Amid protests by the Congress-led opposition, which has been seeking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s response and presence in the Lok Sabha on the Manipur situation, the Lower House on Wednesday passed the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill 2023.
The Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day, soon after the Bill was passed.
The Bill seeks to amend the Forest Conservation Act (1980), which was brought in to prevent exploitation of India’s forest reserves and gave powers to the Central government to compensate adequately for any land used for non-forest purposes.
The proposed legislation also exempts certain types of land from the purview of the Act.
These include land within 100 km of India’s border needed for national security projects, small roadside amenities, and public roads leading to a habitation.
The state government requires prior approval of the central government to assign any forest land to a private entity. The Bill extends this to all entities, and allows the assignment to be made on terms and conditions specified by the central government.
The bill was passed within 40 minutes through voice vote after only four MPs participated in the discussion on it.
Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, while replying to a discussion on the Bill, said it has been brought in to encourage agro-forestry, biodiversity and increased tree cover.
He further said that the proposed legislation aims to boost road connectivity in Left Wing extremism affected areas as well as border and tribal areas.
The Bill was first introduced in Lok Sabha on March 29 this year during the budget session of Parliament.
It was, however, referred to the joint committee of Parliament, led by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal for scrutiny amid objections raised by several opposition members.
The committee,s report, accepting all provisions of the Bill, was laid in Parliament on July 20.
Though several opposition members from Congress, Trinamool Congress and DMK had sent dissent notes to the joint panel, they were overruled and the report was laid in both Houses of Parliament.