists criticised the government's move to bypass the Forest Rights Act for most infrastructure projects.

"The alacrity with which your government seeks to serve the interests of land and resource grabbers, while dilly-dallying and dragging its feet on protecting tribal rights, is highly condemnable," they wrote in the letter.

The activists demanded the government uphold and strictly enforce the act which states no land can be taken for a project without a certificate from the affected gram sabhas which have legal rights to protect and manage the forest lands.

Besides, they called for criminal prosecution of officials who have diverted or tried to divert forest land without respecting people's rights.

A committee headed by the Prime Minister's Principal Secretary Pulok Chatterjee, looking into the issue, suggested that consent of respective state governments is enough and gram sabha consent was not needed unless a project substantially or significantly affected the quality of life of the people residing at the site of diversion.

The road transport and highways ministry has approached the Supreme Court seeking to dilute the Forest Rights Act, contending the law was hampering growth and investment in the country. - IANS