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Recent civilian killings in Kashmir won’t trample democracy: Forest minister

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Says Centre not diluting Forest Conservation Act

Srinagar: Union Minister Bhupender Yadav on Thursday said the people of Kashmir are against violence and the recent spate of civilian killings will not break their morale nor will it trample the country’s democracy.

Speaking to reporters here, Yadav – the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change – said the killings of two teachers in Eidgah locality of the city earlier in the day were unfortunate.

“It is unfortunate and painful. Those killed were innocent. If some mischievous elements, at the behest of Pakistan, think that they can break the morale of anyone, or trample the country’s democracy through violence, or impact the lives of the people through violence, then they are misunderstood,” he said.

Yadav said the Centre, the J&K LG’s administration and local officers are taking cognizance of such incidents.

“The people of Kashmir are also against the violence,” he said.

The minister was here as part of the Centre’s outreach programme for Jammu and Kashmir.

Asked about the proposed amendments to the Forest Conservation Act, and CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat’s letter to him on Wednesday, Yadav said the Centre was not diluting the Act.

“We are not diluting the Act. We have kept the issue before the people. I want to tell you that a meeting of the National Wildlife Board took place recently. We have sanctioned eight proposals for the rural areas of Kashmir. Drinking water, roads, schools are reaching the villages, in the forest areas.

“The issue only is how the poor will get relief… There is no diversion of forests and we have not yet framed them, we have sought public opinion. Let her (Karat) also put her viewpoint. A decision will be taken after discussing every opinion,” the union minister said.

The Environment Ministry has proposed to amend the Act to do away with the requirement of prior government approval for the development of border infrastructure on forest land, saying it causes delay in the implementation of critical projects.

On October 02, it had invited suggestions from states, union territories and all people concerned on the consultation paper on the proposed amendments in the Act, within the next 15 days.

In the letter to the minister, Karat said the changes are designed to “undo” various Supreme Court judgements related to protection of forests and payment of compensation.

Karat alleged that the paper raises national security issues to permit projects in the name of national security to escape the provisions of the law.

She said the circular only gives 15 days for sending suggestions, not even 30 days as called for by the pre-legislative consultation policy. (With PTI inputs)

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