Parliament unlocks Rs 42,000 Cr forest fund, J&K gets Rs 926 Cr

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Rajya Sabha, currently in session, has finally passed by voice vote compensatory afforestation legislation paving way for unlocking of a whooping Rs 42,000 Crore fund which was lying unspent for last four years. The Lok Sabha had already passed the Bill in May last year. 90 per cent of the amount will go to states and the remaining will be there with the central government.

With this final approval by the Parliament, a fund of Rs 926 Crore would be made available to Jammu and Kashmir for undertaking plantation, assisted natural regeneration, protection of forests and forest related infrastructure development

The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, hanging fire since May last year when it was approved by the Lok Sabha, seeks to provide for setting up of funds under the central public accounts and that of each state governments for undertaking plantation and developing forest related infrastructure.

This law will ensure expeditious utilisation of accumulated unspent amounts available with the ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) which is presently around Rs 42,000 crore.

“The money available under this fund is huge. This fund is not of anybody but of Team India,” Minister for Forests and Environment Anil Madhav Dave said while replying to a debate on the bill.

He said the money would be “returned” to the states which have suffered deforestation on account of development.

Asserting that government is committed to the development, Dave said the funds would be released at the earliest.

Odisha would get the maximum amount of about Rs 6,000 crore, followed by Chattisgarh which will get Rs 3,861 crore and Rs 3,459 crore for Madhya Pradesh.

Andhra Pradesh will get Rs 2,223 crore, Arunachal Pradesh Rs 1462 crore, Gujarat Rs 1100 crore, Himachal Pradesh Rs 1395 crore, Jammu & Kashmir Rs 926 crore, Jharkand Rs 3099 crore, Karnataka Rs 917 crore, Maharashtra Rs 2,433 crore, Rajasthan Rs 1425 crore, Uttar Pradesh Rs 1,314 crore and Uttarakhand Rs 2,210 crore.

The minister said that bill has been prepared taking into account the Forest Right Act. “We will have to keep faith on the state governments.

They are competent and elected. Spoonfeeding goes against the spirit of federal structure. We hope that the states would use the funds wisely,” Dave said.

On the concern expressed by some members that the bill does not empower “forest dwellers, tribals and gram sabhas”, the minister assured the House that the rules under the law would be framed after necessary consultations with Gram Sabhas. He said the consultations with Gram Sabhas would even be recorded.

Dave also assured the House that if the rules are not found to be adequate, the government will “revisit” it after one year. The minister said the entire process would be democratic.

After his assurance, Congress members Jairam Ramesh said that he would not move amendment to the Bill. His party colleagues Subbirami Reddy and Hussain Dalvai also did not move their amendments, leading to its smooth passage.

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