NEW DELHI: Facing flak for controversial amendments to Indian Forest Act, 1927, the central government Friday withdrew the Zero Draft, which was unveiled early this year for public consultation giving bureaucracy all rights over forests.
The move comes ahead of Jharkhand assembly election that has a sizable tribal population of around 30 per cent.
Clarifying the moves, the environment ministry said that it was not a government draft but a study that was only limited to take views of stakeholders.
Announcing the decision, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said: “The centre has no intention to take away tribal rights. Eleven states have created their own forest laws after amending the Forest Act and a study was done to see if they can be improved. But people thought this study was the government’s draft to amend the Indian Forest Act.”
Many social organizations working for rights of tribals have registered protests against the draft.
“We welcome the decisions as the proposed amendments would have made forest officials the most powerful officials in the country, with the power to arrest, raid, seize and shoot to kill without facing any accountability — powers that even the security forces do not enjoy in disturbed areas,” according to a statement issued by the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a tribal rights organisation.
“The Minister claimed that the proposed amendments were a draft that resulted from a study, but the letter sent to state governments on March 7 stated that this was a proposal for legislation,” said the organization adding they would continue with their protests on November 17.