The Rajya Sabha unanimously passed the contentious Compensatory and Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill, 2016 that allows States to access nearly Rs. 42,000 crore and channel into afforestation projects.
Provisions of the bill
1. The Bill, which establishes the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under each State, was passed by Rajya Sabha.
2. The fund will be utilized to carry out the afforestation activities.
Objections on the bill
1. Provisions of the Bill vesting greater powers in the forest bureaucracy than on resident tribals;
2. the possible violation of tribal rights, and
3. gram panchayats not having the final say in deciding what kind of forests could be grown
4. Several members of the House also raised doubts on whether it would lead to an ecologically-sustainable replenishing of forests, and whether tribals were not persecuted by officialdom under the garb of regenerating forests.
Assurance by government
The deficiencies in the bill would be addressed within the Rules of the Bill. Any deficiencies could be dealt with in future after a lapse of 1 year, he added. “The provisions of the Panchayati Raj Act are powerful enough to ensure that forest rights [of tribals] and consent of gram panchayats are respected,” said Mr. Dave, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
History of the bill
The Bill was first passed in the Lok Sabha during the UPA government’s tenure but was in cold storage after opposition in the Rajya Sabha. It was again cleared by the Lok Sabha this year after incorporating amendments.