New Delhi (IANS) Failing to quell concerns of tribals on displacement from forest land, the government on Friday said it has decided to withdraw a draft for possible amendments to the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the government has withdrawn the draft circulated as it was collated by officials to discuss an amalgamation of the different forest laws in 11 states.
Javadekar said that this was perceived as a government draft and a sense of misunderstanding was brewing among tribals, adivasis that the government was trying to take away their forest rights.
The Environment Minister was at pains to convey that the government was trying to empower tribals rather than snatch their rights in the forests.
The withdrawal of the draft comes before the commencement of the Parliament's winter session where the government may not have wanted to be accused of being anti-tribals by the Opposition.
Javadekar said that this was only a draft prepared by ministry officials for discussions to align the forest laws in different states. Since the wrong impression had continued despite clarifications on more than four occasions, the government has decided to withdraw the draft, Javadekar said.
The Minister said that he has said on two occasions in Lok Sabha that the Modi government does not want to impede Adivasi rights and on the contrary is working for their empowerment by various steps like MSP for forest produce, landholding rights, increase in funds for development schemes tribals, creation of a district mining funds which helps those involved in mining.
He said the tree cover has increased by 13,000 sqkm, including the forests and even outside. He said the tribals and forest dwellers are paramount for enhancing the forest cover footprint and without them it is not possible.
The draft prepared by officials, he said was only an attempt to see the various forest laws can be put together in one draft.
The government has no intention of changing the Adivasi laws and since there is a continuing misunderstanding and wrong impression, the government on Friday withdrew the draft, the Minister said.