Cong. for Forest Act amendment: Antony

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Nov. 10. The Kerala Chief Minister, A. K. Antony, has said that Congress Chief Ministers have resolved to seek an amendment to the Forest Act to facilitate distribution of forestland to landless Adivasis.

Mr. Antony told reporters on his arrival here today after attending the two-day conclave of Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled States at Mt. Abu that all the 14 party Chief Ministers who had attended the conference were of the view that the provisions of the Forest Act militated against provision of land to landless tribals.

Provision of land to Adivasis was the best way to protect forests because they were the children of the forests, the Chief Minister pointed out.

Mr. Antony said it would be hard to fault the Adivasis who had encroached into the Chathiroormala hills in Kannur district and put up huts because they would, in all likelihood, have done so out of fear that they may not get any land. The State Government, he said, had done its best to provide land to Adivasis under the existing laws.

The Chief Minister said the Adivasis' behaviour was better as compared to that of the priests heading Infam, the farmers' organisation, which had staged a sit-in inside the Agriculture Minister, K. R. Gouri's office in clear violation of the laws. The Infam leaders were educated persons, but still had no qualms about violating the law. In comparison, the Adivasis were a better lot. However, there was no question of anyone being allowed to take the law into their hands, he added.

Replying to questions about the widespread criticism about the functioning of the police, Mr. Antony said though the police had been given freedom and powers in the hope that they would serve the people better, there had been instances of some officials misusing such powers. The Government's effort would be to rectify the flaws in the functioning of the police and to tone up the force's functioning.On the Central move to disinvest its equity holding in the public sector Fertilizers and Chemicals Travancore (FACT) Limited, the Chief Minister said his Government was of the view that every effort must be made to retain the company in the public sector.

If necessary, the Government would approach the Centre to appraise it about the State's stand on the issue, he said.

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