SC order to raze Khori Gaon is a jarring example of coercive environmentalism

Source: The Indian Express

Synopsis:

This is a return to an era of green imperialism, wherein forests around the country are routinely handed over for capitalist profiteering while the landless poor are displaced in the name of restoring ecologies.

Introduction:
  • Recently, the Supreme Court of India has refused to stop the demolition of over 10,000 settlements encroaching on forests (Khori Gaon) in the Aravalli range in Haryana’s Faridabad district.
    • After that, four petitions arose after the SC ordered the petitioner in the lead case, the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad (MCF), to evict the basti in the middle of the pandemic in 2020.
    • The MCF has the ignominious success of vacating 150 acres of urban land with the densest habitation of affordable homes of the working poor.
  • Following this, nearly a lakh people have been pushed into the throes of suffering as most of them have lost their only home in this world.

On the other hand, using “rule of law”, well-maintained forests around the country are routinely handed over for capitalist profiteering through private mines, dams and real estate development.

Read more: SC refuses to stay demolition of settlements in “Aravalli range” in Haryana
Issues with the SC decision

The razing of Khori Gaon is a jarring example of forest conservation models that frame forests versus people.

  • The Forest Rights Act was enacted to restore the dignity and place-based rights of Adivasi communities and forest workers. But, the policies for the relocation of people even from protected areas and tiger reserves now eschew forced evictions and forced rehabilitation.
  • The issue with the Punjab Land Presentation Act of 1900: The Haryana state government and judiciary are aiming to restore forest cover in the Aravallis using the colonial Punjab Land Presentation Act of 1900. But this is not the right move.
    • Since the forest land under the PLPA covers 25 percent of Haryana. It includes lands that are public and privately owned in rural and urban areas
  • Against Ishita Chatterjee’s scholarly work on Khori Gaon: Ishita Chatterjee’s work on Khori Gaon shows that this basti should be seen as a restorer of quarry land. This is because, the residents turned these areas that were mined till the SC’s mining ban in 2002, into liveable habitats by using individual and community labour.
    • This is no mean feat when governments around the world struggle to reuse mined areas after the earth has been polluted and exhausted of all its productivity.

 

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