At least 21 members of Parliament (MPs) from the Opposition wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, seeking his intervention to stop “undermining” the rights of tribals in the BJP-ruled states.
The letter came a day after HT reported that several BJP-ruled states had come up with rules and orders that, if implemented, could scuttle the implementation of the Forest Rights Act.
The legislation has been considered a stumbling block in the Centre’s push for industries.
“We are dismayed that in the last three months, several BJP-ruled states have been attempting to undercut key provisions of this historic
law, while receiving the support of powerful ministers in your cabinet,” said the letter signed by the MPs from the CPI(M), CPI, AAP, Congress, NCP, JD(U), SP, TRS, Trinamool and YSR Congress.
The letter referred to the Village Forest Rules brought by the Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh governments, which could bring the land traditionally used by forest dwellers under control of the forest department.
It also gave the example of an order by the Chhattisgarh government that seeks resolution from gram sabhas certifying that all claims of rights under the Forest Rights Act were settled in the state, despite several gaps in the implementation of the Act.
The action of the states, the letter said, came “in the wake of continuous steps by the environment ministry to bypass the Forest Rights Act, when diverting forest land to corporate and industrial projects.”
The MPs pointed out that in November, the secretary of the Union ministry of tribal affairs had expressed concern that the Centre’s announcements were conveying “a message that the government is against fair implementation of the Forest Rights Act.”
“We call upon you to correct such an impression by ensuring that the ministry of tribal affairs acts immediately to halt these illegalities and that the environment ministry, rather than seeking to dilute the law, instructs forest officials to comply with it and to cease attempting to sabotage it,” the letter said.