Forest eviction issue gets thornier

the extensive drive of the Union ministry of environment and forests (mef) to evict encroachers from more than one million hectares of forestland across the country by September 30, 2002, is facing stiff resistance in a number of states. The recent mef notification (see box: Highlights) could affect approximately 350 million people living in and around forests.

The notification issued by the mef puts the onus of executing the eviction orders on the state government in accordance with a time-bound action plan. But doubts are being raised regarding several clauses in the notification. In what seems to be an arm-twisting tactic, the notification links the plea for clearance of several schemes sponsored by the Union government to the progress shown by the states in the eviction drive. The notification empowers forest officers to conduct summary trials on those violating the orders.

Civil society organisations working with tribal communities in Andhra Pradesh (ap) and Orissa are planning to launch an aggressive campaign against the orders. In Assam, the eviction drive has already been withdrawn after a meeting of chief ministers of the seven north-eastern states.

Though the notification makes a mention of the eviction of