Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Comments by Ashok Sharma , I.F.S

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

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Comments by Ashok Sharma I.F.S

 

SCHEDULED TRIBES AND OTHER TRADITIONAL FOREST DWELLERS

( RECOGNITION OF FOREST RIGHTS ) RULES, 2007 

           

Of the 43711 villages in the State, 15694 are forested. The forested villages have a population of over 24 million which accounts for about 25% population of the State. There are 353 tehsils in the State, of which 27 are located in the Scheduled Areas, where 9.1 million tribal population of the State lives. The draft rules have the potential to cause  major adverse  impacts on forests and wildlife in the State, specially in light of the Constitutional provisions which many of these rules seek to override.

 

The Act defines “community forest resources” as customary common forest land within the traditional or customary boundaries of the village or seasonal use of landscape in the case of pastoral communities, including reserved forests, protected forests and protected areas such as Sanctuaries and National Pars to which the community had traditional access. However, Atricle 243G, which empowers Panchayats and not the Gram Sabha, to plan and implement village level schemes, does not include the same in the Eleventh Schedule, i.e. the Village List! The Provision of the Panchayats ( Extension to the Scheduled Areas ) Act, 1996 also does not make any exception in this regard. Obviously, the Constitution does not envisage extending the powers of Panchayats beyond the Village limits.  The  Provision of the Panchayats ( Extension to the Scheduled Areas ) Act, 1996, introduces the role of Gram Sabha in the village administration. The instant Act and the draft rules, however, seek to extend purview of the The  Provision of the Panchayats ( Extension to the Scheduled Areas ) Act, 1996 to the non Scheduled Areas too!

 

The Eleventh Schedule incorporates “maintenance of community assets” it item no. 29. However, it remains to be clarified whether this includes “community forest resources” per se. Although, the Indian Forest Act, 1927, as applicable to the State of Maharashtra, does not define “community forests”, it does provide, under Section 28, for the constitution of “village forest” But, such village forest also is limited to the boundaries of the village Panchayat concerned. “Community Forest” is also not defined either in the Act or in the Draft Rules.

 

Similarly, the Constitution empowers the State Legislature to powers of Panchayats / Gram Sabhas, for the Scheduled and other areas. Can this power  be over ridden by a set of Rules, made under a Central Law? The draft rules seek precisely to do so which appears to be going beyond the Constitutional provisions.

 

The Draft Rules introduce certain definitions which are not incorporated in the Act. They include “bonafide livelihood needs”, “claimant’, ‘fixed demand holdings”, “forest rights committee”, “other traditional rights” and “primarily reside in and who depend on forests or forest lands”. Under the definition of other traditional rights, traditional agricultural practices have been incorporated, which is a gross externality.

 

 

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Tribal Bill objections Continued

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

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TIME LIMIT:-

Absence of a time frame for the determination of rights is a lacuna which could result in prolonging the status qou particularly by those individuals/Gram Sabhas who may be loosing out or may not be benefiting by the provisions of the Act. Hence, it is important that a time limit for completing the exercise be imposed in Rules 19, 26 to 29 and 34.

 

SURRENDER OF LAND/FUTURE ENCROACHMENT

The rules are completely silent on the mode and manner for the surrender of land/rights, which are declared to be beyond the permissible parameters or by those whose claims are rejected.  The rules are also silent on the issue of prevention of future encroachment/ occupation of forestland by the present beneficiaries or by the existing/future members of their families or by others. This pregnant silence carries within it a signal to hold on to illegally occupied forest land and to further encroach on forest lands, keeping in mind the pace of regularizations during the last four decades, that the government at some point of time in the immediate future, for reasons not very difficult to guess, would buckle under and regularize such encroachments. Absence of these twin checks would prove to be disastrous for the forests and wildlife and the ecology of the country.  

 

Drafted By:

Raj Panjwani,

Advocate.

 

 

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Tribal Bill Objections Continued

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

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RULE 16:-

This rule confers rights over ‘disputed lands’ i.e. those forests, sanctuaries, national park lands where the final notification has yet not been issued. Rule 16 (2) shifts the onus of proof on the State by declaring that “the  presumption of rights over such disputed lands shall be in favour of the claimant unless otherwise decided.”. This presumption places the persons in illegal possession of the alleged disputed lands at an advantageous position in comparison to those who are in possession of other forestlands. In the case of persons who are in possession of non-disputed forestlands the onus is on them to prove their possession by producing evidence as enumerated in Rule 31. This classification in favour of disputed land occupiers is arbitrary. Secondly, the term ‘disputed land’ is vague and has not been defined under the Act nor explained under the Rules. Thirdly, the power conferred on the Gram Sabha and other executive bodies to decide on the “non-adherence to due process of laws” in Rule 16 (1) is   contrary to all prevailing jurisprudence. The issue whether an action or order is in violation of the due process clause can only be decided by a judicial authority. It is a judicial function and cannot be conferred on any of the executive authorities created or referred to under the said Act or Rules.

 

RULE 17:-

The incorporation of the clause “who may have been evicted without due process of law; pattas in forest villages and pattas issued but cancelled or extinguished without following the due process of law” in Rule 17 is illegal for the reasons stated above under Rule 16.

 

RULE 24:-

Duties and functions conferred under the said Rule are in violation and disregard of the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution and the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.

 

RULE 31 (4) (a):-

Admitting the claims of ‘other traditional forest dwellers’ on the basis of physical attributes/traditional structures/pictures would be travesty of justice particularly due to the exclusion of the Evidence Act. It’s a loophole which would lead to wide abuse as there would hardly be any one alive who could possibly vouch on the existence of an un-recorded structure to the effect that it has been in existence for the last over 75 years. A person vouching on the existence of 75 years old structure need to be atleast (75+12 =87) years old. Secondly, pictures by themselves would not establish the 75 plus years antiquity of such physical attributes/traditional structures.

 

RULE 31 (4) (b):-

The clause “recognized as having been legitimate resident of the village at an earlier period of time” as applicable to ‘other traditional forest dwellers’ is again vague and subject to interpretation which could be either way. It is suggested that proof for recognition of residence should be recorded in a public document and not a private document or oral statements.

 

(Continued in next post)

 

Drafted By:

Raj Panjwani,

Advocate.

 

 

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Tribal Bill Objections drafted by Lawyer

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

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OBJECTIONS:

RULE 2:-

Parliament by section 14 (1) of the RFR Act delegated the  authority to the Central Government to “make rules for carrying out the provisions of the Act”. Section 14 (2)  of the said Act lists the parameters and purposes for which the rules can be made by the Central Government. The Central Government in the exercise of such delegated  power can not enlarge the scope of the provisions of the main legislation i.e. the Act. The Central Government by defining terms like “bonafide personal needs”, “other traditional right”, “primarily reside in”, “sustainable use” etc. has gone beyond the delegated authority.

 

RULE 3:-

Gram Sabha cannot be a judge its own cause and decide civil disputes between its own members in as much as all the adult members of the village constitute the Gram Sabha as per Section 2 (g) of the Act. Secondly, the Gram Sabha would be deciding the extent of customary boundary of the village. The term “Customary boundary” in itself is vague and which would lead not only to strife inter se Gram Sabhas but would also devastate the forest areas in issue. Reason possibly could be, each village Gram Sabha in order to out do the other, trying to take the maximum of forest produce from such unchartered imaginary boundaries.

 

RULE 11:-

Rule 11 (1): Inclusion of “any person wholly or substantially dependent on the family” within the term family is inconsistent with provisions of the Act. It could lead to abuse  for claiming extra benefits under the scheme of the Act.

 

RULE 13 & 14:-

Minor forest produce, its use and utility is just not limited or exclusive for the   residents of forest areas. The minor forest produce is an integral and a crucial component for the preservation and conservation of the flora and fauna of the area, particularly for areas which are ecologically important e.g. Sanctuaries, National Parks etc. Similarly, is the role and importance of water bodies, the use and control of which has been handed over to the Gram Sabha. There is absence of effective mechanism to monitor the “Sustainable” exploitation of such minor forest produce and water bodies. Keeping in view the provisions of Rule 24 in particular those of Rule 24 (3) which declares that in case of conflict between a decision of a the Gram Sabha and other usergroup e.g. forest or wildlife department, the decision of Gram Sabha shall prevail.

 

 

( Contd in the next post)

 

 

Drafted By:

Raj Panjwani,

Advocate.

 

 

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Abstract of article by Arnab Sen

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

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Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill
The value of forests in the lives of local communities has been widely discussed in academic literature, yet forest use is a domain of contestation. The new Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill needs to be contextualised in the ground reality of conflicting interests and claims. First, the category of scheduled tribes is contested in social science discourse. Second, forest and tribal policy in India is not adequately sensitive to value systems of local communities and this creates considerable contestation between administration and the local people. This paper revisits these contestations in the worldwide body of academic discourse. There has been fair consensus in the literature that value systems and customary institutions of local communities have well-developed mechanisms that regulate sustainable lifeways and conserve local ecosystems, though unquestioning acceptance of these may also lead to errors. What is required is for policy to effectively deliver benefits to people and conserve biological diversity, and it is anthropologists who can mediate a dialogic space between the people, their civil society institutions, networks of advocacy, public and local intellectuals, the academia, policy and governance.
--Arnab Sen , Esther Lalhrietpui--
30-09-2006    [SPECIAL ARTICLES]
Issue : VOL 41 No. 39 September 30 - October 06, 2006

Environment Awareness

Thanal Conservation Action and Information Network

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 08, 2007

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The Zero Waste Centre supported by the Kerala Hotels and Restaurants Association, Kerala Tourism and Indian Coast Guards have embarked on a major cleanup drive at Kovalam. The months of February and March have been declared Cleanup Kovalam months.

In one week of cleanup which started January 28th 2004, the regular dumping sites behind the Light House beach, the Samudra beach and the Guest House beach have been targeted. 225 sacks of discarded plastic water bottles totaling more than 37500 bottles in number have been fished out of the ponds, wetlands and private properties. Another 100 sacks containing discarded glass bottles, broken glasses, tube lights and bulbs , other plastics and mostly mucky materials have also been fished out.

Twenty two brands of plastic bottles including the major brands - Aquafina, Kinley, Classic, Bisleri, Golden Valley were fished out in abundance. Earlier in October, Greenpeace had organized a cleanup and symbolically packed and transported sacks of PET bottles to Coke and Pepsi demanding "Extended Producer Responsibility". This time the Cleanup has been very exhaustive and is intended to showcase the need for immediate and serious interventions from all stake holders for stopping this dumping culture and a message to the bottled water companies to take responsibility of this waste.

In the coming weeks shops, restaurants and hoteliers in Kovalam would be supplied with paper bags and paper cups as part of the awareness drive to stop plastic material use. Use of packaged water would be discouraged and water kiosks selling clean filtered water is also being setup.

Link: http://www.thanal.co.in/

Climate change and Global Warming

International Consumer habits driving global warming

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 08, 2007

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Activists have long accused global corporations of being bad environmental citizens. But the problems of climate change and deforestation are part of a larger phenomenon, in which globalization is but one factor among many. As Nayan Chanda, editor of YaleGlobal, discusses in his new book “Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers, and Warriors Shaped Globalization,” international consumer habits drive environmental devastation more so than globalized corporations. As a result, activists’ efforts could be more productively directed at building an international consensus on pollution reduction, environmental regulation and sustainable development.

Powerful new advances in communications technology relay the realities of environmental degradation and natural disasters to the world’s public more quickly than ever before. Activists are the new preachers in a modern world – and the immediacy of technology gives them unprecedented opportunities to convey their message of morality to a global audience. Building powerful movements with online blogs and instant-chat programs, environmentalists must admit that globalization might not be so bad. – YaleGlobal

Nayan Chanda
http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=9366

Climate change and Global Warming

Global Warming and Biodiversity

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 06, 2007

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As global warming continues, natural habitats will change. In theory, animals would move as their habitats became too warm, but due to the pace of global warming, experts worry that some animals won’t have time to adjust and could go extinct.

Conservationists therefore propose building biological corridors, natural spaces connecting habitats, that would allow wildlife to relocate. But people and development block some of the most logical routes. Most wildlife-assistance organizations don’t have the money to buy land, and displaced people would add to environmental destruction.

In Costa Rica, wildlife organizations encourage local residents living along the national park La Amistad to grow organic coffee. The arrangement is environmentally friendly and attracts tourists, bolstering local income. Such local and private efforts are small in scale – and slowing the pace of global warming, protecting biodiversity and a way of life for many communities in any lasting way, requires government action and international cooperation.

Source:  http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=9400

 

Engineers and Environment

Two wheeler pollution

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 06, 2007

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Motorcycles typically get about double the gas mileage of even the most fuel-efficient cars—but that doesn’t mean they are green. They spew up to 15 times more pollution per mile, mostly in the form of smog-causing hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides.

CSE Findings

The Green Rating of Indian Industry project was started by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in 1996.  According to CSE, among the two and three wheelers,  models of Hero Honda (Splendor and CD 100) are the most eco friendly two wheelers. They have scored above average in vehicle and engine design and are one of the very few four-stroke two wheeler fitted with any kind of pollution control equipment.
Bajaj boxer,  has scored well in vehicle and engine design but lacks in emission control equipment and comparatively poorer emission.
The best performing two-stroke model ranks fourth amongst the two wheelers. The lowest score has been obtained by Kinetic Safari moped, which obtained average scores in design and emissions and very poor scores in pollution control equipment and emissions.


Battery powered?
In the meantime, Evera Auto India is set to launch a battery powered motorcycle in the northern states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in July.
The company based in Firozabad (Uttar Pradesh)is hoping to corner a niche segment in the expanding two-wheeler market with the launch of the eco-friendly vehicle. The motorcycle has been built indigenously and will be launched in the third week of July according to  Mukesh Bansal, promoter of Evera Auto India.

A battery that runs a 250-watt motor powers the motorcycle, making it a non-polluting vehicle. After being charged for six hours, the motorcycle can run for 80 km at a maximum speed of 25 km per hour.

"Till now, the electric powered motorcycles that were available in India were imported from China. We have worked over the technology of this motorcycle for the last two years," Bansal said.

"We are targeting a specific class who have to travel 10-15 kilometres everyday. The running cost of the vehicle is extremely low. The only price that the owner has to pay is the charging cost of the battery."

The motorcycle will be priced somewhere between Rs 25,000 and Rs 32,000 ($600-780) and the company expects a good sale in the first year of its launch.

( Source: Various Media reports )

Film Reviews- Wildlife, Nature and Environment

"The Great Indian Tiger Crisis " wins award

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 05, 2007

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"The Great Indian Tiger Crisis" won the award for Best Point of View  at the International Wildlife Film Festival 2007 at Montana, USA

Synopsis

The Great Indian Tiger Crisis

Mirror Films Private Limited

Producer: Arindam Mitra

India was shocked to learn, in early 2005 that some of her Tiger Reserve Forests had actually no tigers left. The Prime Minister set up a task force with eminent conservationists and sent them out on a fact finding mission across the length and breadth of the vast number of Reserve Forests. This film stalks the task force to unearth shocking facts and becomes an important critique of the conservation policies in India. Part road movie, part fact finding, part political discourse and part philosophy this is a fascinating piece of film too. (77 min)

 




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