Forest Conservation Rules (FCR) (2022)

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    In News

    • The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has secured FRA (Forest Rights Act) implementation reports of all States and Union Territories by invoking its Constitutional powers to directly approach the Supreme Court of India.

    Background

    • After the introduction of the FCR 2022, the NCST wrote to the Environment Ministry asking that they be put on hold because they will invariably violate provisions of the FRA.
    • In response, the Environment Ministry had insisted that the rules were framed under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and that the NCST’s apprehension of these rules being in violation of the FRA was “not legally tenable”.
    • The ST Commission wrote to the Supreme Court to seek all materials filed before the court in connection with a batch of petitions challenging the constitutionality of the FRA.
    • The Commission is looking to review the overall implementation of the FRA at the ground level.

    What are Forest Conservation Rules 2022?

    • The FC Rules, 2022 do not require the collector to obtain the consent of Gram Sabhas before the In-principle approval. 
    • This means, the Union Government can give its final approval and will, thereafter, leave it to the state government to pass an order for de-reservation or diversion or assignment. It is then left to the state government now to make sure that the claims of forest dwellers are settled.
    • Neither Gram Sabha consent is required nor is it necessary for the collector to oversee the process of recognition and vesting of individual claims of forest rights before the grant of In Principle approval.
    • Those applying for diverting forest land in a hilly or mountainous state with a green cover of over two-thirds of its geographical area or a state/UT with a forest cover of over one-third of the geographical area would be able to take up compensatory afforestation in other states/UTs where the cover is less than 20%. 
    • The new guidelines allow private players to use the land for plantation, which can lead to monoculture cultivation.

    Criticism of the new Rules

    • The FC Rules, 2022 snatch away the participatory rights of the forest dwellers by making them simple bystanders to a process that affects their land and forest rights, their culture and livelihood. 
    • The issue of Gram Sabhas and FRA, according to the new rules, comes into play only after a final approval has been given by the Central Government.

    Forest Rights Act, 2006

    • About:
      • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006- popularly known as Forest Rights Act (FRA) recognises the rights of forest dwellers and the importance of their participation in the forest management processes. 
      • It also marks a shift from the colonial era view of forest dwelling communities being isolated entities which prey on forests. 
      • The act is based more on the principle that the communities are a part of forest ecosystems.
      •  ‘Gram Sabha’ is an important entity within the act’s tools to achieve its objective.
    • Objectives:
      • To undo the historical injustice occurred to the forest dwelling communities
      • To ensure land tenure, livelihood and food security of the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers
      • To strengthen the conservation regime of the forests by including the responsibilities and authority of Forest Rights holders for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological balance.

    National Commission for Scheduled Tribes

    • It was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003.
    • By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions – (i) the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), and (ii) the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) 2004.
    • Powers of the Commission: For Investigation and Inquiry, the Commission is vested with powers of a civil court having authority to:
      • Summon and enforce attendance of any person and examine on oath;
      • Discovery & production of any documents;
      • Receive evidence on affidavits;
      • Requisition any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;
      • Issue Commissions for examination of witnesses and documents; and
      • Any matter which President, by rule, may determine.

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