The ministry of home affairs (MHA) has exempted 83 Naxal-affected districts from the bar on diverting forest land for building critical public infrastructure. The move seeks to ensure conservation law does not stand in the way of delivering quick doses of development in the region.
The exemption would apply to projects such as schools, healthcare centres, rural roads and police posts, which require diversion of a maximum of 2 hectares (20,000 sq metres).
Ordinarily, district authorities would have to seek prior approval of the environment ministry in Delhi under the Forest Conservation Act.
The MHA move comes just a month after the environment ministry gave a general approval for such construction in 35 worst-affected districts.
“The approval will hasten progess under the Integrated Action Plan,” a home ministry official said. Under this plan, 60 districts are being allocated a block grant of Rs 25 crore to spend in 100 days, with a free hand to the district administration to identify priority areas.
Ministry officials concede that only 48 of these 60 districts have been classified as Naxal-affected. Thus only these 48 districts, besides the 35 worst-hit, would get the benefit.
Officials said that in the 60, the planning commission had included districts where the problem isn't that serious. Chhattisgarh is the only state where all nine districts are covered. Jharkhand’s 14 districts will be covered.