THE All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU), in a statement issued on December 27, has said that it is deeply disturbed by the government of India’s presentation of the amendment to the The Indian Forest Act, 1927 before the parliament on December 27, which has removed the bamboo plant from the status of a tree after 90 years. In itself this will encourage people to go in for bamboo cultivation but the interest of the paper industry and the opening up of forests to corporate interests seems to be the major reason for the hurry to make this change in the existing law rather than the interest of the peasantry, forest dwellers and tribal people.
The provisions in the Act are a crude attempt to violate the powers given to gram sabhas under the Forest Rights Act, the necessary permission from the state government to the transfer of bamboo from one state to another reflecting the federal character of the Indian constitution and the permission granted to corporates to take over the existing sources of bamboo in our forests, which will reduce the amount of the bamboo available for construction purposes and cottage industry of the local people. This is an attack on the democratic rights of the Indian people who most need them now under the NDA rule. The anti-peasant character of this Act is obvious as it has a provision to hand over large areas of waste land to corporates rather than distribute it to the landless.
We see this as yet another measure to take over the farming and culling of bamboo from the hands of the people, the local bodies and state governments and reduce it to yet another monopoly of the centre to hand it over to the corporates who are already looting the banks with government help while the rural masses were forced to hand over the cash economy that they depended on to the corporates through demonetisation as there are hardly any banks in the villages. The crop insurance scheme also has helped the corporates rather than the farmers as is obvious from the figures we have of how they have gained 94 per cent of the money put into it by the government while the farmers got barely 6 per cent.
AIAWU has called upon all its units to take up the issue of local resources being under the control of local government, the powers of state governments and social justice, and ensure that this Act is debated and discussed widely before being passed.