After the land acquisition bill, which the government seems to have put on the backburner to counter the Opposition’s charge of being anti-farmer, it is now going slow on the dilution of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), a move to avoid being levelled as ant-tribal.
In a meeting with the tribal affairs and environment ministries on April 22, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is learnt to have directed them to ensure that rights of the tribals were not denied.
“The PM said vesting of forest rights on tribals and traditional dwellers was critical step for empowerment and progress and directed the central ministries — environment and tribal — and state government to work in a campaign mode to cover those (tribals) who were still deprived of their rights,” an official privy to the meeting said.
The PM also told the environment ministry that most of the projects listed out by them as being stalled due to FRA did not fall in the tribal zones.
Modi, sources said, was responding to environment ministry’s grouse that a number of projects were stalled due to the FRA, which did not allow the diversion of the forest land without the consent of the Gram Sabha.
“The PM categorically told the environment ministry to refrain from using FRA as a bogey,” an official said.
Modi’s emphasis on the protecting the rights of the tribals comes in the backdrop of increasing perception of BJP government being pro-industry and anti-farmers/tribals.
The move also comes as a shot in the arm of the tribal affairs ministry that has been vehemently opposing the environment ministry’s bid to dilute FRA.