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Empowerment of tribals in Maoist-hit areas stressed

Highlights

Meet of Collectors of Left Wing Extrimist-affected districts concludes Hyderabad: Empowerment of tribal...

Meet of Collectors of Left Wing Extrimist-affected districts concludes

Hyderabad: Empowerment of tribal communities, recognition of their basic rights over their landholdings and local resources along with reversal of decisions that created a feeling of alienation of the native communities are the key areas emphasised by the participants - Collectors and ITDA project officers from Maoist-hit districts across India – of the two-day consultative meet on 'Development Challenges in Left Wing Extremist (LWE)' - affected areas organised by National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD).

Addressing the valedictory session on Saturday former member of Planning Commission BN Yugandhar suggested effective implementation of provisions of Forest Rights Act, the latest Land Acquisition Act passed in the monsoon session of the parliament and also recognising the supremacy of gram sabhas in either accepting or rejecting land acquisition proposals for implementing private projects and even government land requirements with regard to scheduled areas to combat Naxalism these areas.

Yugandhar exhorted the collectors against solely following the dictates of the forest department but take a holistic approach under the PESA and FRA acts which focused on empowering of tribals and restoring their rights as sons of the soil. He also suggested to the collectors to withdraw all petty cases framed against the poor tribals and restore confidence in the government.

Several participating collectors emphasised the need for a focused approach in addressing the issues pertaining to rural communities besides upholding their basic rights on their land and local resources. They stressed the need for taking steps for recognition of local people as the ultimate bosses over their land. The participants presiding over the destinies of their respective districts are unanimous in the view that the supremacy of gram sabhas should be respected. Neither the panchayats nor the local tahsildhar had any authority to bypass the gram sabha.

The PESA and the FRA acts have provisions for bringing the gram sabhas to the centre stage of village development.

One major amendment in the Land Acquisition Act is making of Social Impact Assessment (SIA) by the district collectors themselves as against the earlier practice of making the assessment by a private agency funded by the project promoter which worked against the interests of the poor.

Among the several recommendations include empowerment of local communities, implementation of provisions of the law in toto, restoration of accountability and trust element on the district administrators, prevention of mass migration and exploitation of the poor by the middlemen.

Earlier NIRD director general MV Rao who coordinated the conference said that 83 districts in the State were affected by LWE and outlined the measures already initiated by the Union Government through several agencies including NIRD in combating the menace not only as a Law and Order problem but also on the social and economic front. He also assured steps for extending all possible help to the collectors in the respective districts for providing Geo Information Service by providing satellite data of their local resources and scientific mapping f them.K Raju, former special secretary to Andhra Pradesh, SM Vijayanand, additional secretary, Union Ministry of Rural Development, MN Roy, former principal secretary, West Bengal and KB Saxena, former secretary, Ministry of Rural Development also gave their suggestions at the meet.

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