Development and conservation have always been a tough balancing act. Resource extraction and exploitation drive the wheels of economic progress, which in turn improves the quality of life for people. Development goals for large and populous countries like India dictate the pace and trajectory of social imperatives such as poverty elimination, food security, energy consumption, health, education, to name a few. But these imperatives directly clash with the need for ecological conservation.
In a broad sense, conservation doesn’t mean simply protecting our forests and rivers. It also means protecting the rights of the people who are directly dependent on them to derive their daily sustenance like adivasis, Scheduled Tribes and forest dwellers. They comprise sections of our population who live on the fringes of our society and are most vulnerable to the vagaries of resource exploitation. Further, they have lived on some of the most mineral-rich land for centuries, which gives them the rights to these common and collective resources.
In the cover story this month, we take this debate forward against the backdrop of the recently enacted Forest (Conservation) Amendment Rules, 2022. This amendment dilutes many critical provisions of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, which provided implied rights to forest dwellers and Scheduled Tribes and made it necessary to obtain the approval of gram sabhas for exploitation of natural resources in the protected areas. This right was upheld by the Supreme Court in a landmark judgment in 2013 in which it affirmed the primacy of rights of the Kondh tribe in the bauxite-rich Niyamgiri region of Odisha. But now, the new law has put the onus of securing the approval of gram sabhas on state governments, putting them on a collision course with their own people.
In this issue, we have also highlighted the rising incidence of “modern slavery”, which has been brought out by a report published by the International Labour Organisation. Despite economic progress, modern slavery through forced labour and forced marriage has seen a significant rise in the past five years.
We also carry a heartwarming story about a unique girls’ cricket team from the Shahbad Dairy area in Outer Delhi, which is one of the most crime-prone parts of the capital. These girls have claimed their rig htful place in public space through sport.
You will surely enjoy this issue.