The draft National Forest Policy 2018 has raised hackles of those advocating the rights of tribal communities, with the criticism being that the proposed policy for forest management is highly flawed, detrimental to forest dwellers, and is aimed at giving corporate entities an opportunity to exploit forests for commercial gains.
The draft was unveiled by the ministry of environment and forests on March 17, and comments or suggestions were sought on it from the public by April 14. However, the response to the draft policy has been quite critical.
The CPI(M) submitted its suggestions to the environment ministry on Friday, stating that the main thrust of the policy is to privatise and commercialise forests. The note, submitted by CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat, said the law had eliminated the rights of tribal communities for access and management of forests and their produce. The Left party has demanded that the government withdraw the draft policy.
The policy, the CPI(M) said “...is in essence a blueprint to commercialise forests to serve the interests of industry, and to bring in the private sector for the actual management of forests through the so-called public private partnership model.”
“If allowed, this will also pave the way for changing the character of natural forests to production or plantation forests,” the CPI(M) said in its note. It further said the policy, by afforestation, means planting commercially useful timber.
A civil society response, comprising the views of various non-governmental organisations, was also submitted today. The note, submitted under the aegis of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, criticised the policy for its neglect of the adivasis and traditional forest dwellers.
“Strikingly important in this draft policy is the absence of the perspective and recognition that is manifest in the Forest Rights Act 2006, which seeks to address the historical injustice inflicted on the adivasis and other forest dwellers through the colonisation of the forest,” it said.
The activists also charge the government with junking a draft policy it had written in collaboration with civil society. “The ministry has to explain why a draft policy written in collaboration with civil society was retracted, why no reference to such a draft is being made anywhere, and why it had to be revised,” they said in the note.