The Tripura Rajya Upajati Ganamukti Parishad (GMP), affiliated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has written a letter to the Chairperson of the Joint Committee of Parliament expressing their concerns regarding the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill 2023. In their letter, the GMP emphasizes the importance of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, for the survival and well-being of tribal communities in India. They argue that the proposed amendment fails to address the relationship between the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and the Forest Rights Act, 2006, which is vital for protecting the rights of tribals.
The GMP, led by President Naresh Chandra Jamatia and General Secretary Radhacharan Debbarma, highlights the vulnerable position of tribal communities in Indian society. They point out that tribals have been living in forest areas for generations and face numerous challenges. One of the major issues they confront is land alienation. Over the years, millions of tribals have been forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands without proper rehabilitation or compensation, primarily due to the implementation of various development projects in forest areas. The tribals have been treated as illegal encroachers rather than the rightful protectors of the forests on their own land.
In response to the historical injustices faced by forest-dwelling tribals, the Parliament enacted the Forest Rights Act in 2006. This landmark legislation aimed to rectify the mistreatment of forest-dwelling tribals by recognizing their rights and granting them legal ownership over forestland. Since the introduction of the Forest Rights Act, thousands of tribal families across different states, including 129,000 families in Tripura, have received forest land rights. Any dilution of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, is deemed unacceptable by the tribal communities, as it threatens their livelihood and exacerbates their vulnerability.
While acknowledging the importance of global warming mitigation and forest conservation, the GMP leaders emphasize that they are not against development projects in tribal areas. However, they strongly oppose the privatization of forest lands and resources, which can lead to the exploitation of tribal communities by monopolistic capitalists. The GMP advocates for the inclusion of provisions in the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023, to address their concerns and safeguard the rights of tribal communities.
Key Demands and Recommendations:
In their letter to the JCP Chairperson, the GMP leaders outline two crucial demands to be incorporated into the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023:
- Obtaining Consent of Gram Sabhas: The GMP requests that obtaining the consent of the Gram Sabhas (village councils) in the concerned areas becomes mandatory before implementing any development projects in forest areas. This provision ensures that the affected communities have a say in the decision-making process and their voices are duly considered.
- Proper Rehabilitation and Compensation: The GMP stresses the importance of providing adequate rehabilitation and compensation to forest dwellers when eviction becomes unavoidable due to project implementation. This measure aims to minimize the adverse impacts on tribal communities and ensure their well-being during the transition.
The Tripura GMP’s letter to the Chairperson of the Joint Committee of Parliament highlights their concerns regarding the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023, and its potential impact on tribal rights. They emphasize the significance of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, in rectifying historical injustices and protecting the interests of forest-dwelling tribals. While recognizing the need