Consent from tribals no longer required by Govt. of India: handing forestlands over for projects that affect sacred places of worship

Nitin Sethi, Times Of India,  Feb 16, 2013,

NEW DELHI: The government has diluted its stand on requiring consent from tribals before handing over their forestlands for projects in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court on the Vedanta case.

The changed policy cited in the affidavit of the government, contrary to existing regulations, could now make it easy for hundreds of other projects as well which require formal consent from tribals who have rights over forestlands under the Forest Rights Act. […]

On an odd note, now the consent, government has said, would be required for setting up dispensaries, fair price shops and providing other such basic needs to the tribals in the forestland but not for most of the industrial and development projects. […]

The environment ministry had in August 2009 passed orders bringing the forest clearance process in agreement with the Forest Rights Act and making it mandatory that rights of tribals over forests not be extinguished without their consent. But the unease of the government ensured the rules were followed more often in breach though in the case of Vedanta, they were cited, besides other reasons, for blocking the project, while Rahul Gandhi took lead in claiming he would work like a ‘sipahi (solider)’ for the tribals.

The first formal attempt to do away with the regulations came from the PMO after the infrastructure ministries complained against it. But leaking of the PMO report in the public domain led to uproar from tribal groups and forced the government to not go the whole hog in diluting the rules. But stealthily, it seems to have decided to get the same done through an affidavit in the Supreme Court where a judicial approval on the position could help the government seal the diluted norm without an explicit move in public domain.

Source: Tribals’ consent on forestland only in exceptional cases: Govt – Times Of India
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