The Centre is working on a proposal to exempt promoters of projects like roads, pipelines and transmission lines in forest areas from seeking the consent of the gram sabha as per the forests rights act (FRA).
The UPA government last February had conceived the move but developed cold feet after forest rights activists raised a storm over dilution. The tribal affairs ministry — the nodal ministry for implementation of the FRA — also opposed it.
Sources in environment ministry said the issue was discussed at a recent meeting between mines minister Narendra Singh Tomar, environment minister Prakash Javadekar and coal minister Piyush Goyal recently and it was decided that relaxation should be given for expansion of linear projects.
At the meeting, the mines and coal ministers strongly advocated for dilution of FRA in giving approval to projects.
“There was a view that majority consent should be required instead of two-third. There was also a suggestion that a project once approved should not go back to the gram sabha if being expanded without causing any displacement,” a government source said.
The environment ministry has started working on bringing in changes in its guidelines for seeking consent of gram sabha under the Forest Rights Act for approving projects. And the first dilution will come for expansion of linear projects, officials said.
The move however is expected to be opposed by the tribal affairs ministry as it had done when the proposal was first mooted in February 2013. After fierce protest from the then tribal affairs minister Krishna Chandra Deo and forest rights activists the proposal was put on the backburner.
BJP-led NDA government however is keen bring back the proposal to dilute the FRA. The Act, that mandates the permission of gram sabhas for any project in the forest/tribal dominated areas, has often been cited by some ministries and industry lobbies for delays in green clearances and were seen as obstacles to investment and growth.