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MOEF sends amended Indian Forest Act in English to tribals

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New Delhi, June 24: The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) has sent amended Indian Forest Act in English to different states and asked them to get feedback from the stakeholders, a large number of whom are tribals.

The IG Forest in the MoEF had sent a draft of substantial amendments in Indian Forest Act-1927 to all states and Union Territories (UTs) asking them to consult all stakeholders in their states and send their feedback.

MOEF sends amended Indian Forest Act in English to tribals

The surprising part is that the Draft sent to States and UTs is in English.

The Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (ABVKA) has demanded that the Draft should also be sent in Hindi so that all the stakeholders understand what the amendments are.

"As a standard practice for such consultative work, the Centre avails Hindi as well as English text of the draft. In this matter, only English version was provided. It is very difficult for stakeholders, specially the Janjatis (Scheduled Tribes) in north India to understand and give their response based on English text on any issue such greatly pertaining to them, " says Vishnu Kant, Joint General Secretary, ABVKA.

An ABVKA delegation has already met MOEF Prakash Javadekar and submitted a memorandum highlighting its objections.

The ABVKA is affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The delegation told Javadekar that the Centre should first notify the National Forest Policy, which is pending in the MoEF since 2017, before trying to amend the Indian Forest Act, 1927(IFA).

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"Any attempt to amend the IFA before that will not be accepted by the nation as it will be against the set practices for such important legislative work and long vision, " says Suresh Kulkarni, Central Representative of ABVKA in Delhi.

Vishnu Kant says the draft encroaches in the domain of the PESA-1996 and the FRA-2006, which have great concerns for the Janjatis.

The ABVKA has also objected that the MOEF has not given enough time for consultations with the stakeholders.

"The MOEF sent letter to all States and UTs on March 7 and asked them to send their feedbacks on or before June 8. This process could start only after 8th June as the entire period of stipulated for consultation passed in general elections in the country. Now states are trying to complete this process within June (20 days) for which centre had given them three months. No meaningful consultations can take place in such a short period," says Kant.

The Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was introduced in Lok Sabha on December 18, 2017 by then Minister of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Harsh Vardhan. The Lok Sabha passed it on Dec 20, 2017 and the Rajya Sabha on Dec 27, 2017.

The Bills replaces the Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 and amends the Indian Forest Act, 1927. The Act consolidates laws relating to forests, transit of forest-produce and the duty to be levied on them.

Under the Act, the definition of tree includes palms, bamboos, stumps, brush-wood, and canes. The Bill amends this definition of tree to remove the word bamboos.

Since bamboo is defined as a tree under the Act, its inter-state movement requires permit when in transit in other states. Consequent to the amendment, felling or transportation of bamboos growing in non-forest areas will not require any permits.

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