"If necessary we can change the Forest Conservation Act"

  • 14/01/2001

What would be your charter of development?
I don't have any charter except what the people expect from us. We have taken over at a time when people have high expectations. The government will implement the people's agenda.

But what is your priority?
The struggle for the new state is based on natural resources, its distribution and management. Jal (water), jungle and jamin (land) will be the three crucial sectors that we will be working on. I agree that a new state with its own exclusive problems and demands need a new strategy. But at the same time I would like the development strategy to evolve naturally on the basis of people's needs.

How will you kick-start the process?
The first thing is administrative reforms, especially at the grassroots level. We will introduce administrative reforms and ensure the panchayat's revival. Once this is done, panchayats will be given the power to monitor and plan their own development agenda.

Can you elaborate on the 'three crucial problems' and your strategy?
Soil and water conservation integrated with forest management will rejuvenate the natural resources. This will also take care of the agricultural sector, which has been almost abandoned for want of irrigation facilities.

Tribal communities have demanded restoration of traditional rights over forests and some political parties have also highlighted the need to modify forest laws.
It is natural for tribal communities to manage forests. As far as the laws are concerned, we will adopt the Bhagidari system under which the government is only a catalyst.

Do you think a better forest law and people's involvement in its management would help you in curbing the Naxal problem?
Restoring law and order is my priority and I believe in dialogue. If the Naxals are really fighting for the people, then they should give up violence. In turn, I will assure them that people would get their rights.

Even if it needs change in the Forest Conservation Act?
Yes. As such we need to review it. If necessary why can't we change it?

How do you plan to solve the water problem?
We are going for a massive watershed development programme, including traditional water harvesting. Panchayats will be made responsible and users' groups will be formed. To start with, we will request the villagers to dig community ponds for which we are ready to compensate for the land that will be required.

How will you strike a balance between mining and industrial development and natural resources like forest, land and water?
Mining is not a sustainable way of development. My focus will be on people who are dependent on forest and agriculture not on the factories.

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