New Delhi, Feb 26 (PTI) Seeking to give a better deal totribals, the National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by SoniaGandhi today cleared recommendations to amend the ForestRights Acts (FRA) that could give forest dwellers more say inmanaging their affairs.
Among the key amendments suggested to the FRA includeincreasing representation of tribals in gram sabhas. It alsofavoured giving them more power thus making it impossible fordistrict level committees to overturn claims made by the gramsabhas.
The NAC also suggested making it mandatory that two-thirds of members of gram sabhas would be forest dwellers.
Currently, one third of the gram sabha members are tribals.
The NAC has recommended that the district levelcommittees should not reject the claims made by the gramsabha, which is seen as an attempt to have greate involvementof locals and tribals in managing their affairs.
The NAC was concerned over high rejection rates on theclaims made by forest dwellers, which in some states was morethan 60 per cent.
The advisory body also recommended that the quorum forholding gram sabha meetings be brought down to 50 per cent ofthe total members. Currently, the presence of two-thirds ofthe total gram sabha members is necessary to hold a meeting.
The NAC also suggested setting up of a grievanceredressal mechanism for tribals. It also wanted the gramsabhas to be called at the level of actual compact settlementsof the hamlet or village.
"The purpose of these recommendations is to ensure thatthe key features of this law -� the democratic process ofrecognising rights, the protection to a range of livelihoodrights, and the powers of communities to protect and conserveforests -� are not undermined," a NAC statement said.
NAC Chairperson is expected to communicate therecommendations to the government soon.
The NAC also finalised a key contentious issue regardingchanges in a provision of the Right to Information Act thatlimits an RTI application to one subject and 250 words.
Following discussions with the Department of Personneland Training, it was decided to suggest doubling the limit to500 words. This excludes the annexures an applicant may attachto his request.
NAC members also said that the application should not berejected if it contained more than the stipulated 500 words asthe idea behind the RTI Act was to make information availableand not create barriers for its release.
The NAC also decided to set up new Working Groups on LandAcquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation; urban poverty;natural resource management, in convergence with MGNREGA withfocus on rainfed areas; and skill development and placement.