Forest Right Act bill not tabled in Assembly; tribes smell a rat
Srinagar, Feb 09: Forest Right Act bill could not be tabled in the ongoing Assembly session, twice, with the tribes claiming that political parties were “deliberately” hampering its implementation in the state. The PDP legislator, Qamar Hussain, has moved a bill to the Assembly, seeking implementation of the Forest Right Act in the state. The bill was to be tabled in Legislative Assembly on February 6, but could not be introduced. It was again to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. As the bill was not introduced on Thursday, Hussain protested in the Assembly, accusing that the bill was being deliberately “ignored”. Later, he staged a walkout. “I hope that the bill may be tabled in the Assembly and all parties shall support it,” he said. The Forest (tribal) Right Act has been implemented across India except JK after the Parliament passed the law in 2006. The tribal and forest dwellers have been demanding extension of the Act to JK, so that they too can enjoy “rights” on forest land. Talib Hussain, Chairman of All Tribal Coordination Committee, said that all parties were “maintaining” silence on the bill. “These parties do not want implementation of the Act in the state and have been exposed,” Hussain said. “BJP is opposing its implementation citing special status of the state, but at the same time wants abrogation of Article 370.” He said that Gujjars would field its candidates in elections and won’t support any political party. Zahid Parvaz Chowdhary, a social activist working for rights of tribals, said that “deliberate” attempts were being made that bill should not be tabled in the Assembly. “The political parties will face its consequences in elections,” Chowdhary said. He said that many tribes were living in forests since 1947. “The forest dwellers of JK are being denied their rights by not implementation of the Act,” he said. “On critical laws such as GST, Forest Conservation Act, SARFEASI Act, BJP had no reservations, but they are only opposing the Forest Right Act.” Speaker Legislative Assembly, Kavindar Gupta, did not respond to phone calls. However, an official of the Legislative Assembly said that there were least chances of tabling the bill in the Ongoing Assembly session. On December 18, 2006, the Indian parliament passed Forest (tribal) Right Act- 2006 whereby the ST and other traditional forest dwellers were equipped with the rights on forest land and other resources. This Act gives rights to forest dwellers to cultivate land to a maximum of four hectares and use rights to minor forest produce. PDP Minister Chowdhary Zulfikar has said that bill should be passed so that Forest Right Act, 2006 is implemented in the state. “The tribal in JK should also get benefit and be protected under the Act,” Zulfikar said. However, senior BJP leader, who is state Forest Minister, Chowdhary Lal Singh, has said that Forest Right Act cannot be implemented without the consent of the state Legislature, as JK enjoys special status under the Indian constitution. “We will not allow this Act to be implemented in the state. The implementation of the Act will destroy the state’s forest,” Singh has claimed.