December 27, 2017
Sukhendu Sekhar Roy speaks on The Indian Forests (Amendment) Bill, 2017
First of all, when illegal felling of trees is going on unabated, this Bill should not show the path of legal felling of trees. Once this Bill is passed it will open a pandora’s box or it will open a way for the illegal felling of trees. So, the government should ensure that this should not ensure the illegal felling of trees in the coming days.
Sir, now, before this Bill was placed before this House, an Ordinance was promulgated under Article 123. Article 123 categorically states, may I be allowed to quote: “If at any time, except when both Houses of Parliament are in session, the President is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such Ordinance as the circumstances appear to him to require”.
I am not questioning the satisfaction of the President but I am questioning the objective of the government as to what were the circumstances necessary for the promulgation of the Ordinance. On November 23 this Ordinance was promulgated and in the second week of December this House was supposed to be convened. But this time it didn’t happen and that is an altogether different thing. Why could the Government not wait for some more time? What is the urgency, what was the compulsion on the part of the Government?
I would request the Honourable Minister to clarify this position because I am inclined to share the apprehensions expressed by different quarters, including those raised by Ramesh ji, that there are certain other considerations. I have gone through the press statement given by the Minister (and it appeared on November 25) in different newspapers, and I quote, “This will now create a viable option for cultivation in 12.6 million hectares of cultivable wasteland. It will encourage farmers and other individuals to take up plantation, block plantation of suitable bamboo species” etc.
Was any study was conducted by the environment ministry before the minister made this statement? If at all, when was this study done? Why it has not been informed to the nation, particularly the legislature? Before promulgation of the ordinance, the ministry or the government should held a press statement and said that these are the considerations for which the government has decided to promulgate the Ordinance.
In a plethora of cases the Supreme Court has stated/ruled against promulgation of the Ordinance, now and then. And in a recent case, the Supreme Court judgment in Krishna Kumar vs the State of Bihar, the seven member bench of the Supreme Court has held that re-promulgation of Ordinance is impossible, impermissible and termed it as a fraud on the Constitution.
Although, this is not a case of re-promulgation, even then in the same case, the Supreme Court has said that the Constitution does not permit the President or the Governor as a parallel law making authority independent of legislature, because Parliament is supreme. The legislative power is with the Parliament and the legislatures.
Sir, this is why I want to know from the hon Minister what was the urgency and exigency in promulgating the Ordinance on November 23? According to me, there was no compelling circumstances or exigencies so far the Ordinance is concerned.
So far the Bill is concerned, the objective and reasons, if I may present in the statement of objects and reasons and I quote from the 2nd paragraph-“ The farmers are facing hardships, in getting the permits for felling…”
Those who are actually facing hardships are the farmers, not the corporates, because nowhere in this country, the farmers are getting any remunerative price. Although while initiating the Bill the Honourable Minister said that this government is determined to increase the profits of the earnings of the farmers to the extent of 50 percent by 2022. They have to wait till 2022 and without knowing who will come in 2022, whether they will remain or any other party will come (to power).
But in the electoral promises, in the Manifesto they have stated that for the farmers they will ensure 50 percent profit over and above the cost of production. Eighty two months have been lost and now the government is saying that you will have to wait till 2022. And in 2021 they will say you will have till 2050 and this will go on. This is an empty promise which has been established beyond doubt.
Now Sir, I’m concluding. One point I would like to make, Sir, is that this Bill is not important at all because if bamboo is being cultivated in the land other than the forest it is alright but by this Bill the government takes away the definition of the tree as definition of forest produce. In that case, we are going to convert forest activity into a non-forest activity. This is my point.
An exemption is sought for the bamboo zone in the forest area because you are amending the definition of the tree in Forest Act. If this amendment is passed, no permit is required for felling and transiting bamboo as per the requirements of forest produce. Therefore, the government must re-look at the Bill in the interest of the forest community and the farmers as a whole.