At a time when adivasi and forest dwelling communities across central India are facing brutality and devastation as a result of Operation Green Hunt, the Environment Ministry has proposed a set of amendments that will only increase the repression that forest dwellers face. In the name of giving the Wild Life (Protection) Act more "teeth", the Ministry has proposed amendments that will intensify the reign of fear that the wildlife authorities already exercise against forest dwellers in protected areas.
The proposed amendment will:
- Greatly enhance penalties under the Wild Life Act, which already has some of the most draconian provisions of any law in existence - including on bail, presumption of guilt and probation. Despite these provisions the fate of India's wild life is well known. Meanwhile, thousands of people across the country face false cases every year on the basis of these draconian provisions, many of them spending years in jail.
- Incorporate a dangerous and confusing provision on the Forest Rights Act, which will be read as a way to exclude the Act from most protected areas - a total violation of justice and the law.
- Totally fail to really address the problems with the current "wildlife conservation" model in the country - its use as a cover for land and resource grabbing by the forest authorities; its encouragement to corruption and brutality against people; and its obsession with autocratic extractive models of resource control that have nothing to do with "conservation."
The problem with the Wild Life Act is not that it does not give the wildlife authorities enough power; it is that it gives them too much.
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