‘Controversial draft not my doing’
Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar, who was in the state capital on Sunday, said the now-scrapped controversial draft amendment to the Indian Forest Act 1927 had been mooted by his department officials to bring about uniformity in forest laws across the country.
Javadekar told reporters in Ranchi that the government had not given any order to prepare the draft amendment but could not explain how, without the minister’s consent, the bureaucrats went ahead with the draft that gave sweeping rights to officials at the expense of forest-dwellers.
The senior BJP leader, here to meet party leaders and office bearers to plan for the Assembly elections in Jharkhand, said: “There were as many as 11 states with their own forest acts”. “In order to bring about uniformity, officials of the department mooted a draft for the amendment that started about two years back,” the minister said. “But the moment I came to know about this and realised it can create confusion in people’s minds, I immediately ordered its withdrawal (on Friday). The government had not given any order to prepare the draft amendment. Our government is committed to safeguard the interest of tribals across the country.”
Asked whether or not the announcement to withdraw the draft amendment on Friday was a violation of the model code of conduct in the poll-bound state, the minister said draft amendments had nothing to do with Jharkhand’s election and model code of conduct. “Every state has a tribal population and the draft amendment is not Jharkhand specific,” he said.
He claimed that the maximum number of forest land leases were granted to the state’s tribal residents during Raghubar Das’s rule.
Praising the Das rule, Javadekar said it brought development to the state. “Jharkhand is the first state in the country with a law that allows a woman to purchase land or house on a token payment of Re 1 as registration fee. As many as 30 lakh women have been given employment through self-help groups. Under Ayushman Bharat healthcare scheme, 57 lakh families have received health insurance cover. Left-Wing Extremism has been controlled,” he rattled off praise.
Javadekar claimed that in the past five years, the Opposition could not raise a finger at the Das government’s conduct and there was no corruption charge. But he parried questions on how a “zero-tolerant to corruption” BJP gave a party ticket to former health minister and independent MLA from Bhavnathpur Assembly Bhanu Pratap Sahi, who is facing trial in cases related to assets disproportionate to his known sources of income and the medicine scam.
He also avoided commenting on cabinet minister and Jamshedpur West MLA Saryu Roy being denied a ticket.
The JMM launched a barbed offensive against the BJP and Javadekar, with the party filing a complaint with the Election Commission of India to say Javadekar was trying to lure voters and create confusion in their minds with the withdrawal announcement in the poll-bound state. “We have brought this matter to the notice of the commission. So far, we have come to know the government has not issued any notification about the withdrawal of the draft amendments. The BJP is double-faced and anti-tribal from the core of its heart,” said JMM central general secretary cum spokesperson Supriyo Bhattacharya.
Ridiculing Javadekar for calling CM Das “honest”, Bhattacharya said: “When Das was the urban development minister, he was part of the sewerage and drainage scam which was exposed by Saryu Roy. The BJP denied Roy a ticket as he spoke out against the misdoings of the Das government.”
He added: “Our party has decided to support Roy who is likely to contest against the CM in this Assembly election. We are waiting for Roy’s next move and are in talks with our allies to support Roy.”