News has emerged that the Chhattisgarh Government wants to fast-track the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, as part of an initiative called Pragati.
While to the untrained ear, this might sound like good news, this move is problematic, heavy-handed and violates the spirit of the Act, as many experts testify.
There is nothing within the Forest Rights Act that dictates what timelines for the implementation of the Act are. The Chhattisgarh government itself recently admitted before the Ministry of Tribal Affairs that the law was yet to even be applied in many parts of the state. The state is yet to grant community forest titles over large tracts of land.
The Chhattisgarh government issued a letter on July 27 to all district collectors to instruct every village council to pass a resolution on August 15 stating that all claims of tribal rights under the Forest Rights Act were settled and no eligible claimants were left. Copies of the letter follow:
The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has once again risen to its role as the main body that has the power to interpret the Forest Rights Act. It clarified that the executive has no part in bypassing the provisions of the Act, no matter how earnest its intentions to ensure its time-bound implementation.
Meanwhile, 21 MPs have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi complaining about attempts to sideline the rights of tribals in BJP-ruled states.