NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Environment and Forests on Saturday disowned the Draft National Forest Policy which it posted on its website on June 16, stating that it was not a forest policy at all, but just a study done by a government institute.
The draft policy, which was widely reported by the media, had received flak from several quarters as it appeared to contravene the Forest Rights Act and promote private timbre plantations. The Ministry took almost 10 days after it was posted on the website to issue a statement stating that “what has been uploaded on the website was a study done by Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal”.
The statement, issued by Director-General, Forests and Special Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests S S Negi, said they did not take any decision on the policy and the study report prepared by IIFM Bhopal was inadvertently uploaded as Draft Forest Policy on the website.
“As Director General Forest, I would like to clarify that this document is not the Draft Forest Policy. The ministry has an elaborate procedure for preparing draft policy document, which takes into account multiple inputs from all stakeholders including State governments, think tanks and public. No process has been carried out on the document prepared by IIFM Bhopal, which is only one of the inputs. A draft forest policy will be put in public domain once due process is carried out and views of all stakeholders taken into account.”
Interestingly, the deputy director general of the ministry, in an official memorandum on June 16, had clearly stated that the draft policy has been prepared and sought feedbacks from stakeholders by June 30.
The draft policy which the ministry has now disclaimed ownership over mentions that it was draft commissioned by the environment ministry, funded by the United Nations Development and prepared by the Indian Institute of Forest Management, a government institution. The document said it had been prepared “based on village level group discussions, regional and national level consultations, inputs from various stakeholders and analysis of primary and secondary data sets carried out during 2015-16.