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PMO Wants Dilution in Tribal Consent for Projects

NEW DELHI: The PMO has asked the environment and tribal affairs ministry to severely dilute the need for consent from tribals under the Forest Rights Act for diverting forests to projects. The decision effectively rolls back UPA's flagship programme for tribals — the Forest Rights Act — and also runs contrary to the position taken by the government before the Supreme Court recently in the high profile Vedanta case. In the case, the government had said tribal forests cannot be diverted for projects at all. At the moment, forest areas cannot be handed over to industry without the rights of tribals being settled in the impacted area and an explicit consent being secured from the affected gram sabha (village councils) after that. Though this requirement has not been followed strictly, the industry as well as infrastructure ministries have been up in arms against it, repeatedly asking for doing away with the regulations. Now, the PMO has asked the environment ministry, which gives forest clearances, and the tribal affairs ministry, the nodal point for the FRA, to dilute the regulations.