Central committee presents grim picture of FRA implementation in Himachal

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HimVani

Shimla (Oct 31): A central committee recently visited Himachal Pradesh to evaluate progress in implementation of Forest Rights Act, and has presented a grim picture, highlighting large-scale destruction of forest wealth by violating environmental norms in the state. It has also suggested second phase of land reforms programme to address key concern of people.

Himalayan Niti Abhiyan state convener Gumman Singh hailing the report said that the committee recommended regularization of Bhakra oustees’ Nautor lands. The committee rejected state government’s contention not to implement FRA in the state as Land Reform Act was implemented in 1952. The report said that FRA should not be confused with Land Reform Act. It crticised state government’s new TD policy, terming it against the spirit of FRA.

The report held that Indian Forest Act-1927 should not be confused with Land Reform Act as this Act was passed by the British to annex Indian forests. The rights of locals were restricted and reduced to privileges and later on completely extinguished. The report holds that the forest department became the ‘biggest landlord in independent India,’ which is confirmed by the data of FD itself in Himachal Pradesh.

The report pointed out that FRA has been implemented only in the schedule V areas of the state; whereas 70 per cent of the state’s population is eligible for benefits under the Act by virtue being traditionally dependent upon forest resources for their survival and livelihood needs were not benefiting.

Concluding that FRA is not properly implemented in the state, it recommended “With immediate effect, the state government should issue necessary orders for implementation of the Act in the whole of the state so as not to deprive the state’s forest-dependent population of their legitimate forest rights.”

Pointing out deliberate and serious violation of environment and forest norms in destroying forests and natural wealth in the sate while executing hydropower and cement projects in the state, the report stressed the need for effective mechanism to put in place so that no diversion of forest land for industry is accomplished till FRA is fully implemented. “Till the time the Act is satisfactorily implemented across the state, the government should put a moratorium in all applications for diversion of forest areas under the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act,” the report observed.

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