The Forest Advisory Committee , demonstrated yet again that it is more interested in corporate interests than in upholding the law. It decided to refer question of violations of the Forest Rights Act in the POSCO project area to the Tribal Ministry. One should note the following:
- As the majority POSCO Enquiry Committee report said, the final forest clearance was illegally granted without the required certificates from the gram sabha. Nobody disputes this, but the FAC does not seem interested.
- Two separate government committees – the Saxena Committee and the POSCO Enquiry Committee, including the dissenting member – have confirmed violations of the Act.
- The Orissa government took over land in July in direct violation of both the Forest Rights Act and the Forest (Conservation) Act and has admitted the same on record. In law this should lead to revocation of clearance.
- Till date the Orissa government has not been able to produce a single gram sabha resolution as required under the law and is instead lying about the eligibility of people in the area – when two separate inquiries have confirmed eligibility.
- The Ministry of Tribal Affairs is only the nodal agency charged with monitoring and assessing FRA implementation. It is no more responsible for checking every project than the Department of Personnel and Training (nodal agency for RTI) is responsible for answering every RTI application. Every Ministry is bound by the law. When granting a clearance without FRA compliance, the MoEF is destroying people’s rights and breaking the law.
The Ministry and its officials are desperately shopping for somebody to give them a pro POSCO report, since they are finding it difficult to get around the proof of illegality. This is the same thing they have done in several other projects.
Why do we have a Forest Advisory Committee if it cravenly passes the buck when confronted with illegalities? If it decides to follow the FAC’s recommendation, the Ministry should take the next logical step, dissolve the Forest Advisory Committee and request an amendment of the Forest (Conservation) Act to relieve it of a legal responsibility that it obviously does not want to fulfill.