A Group of Ministers (GoM) on Tuesday will discuss a proposal to dilute provisions of the Forest Rights Act to fasten clearance to coal and mining projects in forest areas.
A committee headed by B K Chaturvedi, member (planning commission), had suggested that requirement of 50% of the gram sabha members to constitute quorum for conducting the meeting should not apply if the first meeting had been postponed for want of quorum.
It would mean that project would be considered even if less than half of the village body members are present.
Ministries such as coal and power had termed the quorum condition to get consent of the gram sabha as a reason for delaying approval to project. As per environment ministry’s circular of 2009, consent of gram sabha is must for consideration of a proposal by ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC). The FAC approves projects related to diversion of forestland.
Chaturvedi committee’s recommendation had evoked strong reaction from home minister P Chidambaram who said that developers may adopt certain unacceptable practices to deprive locals from their due benefits. Road highways minister C P Joshi also spoke against dilution of FRA saying interests of tribals should be protected.
Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan suggested that views of the tribal affairs minister Kishore Chandra Deo should be taken before taking the call on dilution of FRA provisions.
Union finance minister Pranab Mukerjee had invited Deo for the Tuesday’s meeting.
"I will take a view on the issue at the GoM,” the tribal affairs minister told HT. But, government officials said agreeing to dilution of the FRA provisions would be difficult as it will open a pandora’s box for similar demands from other ministries. “The law will loose its basic aim to protect rights of the forest dwellers," an official said.
The GoM, which now has new members is expected to take key decisions on environment clearance process.