Ministry of Environment and Forests Engages in Fraudulent Statistics
Ministry of Environment and Forests Engages in Fraudulent Statistics Again
Campaign Condemns Illegal Statistics on "Encroachment"
The Campaign for Survival and Dignity condemns the recent press release by the Ministry of Environment and Forests quoting figures for "encroachment on forest lands." With the passage of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, the Ministry can no longer continue with figures for "encroachment" that were based purely on the Forest Department's illegal denial of the livelihoods and lands of forest dwellers. Until the process of recognising the land rights of forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act is complete in all areas, any figures for "encroachment" will inherently be based on illegalities and faulty records. The Ministry's release is clearly aimed at misleading the public and spreading alarm about supposed forest destruction.
The absurdity of the MoEF's statistics can be seen from a few facts. In the Supreme Court, the Ministry has itself highlighted that that many forest lands underwent faulty or non-existent recording of rights, that huge areas are disputed between the Revenue and Forest Departments (roughly 7 million hectares nationally), etc.. Yet, the press release implies that all cultivation on such lands is illegal encroachment. Moreover, the Orissa government recently confirmed that more than 40% of Orissa's forest land has never been surveyed. The same is true in the hill areas of all States in the Northeast, 1.2 million hectares of "orange areas" in Madhya Pradesh, etc. In other words, these State governments have no idea about even the boundaries of many of their forest lands, leave alone which land is "encroached" and which is not. Yet the MoEF has blithely quoted encroachment figures for all these States as well.
The Forest Rights Act was passed precisely as a response to this chaos, itself a direct result of the forest bureaucracy's absolute control over forest land (much of which is not and never was forest). The passage of the Act was a clear admission by the government that the forest bureaucracy has failed both to protect forests and to respect the rights of forest dwellers. The Ministry's decision to release blatantly false statistics at this time, relying on the same forest records and bureaucracy, is nothing short of an attempt to defraud the public and undermine the law of the land.
Campaign for Survival and Dignity __._,_.___
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