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Rajya Sabha passes forest bill by voice vote

Tuesday 19 December 2006

Special Correspondent

Crucial amendments suggested by Brinda will form part of rules: Minister

NEW DELHI: Parliament on Monday gave its nod for the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2006, seeking to empower traditional forest-dwelling communities by giving them security of tenure, access to minor forest produce and a stake in the presentation of natural spaces. The bill vests forest rights and occupation of forest land in forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers.

The Lok Sabha passed the bill on Friday. In the Rajya Sabha, where it was passed by voice vote, Tribal Affairs Minister P.R. Kyndiah assured CPI(M) member Brinda Karat that a number of crucial amendments she suggested would form part of the rules of the bill.

Describing it as a "historic" measure, Mr. Kyndiah said tribal people were integral to the revival, survival and sustenance of the forest eco-system. The forest dwelling people had not got their due share and land rights and had been living with a sense of uncertainty and alienation.

The amendments suggested by Ms. Karat relate to strengthening of the "Gram Sabha" for preparing a list of beneficiaries who would be able to legally extract minor forest produce. Another suggestion pertains to minor forest produce such as fuel wood, stones and waterbodies, over which the tribals and forest dwellers should have a right. They should also be allowed to transport the produce using hand-carts and cycle, she said.

Settlers in forest areas, brought in by the Government, should not be disturbed. "None of those already settled by the Government should be disturbed, their rights should be recognised and only encroachers should be disturbed," Ms. Karat suggested.

See online : The Hindu

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