In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren said the new forest rules have “uprooted the rights of millions” of tribals, and demanded steps to protect their interests.
As per the letter, the Forest Conservation Rules 2022 have eliminated the earlier mandatory requirements of obtaining the prior consent of the gram sabhas before utilizing forest land for non-forestry purposes.
Expressing his strong objections to the rules, CM Soren wrote: “In Jharkhand, thirty-two indigenous communities exist harmoniously as one with nature, practising a way of life where trees are worshipped and protected. Cutting down trees without even acquiescence from the people who look upon these trees as their ancestors is a painful attack on their sense of ownership.”
He said that the new forest rules will eventually uproot the rights of tribal people who consider forests as their home.
“Their traditional lands may get snatched away in the name of development, and these simple, pure-hearted people of our country will have no say in destroying their habitat,” Soren wrote.
In 2019, the ministry of environment, forest and climate change diluted the forest rules and made it mandatory to take consent of gram sabhas before stage 2 clearance for the diversion of forest land for other purposes. However, in a recent notification, the ministry scrapped the mandatory rule.
Calling the new forest rules “shocking”, CM Soren said, “A situation has now been created where once forest clearance is granted, everything else becomes a mere formality. Almost inevitably, the state governments will be under even greater pressure from the Centre to accelerate the diversion of forest land.”
“Our laws must be inclusive. Therefore, I request you to bring about changes in the Forest Conservation Rules 2022 that will establish systems and procedures that protect the rights of the tribal and forest communities in the country,” he wrote in the letter.