Date: Mon, May 9, 2011
As you know, the situation in forest areas is steadily worsening, and we are confronted by a state machinery and corporate sector that is intensifying its resource grab with every passing day. Legal and democratic rights are being trampled upon with impunity. The government has now made it clear that it has no intention of implementing of the Forest Rights Act – the only law that provides some space for advancing a democratic agenda of forest control – and to ramp up and strengthen resource grabbing through Joint Forest Management on the one hand and corporate projects on the other. The recent grant of approval to the POSCO project – in which the Environment Ministry openly stated that it is taking forest land in violation of people’s rights – is an indicator of what is to come.
But the people’s resistance to these moves has also been building. Every major State has seen huge protests and mobilisations. A large padayatra and morcha took place in Maharashtra in March and more recently similar mobilisations occurred Gujarat and in Rajasthan (on April 25th).
In light of this, this is an opportune time for democratic movements to clearly show their opposition, at the national level, against this resource grab. After consultation at the state level among the groups in CSD and with political parties and other mass organisations, a mass rally is being jointly called in Delhi on May 20th. We expect people from more than 12 states to join.
The list of demands for the morcha is as follows:
The Forest Rights Act should be implemented in all forest areas, including protected areas, and the rights of all forest dwellers must be recognised. All Forest Department interference, illegal demands for unnecessary evidence, and illegal rejections should be halted.
All rejections and cases where people received less than the area claimed should be reviewed.
The gram sabha’s powers to manage, control and protect forests and other natural resources must be respected, and displacement should be halted.
PESA should be implemented and scheduling extended to all adivasi areas.
CFR rights should be recognised for all villages and habitat rights recognised for all PTGs.
Takeover of forest land for industries, plantations, so-called “critical tiger or wildlife habitats” and forced eviction of people must be stopped and those responsible for these acts should be prosecuted. The consent of the gram sabha for diversion and compliance with the law should be required in every case.
Joint Forest Management should be shut down. The money channeled to the Forest Department for JFM should be transferred to the Employment Guarantee Act and the rights and power of the community to manage forests should be recognised.
We hope all democratic and progressive forces will join us in our call for this national mobilisation. The venue and timing of the morcha will be communicated; please get in touch with us for more details.
On behalf of the Convening Collective
Campaign for Survival and Dignity