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Draft Indian Forest Act 2019

Draft Indian Forest Act 2019

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  •   GS 3 || Environment || Governance: India || Forest Laws & Policies

 Why in News?

The draft Indian Forest Act, 2019 was recently released by the Union government, proposing an overhaul of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

Concerns with regard to the present Draft Bill

  • The draft Bill reinforces the idea of bureaucratic control of forests, providing immunity for actions such as use of firearms by personnel to prevent an offence.
  • The hard-line policing approach is reflected in the emphasis on creating infrastructure to detain and transport the accused.
  • To penalise entire communities through denial of access to forests for offences by individuals.
  • Such provisions invariably affect poor inhabitants, and run counter to the empowering and egalitarian goals that produced the Forest Rights Act.
  • For decades now, the Forest Department has resisted independent scientific evaluation of forest health and biodiversity conservation outcomes.
  • In parallel, environmental policy has weakened public scrutiny of decisions on diversion of forests for destructive activities such as mining and large dam construction.
  • Impact assessment reports have mostly been reduced to a farce, and the public hearings process has been
  • The exclusion of ‘village forestry’ from the preview of Forest Right Act (forest official supersedes Gram Sabha) is legally contradictory and would add confusion on the ground.
  • The draft mentions that the state governments could take away the rights of the forest dwellers if the government feels it is not in line with “conservation of the proposed reserved forest” by payment to the people impacted or by the grant of land.
  • India’s forests play a key role in moderating the lives of not just the adivasis and other traditional dwellers, but everyone in the subcontinent, through their impact on the climate and monsoons. Their health can be improved only through collaboration.

Way Forward:

  • The government needs to launch a process of consultation, beginning with the State governments to ensure that a progressive law is adopted by all States, including those that have their own versions of the existing Act.
  • The Centre must hear the voice of all stakeholders and communities, including independent scientific experts.
  • The finalising law should aim to reduce conflicts, incentivisetribals and stop diversion for non-forest uses.
  • This can be achieved by recognising all suitable landscapes as forestsand insulating them from commercial exploitation.

Indian Forest Act, 1927:

  • The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was largely based on previous Indian Forest Acts implemented under the British. The most famous one was the Indian Forest Act of 1878.
  • Both the 1878 act and the 1927 one sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and duty leviable on timber and other forest produce.
  • It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest.
  • It defines what a forest offence is, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act.

Additional References

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/humanise-the-law/article26891105.ece

 Mains Question

Discuss the issues over tribal rights ?