A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi rued that Rajya Sabha failed to pass the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, Congress today hit out at the government for not accepting the amendments proposed by opposition parties.
Lashing out at Modi, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that the Prime Minister “failed” to mention that his own government’s “inexplicable” decision of not including any provisions for respecting the rights of forest dwellers led to failure of the passage of the Bill in the Upper House.
Ramesh said that it is upto the government to explain why it is so keen on transferring thousands of crores to forest bureaucrats without any measures to ensure that these funds are “not misused”.
“The Prime Minister failed to mention that the reason this Bill could not be passed was his own government’s inexplicable decision to not include any provisions in the Bill for respecting the rights of forest dwellers bestowed by the Forest Rights Act, 2006 when engaging in afforestation projects,” Ramesh said.
The Lok Sabha during the recently concluded session had passed the CAF Bill which aims to pave the way for “unlocking” of nearly Rs 41,000 crore earmarked for forest land which is lying unspent for about four years.
“It is for the Prime Minister to explain why his government is so keen on transferring thousands of crores to forest bureaucrats without any measures to ensure that these funds are not misused and that the rights of our country’s poorest people are protected,” Ramesh said.
Modi had said,”States would have got Rs 42,000 crore if we had decided on the legislation,” he said, adding each state would have got Rs 2000-3000 crore.
Noting that the amendments were also supported by CPM, JD(U) and TMC, Ramesh said that this was done at a time when plantation activities of forest authorities are resulting in conflicts across the country.
“When the opposition gave notice for amendments to this effect, the government could have accepted them; but instead of doing so, the government chose to defer the Bill.
“This shows clearly that the government does not intend to respect forest rights, as is apparent from its moves to lease forest lands to private companies and similar steps,” he said.