While two of his ministerial colleagues have asked him to withdraw his objections to a Maharashtra government notification on management of forest villages, Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram Friday asserted that his ministry had a right to intervene if any law or rule was made in conflict to the Forest Rights Act.
“My ministry’s mandate is to ensure the implementation of the Forest Rights Act. We will have to step in when we feel that any state government or other body is making rules that are in contravention to the provisions of the Forest Rights Act,” Oram told The Indian Express.
Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had, in separate communications, asked Oram to withdraw a order of his ministry instructing the Maharashtra government to hold “in abeyance” a set of rules it had framed for the management of forest villages in the state. The Tribal Affairs Ministry had argued that the rules framed by the Maharashtra government were “prima facie in violation” of the Forest Rights Act, which gives people living in forests legal property rights over their land and many forest products.
Both Gadkari and Javadekar had told Oram that since the Maharashtra government had framed rules under the Indian Forest Act of 1927, which is administered by the Environment Ministry, the Tribal Affairs Ministry did not have any jurisdiction to raise objection.
But Oram, who has not withdrawn the order, argued otherwise. “It is true that the Indian Forest Act is not under my ministry. But the Forest Rights Act is. And if my ministry feels that any other law can potentially come in conflict with the FRA, it is duty-bound to intervene,” he said.
Oram said he had received the communication from both his Cabinet colleagues and had called for legal advice and consultation to sort out the matter amicably.