22, Mar 2020 | CJP Team
While the Covid-19 pandemic has grabbed all our attention and the PM of India has announced a ‘Janta Curfew’ in a bid to curb the transmission of the Coronavirus in India, we must while ensuring the safety of ourselves and others, not forget other important issues that plague the country. Forests are the lifelines of India and with rapid industrialization, they’re being increasingly encroached upon by the governments, often in the garb of ‘public interest’. However, the actions of the government have a completely opposite effect on forests and the indigenous communities belonging there.
Forests in India and those who nuture our biodiveristy needour special attention. In India, almost 60% of the forest cover is found in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha and nearly 275 million people there depend on forests for their livelihoods and survival, reported Newsclick. For years, Adivasis and forest workers have been displaced and their livelihoods threatened due to the nexus between greedy corporates and corrupt bureaucrats. Ususally this happens with full blessings of the government. To understand how this can be stopped and how such communities can be protected from losing their identities, organizations have come together to involve the general public and make them aware of and how they can help forest dwellers.
CJP stands with the millions of Adivasis whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the shocking order by the Supreme Court. We are working to ensure the forest rights of Adivasis in Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh, and to deepen our understanding of the Forest Rights Act and support Adivasis’ struggles across the country. Please support our efforts by donating here.
On International Forest Rights Day, March 21, Oxfam India, in collaboration with Nagrik Learning and CPR India, announced the launch of a course on understanding community rights and forest governance in India within the legal and constitutional framework.
Oxfam India in collaboration with @NagrikL & @CPR_India announces the launch of a course on understanding community rights and forest governance in India within the legal and constitutional framework.
— Oxfam India (@OxfamIndia) March 21, 2020
However, the approval for a number of infrastructural projects and permission for mining has led to massive displacement of Adivasis and especially put women at risk of violence. The government doesn’t seek the consent of forest land owners and many cases of the manipulation of Gram Sabha documents have emerged. While India doesn’t have an Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) framework like other countries where governments have to seek consent of indigenous countries before any development project is implemented, there are laws like the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, The Forest Conservation Act and the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR), 2013 ensure provisions for public participation allowing land owners to voice their opinions with regards to developmental projects.
A report by Centre for Policy Research, one of Oxfam’s partners in its new initiative, said that though a consent clause was added in LARR 2013, five categories including PPP infrastructure projects – projects with high profit margins and “public purpose”, were exempted from the clause. These excluded categories have now become the major portion of all contested land acquisition cases in court.
People on forest land are mostly bereft of the knowledge of laws that protect their land. They get the information of impact on their land only at public Gram Sabha meetings and then, it is often too late for them to voice their dissent and save their resources. Post this, while some land owners are offered financial compensation, it is not the solution to the problem. Financial compensation cannot be a substitute for the usurping of natural resources and mass displacement that is caused by most infrastructure projects.
It is the responsibility of the government to ensure an environmental balance by protecting the forests in India and bring no harm to the livelihoods of those who depend on them.
You can have a look at the course by Oxfam India, Nagrik Learning and CPR India and enroll for it here.