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Pre-empt eviction of tribals from forests, Rahul asks Congress CMs


New Delhi: Congress President Rahul Gandhi has asked Chief Ministers of party-ruled states to file petitions seeking review of an apex court order asking state governments to evict tribals whose claims to forest land under the Forest Rights Act had been rejected.

In letters to Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Punjab, Gandhi sought their "urgent intervention" to the Supreme Court's February 13 order directing Chief Secretaries of 21 states to evict those whose claims to be forest dwellers have been rejected.

The court also said the eviction should be carried out on or before July 24, the next date of hearing.

"In order to pre-empt large scale evictions, it would be expedient to file a review petition and take any other action you may deem fit," said Gandhi in the letter.

"For millions of adivasis and other forest dwellers, Jal, Jangal and Zameen (water, forest, land) is integral to their Right to Life guaranteed by our Constitution. It is time for us to work towards deepening the promise of India for everyone," he said.

Gandhi also referred to a status report of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs on the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, which highlighted that less than 45 per cent of the Individual Forest Rights and 50 per cent of the Community Forest Rights claims were approved in 2018.

"Further, MoTA had pointed out that forest staff often raised 'frivolous' objections leading to rejection. In this backdrop, eviction based on rejected claims alone, without a proper review and appeal process violates the due process of law," he said

Gandhi has also written to the Congress chief ministers asking them to revoke amendments made to the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, in order to stop exploitation of farmers.

With not much time left for the Election Commission to announce the schedule of the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress-led state governments are in the process of approaching the top court over the matter.

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