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Synopsis:

The article contains the introduction to the Indian Forest Act, 1927. It contains the speculations o recent amendments being done in this act and the expected outcomes of these steps taken by the Government.

In India national and state governments are collectively responsible for maintaining the forest resource sustainably. In a practical sense, state forest departments serve as custodians of the public forest assets and as forest authorities, controlling forest resources on the basis of the forest management plans they send to the central government. The state authorities often also play a commercial role, being involved in cultivation, processing, and trade through forest creation companies responsible for manufacturing within the public forest estate.

Since this Indian Forest Act,1927 has allowed Indian governments to enact rules governing various aspects of forest management, rules vary from state to state. There are many national policies which should be familiar to those working in the Indian forestry field. While not an exhaustive list, here are some important Indian laws and policies related to the environment, forestry, and trade, among others.

The 1927 Indian Forest Act is the governing law of the country for forestry, sought to create and protect areas with forest cover or significant wildlife, control the movement and transit of forest products, and levy duties on timber and other forest products. This was based primarily on previous Indian Forest Acts introduced under the British and provides the legal basis for forest management. It defines the procedure by which a state government can declare an area a Reserved Forest, a protected Forest or a Village Forest.

This also specifies what a forest offense is, what activities are prohibited within a protected forest, and what punishments are levied in violation of the law. The Act is valid in some Jurisdictions, as it is. Some States have passed their own rules, which are largely modified versions of the 1927 Indian Forest Act. The Act was amended in 2012 to include a ban on fresh clearances in the forests and setting fire to a reserved forest.

Recently, in the year 2018, there have been some amendments done in the Forest Act, 1927.  The amendment of Section 2(7) of Indian Forest Act, 1927 has resulted in the curtailment of the status of bamboo as a tree. This enables the livelihoods of forest communities as well as private growers. Prior to this, bamboo was known as a herb. As a consequence, bamboo that was felled or harvested, whether found in or taken from a forest, was called "timber." The Act gave state governments the power to control bamboo trade and movement. The legislation not only limited forest communities' livelihoods, but also limited private farmers. Farmers and stakeholders have been battling against this bamboo categorisation for decades.

Therefore, after amending Section 2(7) of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, bamboo is no longer a tree and felled bamboo is no longer timber, either. So any bamboo grown by millions of farmers in private or homestead land doesn't need permission from any state forest department to fall or move. Such rules were primarily a product of a command and control system's colonial period mentality. And there was no reason why bamboo, which belongs to the ‘Poacea’ family of grasses, should be treated like a tree. The ordinance was passed in both legislative houses, and a notice was issued after presidential approval.

Also, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has begun the process of "comprehensively changing" India's bedrock of forest governance — the Indian Forest Act, 1927. There are certain Expected outcomes of this step by the government:

  • The procedure will require review of all parts of the Act. This will weed out the outdated laws and add laws fit for the present.
  • There is currently no definition of forest in any Indian law that relates to forests or their governance. The amendments would also also provide meanings of terms such as forests, waste, ecological services etc.
  • The legal concept of forests would have significant implications for the protection of forests as well as the enforcement of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006.
  • The amendments would require improvements to the penalties and fines imposed in the IFA, adding clauses relating to carbon sequestration, environmental services etc.

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