While progress on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill remains deadlocked, the government and Congress have struck a compromise on the CAMPA Bill, the other pending contentious legislation, paving the way for its passage over the next few days.
The Centre has agreed to “explicitly” include the provisions of a proposed Congress amendment in the rules of the legislation, which had been holding up the passage of the legislation in the Rajya Sabha. Rules stipulate how a law will be implemented.
The CAMPA Bill seeks to create a Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) and a Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF).
jairam ramesh, fra, The authority is supposed to manage the funds collected as compensation for diversion of forest land for setting up industries, factories or infrastructure projects.
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The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in the last session, but hit a roadblock in the Rajya Sabha because of the amendment, that was moved by former environment minister Jairam Ramesh. The amendment sought to include a provision saying that the land for compensatory afforestation would be selected only after ensuring that no forest-dweller or tribal had staked ownership claim over it under the provisions of the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The proposed amendment, therefore, said that a certificate from the gram sabha of the area to this effect must be mandatory before compensatory afforestation could be undertaken.
The Congress had alleged that the provisions of CAMPA Bill, without the safeguard, were an attempt to dilute the FRA, which empowers forest dwellers and tribals by giving them ownership rights over forest land they live or depend on for their livelihood.
The government had claimed that the amendment was not necessary, with previous environment minister Prakash Javadekar saying the FRA was as much a law as CAMPA would become, and it would be implemented in any case.
Today, Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Digvijaya Singh and Laxman Shantaram Naik met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave in Jaitley’s room in Parliament House to resolve the issue. “The Finance Minister has assured us that FRA concerns would be reflected explicitly in the rules of the law. The minister (Environment Minister Dave) has also agreed to give an assurance to this effect on the floor of the House,” Ramesh told The Indian Express.
Ramesh said while his party would be ready to support the Bill on this assurance, incorporating the amendment in the law would have been a much better proposition. He said he would move the amendment in any case.
Incidentally, the agreement came on a day Congress president Sonia Gandhi accused the government of snatching the right of forest dwellers. “The Modi government has snatched away the rights of Adivasis, Dalits and other traditional forest dwellers, and systematically weakened environmental laws,” she said addressing the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting.