UPA yet to uphold tribal rights

UPA yet to uphold tribal rights
Highlights

Groping in wilderness even after nine years New Delhi: As UPA is all set to celebrate its ninth anniversary...

Groping in wilderness even after nine years

New Delhi: As UPA is all set to celebrate its ninth anniversary on Wednesday, Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo is peeved that his Ministry has no teeth in protecting and upholding Constitutional safeguards for tribals.A The pace at which forest clearances are being given by the Environment Ministry is hampering the progress of the tribals. Deo feels that the powers to give forest clearances should be vested in the Tribal Affairs Ministry rather than Environment Ministry headed by Jayanti Natarajan, as the forests are inhabited by Tribals.

v kishore chandra deo

Despite dashing letters to nine Governors of States, having Agency areas, and the Central Ministers concerned, the Tribal Affairs Minister is finding himself in a helpless situation, as far as protecting the rights of the tribals is concerned. That the Tribal Affairs Minister has no role in according clearances under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in areas inhabited by tribals is the biggest surprise. Local inhabitants of the forest areas are being deprived of their pre-existing rights, along with sustainable sources of livelihood. There is denudation of forests on a massive scale by timbre lobbies and diversion of forest land for industrial purposes. Besides, there are indiscriminate mining activities and inundation of large tracts of forest land; people living in such areas are rendered homeless. Lamentably, hundreds of children have been orphaned.

The Tribal Affairs Minister has no say in the Tribal Sub-Plan funds utilisation at the Centre. In 2012-13, Rs 21,000 crore has been allocated by the various departments under the tribal welfare schemes, but the Tribal Affairs Minister cannot monitor it. Ironically, when Andhra Pradesh SC/ST Sub-Plan was accorded statutory status, it was showcased as a major achievement. A If that is not enough, the Tribal Affairs Minister has no say in Vedanta Group's bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri hills of Odisha, which violates the Constitutional safeguards in the tribal-dominated areas. Continued on Last Page

Deo explained that the movements of Left-Wing Extremism have been fuelled and propelled in the heartland for over two decades now. The root cause for such a situation is continuous exploitation, oppression, deprivation and neglect decades. "The Supreme Court has stated that Naxalism is an oversight of Constitutional provocations relating to administration of Scheduled areas and tribes of the country," he said. He quoted the Supreme Court Bench, led by Justice A K Patnaik, observations: "Nobody looks at Schedule V and Schedule VI of the Constitution and the result is Naxalism. Urbanites are ruling the nation. Even several Union of India counsels are oblivious of these provisions under the Constitution."

True to the observations of the Supreme Court, Additional Solicitor-General of India, Begum Fouzia Mirza, counsel for Union of India in Chhattisgarh, made an averment in the State High Court that the exercise of the powers by the government in respect of Schedule V of the Constitution is an extension of the executive power and must be exercised through aid and advice of the Council of Ministers by the Governor. This is contrary to the Constitutional scheme of things i.e., the governance of the nine Scheduled V States of India must be exercised independently by the Governors, which is the original intent of the Constitutional provisions with regard to tribals.

The Ministry of Home Affairs obtained the legal opinion of Attorney-General G E Vahanvati on the powers of the Governors of the Schedule V States and Article 244 (1) of the Constitution in respect of Scheduled Areas and Tribal Areas. He referred to a number of Supreme Court averments, which made it clear that in dealing with Schedule V areas the powers of the Governor are unfettered, wide and limitless. "In performance of the functions of and exercise of the powers under Fifth Schedule, the Governor is not bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers of the State," was the opinion given by the Attorney-General G E Vahanvati.

Union Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo said, "Frankly speaking, I am deeply concerned as to how the concerned ASG Fouzia Mirza erred on such a critical legal matter. For the concerned ASG to take such a contradictory position without any substantive basis, notwithstanding well-spelt out judicial interpretations of by High Courts and Supreme Courts is tantamount to, I am compelled to assert, an act of professional impropriety. Furthermore, her averments are contrary to the opinion of none other than the Attorney-General of India."

Venkat Parsa

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