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Tribals need autonomy for progress

Tribals need autonomy  for progress
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Shivaji Sarkar Three years ago, then Union Home Minister Chidambaram set a two-three-year deadline for solving/eliminating Naxalites. His answer:...

Shivaji Sarkar Three years ago, then Union Home Minister Chidambaram set a two-three-year deadline for solving/eliminating Naxalites. His answer: Heavy police action. Soon after, 76 CRPF men were killed by the Maoists in jungles bordering Orissa and Jharkhand. The killings continue today. During 2010-12, over 2030 people were killed, up from 1600 in 2009, though the number of Central forces and expenses more than doubled. Undoubtedly, police action is not a paying proposition. The attack on Chhattisgarh's Congress leaders speaks of the Naxals strength along with their liaison with some leaders. Preliminary investigations reveal that intra-party rivalry led to the Naxalites being used. Last month, Union Tribal Minister Kishore Chandra Deo underscored blatant violation of the Constitution's Article 244, Schedules 5 and 6: To protect the tribal's rights and protect the rights of other ethnic groups in the North-East. These led to tribals being denied forest land rights, including their dwelling units, leading to severe discontent and alienation. Importantly, the Schedules vest Governors with unbridled and unfettered independent legislative authority whereby, via a notification, they can direct that an Act shall not apply to Scheduled or other areas in the State and repeal or amend any Parliament or Assembly Act or existing law in Scheduled areas, when good governance or peace is disturbed due to land or money-lending issues. This apart, there are simpler solutions which are not being considered. Recently, the Supreme Court upheld the primacy of the gram sabha and amended forest rights rules which came into force from last September, stating that the Fifth Schedule's object is to preserve tribal autonomy, their cultures and economic empowerment to ensure social, economic and political justice for the preservation of peace and good governance in Scheduled areas. Pertinently, the Centre-appointed the Bhuria Committee to recommend whether the Panchayat Raj system could be extended to Scheduled areas favoured democratic decentralization in 1995. Based on this report, the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, was enacted. Yet, neither the Centre nor State Governments are adhering to basic tribals' welfare, forgetting that forests belong to them, not even to State Governments which continue to impoverish tribals'. Worse, State corporations and societies registered under the Companies Act too are blatantly usurping tribal land. Undoubtedly, mining activities are ecological disasters. Not only does the local populace suffer humiliation by being uprooted from their homes but is also deprived of sustainable livelihood; it also compromises other rights and reduces them to destitution. Certainly, it is not development when tribals are deprived of their livelihood and denied jobs to increase profits of some entities. Tragically, Naxalism's growth since the mid-1960s is commensurate with the blatant corporatization of tribal land wherein, in some pockets, these corporates use the Red Brigade when it suits them to further their causes. True, through its Bharat Nirman campaign the Government is busy proclaiming that tremendous development is taking place. The reality is the opposite. Already, two Central initiatives to push development in Maoist-affected areas are in trouble. The Government has slashed funds for the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) and road connectivity project in Naxal-affected districts to provide basic infrastructure facilities to poor tribals and villagers. The Road Transport Ministry has earmarked only Rs 5400 crore for roads in Red terror districts against the required Rs 16,000 crore. In addition, the Centre has earmarked just Rs. 1,000 crore for targeted development in Naxal districts, less than half of the Rs. 2,400 crore that is released annually to 82 districts under the IAP. More than development, tribals need jobs. There are hardly any. None realises the problems of people living in remote inaccessible areas. Centralised planning and procedures of allocation has become an instance of non-governance. Notably, the Planning Commission needs to be decentralised. There should be separate Planning Commissions for these remote areas without elite bureaucrats. Discussions should take place with States' people about what they need in different regions. Significantly, the Maoists have utilised the system better. They have local level committees to induct villagers and create a sense of hostility against the nation. Add to this, bureaucratic response has been timid and hackneyed. - INFA
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