Tribal affairs minister Kishore Chandra Deo has warned against dilution of the Forest Rights Act for faster approval to projects and has asked environment minister Jaynathi Natarajan to ensure compliance with law while diverting forestland for projects by the ministry's Forest Advisory Committee.
The letter was written in context of different parties in Supreme Court arguing to bypass the provisions of the Forest Rights Act to advance bauxite mine of Anil Aggarwal owned Vedanta in Nyamgiri district of Orissa.
"In this context, it is important that our government take a clear stand that upholds the law, the democratic process, and the rights of people, and states that our vision is to uphold the law," he said in a letter to Natarajan.
Deo also said that no forestland can be diverted until the recognition of forest rights of the dwellers is complete and forest dwellers have expressed their collective prior consent to take-over of the forest.
"I trust that strict compliance with these measures may be ensured when diverting forest," Deo said, in his letter.
He also countered the reason that applying Forest Rights Act in diversion of forest land may delay projects as incorrect and said that not recognizing the rights may lead to conflict and injustice. "We have only to witness the large number of projects in this country that are today stalled by protest and court cases to understand that the short cut benefits no one, in addition to being illegal," he said.
The tribal affairs minister had earlier written to Natarajan complaining that Forest Advisory Committee - mandated under law to allow diversion of forest land for developmental projects - was undermining the Forest Rights Act while allowing projects on forestland.