Govt. concedes most of Adivasis' demands
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, OCT. 16. It is seldom that an anti-Government agitation ends in a win-win situation for both but the 48-day-old Adivasi stir for land and livelihood ended precisely on that note here today.
The Adivasi leader, Ms. C. K. Janu, announced the withdrawal of the agitation in the presence of the Chief Minister, Mr. A. K. Antony, and several of his Cabinet colleagues at the end of the talks spread over the last few days. The final round held this evening, with the Agriculture Minister, Ms. K. R. Gouri, acting as the chief mediator, saw the Government conceding the basic demand for five acres of land for each landless tribal family. The distribution of land would begin on January 1, 2002.
The Government's offer to provide five acres of land to landless Adivasis has come with the rider that it would begin doing so in places where sufficient land is available and would provide between one acre to five acres of land to others.
Announcing the outcome of the talks, the Chief Minister said the Government would strive to get 10,000 acres of land in Wayanad where the number of landless Adivasis was the highest besides the 42,000 acres of land already identified for this purpose in different parts of the State.
The Industries Minister, Mr. P. K. Kunhalikutty, who assisted Ms. Gouri in her talks with the Adivasi leaders, said the talks had resulted in a seven-point settlement.
Besides the offer of land, the other points are preparation of a five-year scheme to enable the Adivasis to sustain themselves till the land distribution was completed, acceptance of the final verdict of the Supreme Court in the 1999 Tribal Land Act, enactment of a legislation to prevent alienation of the land proposed to be given to the Adivasis and adoption of a resolution by the Cabinet requesting the Centre to declare the Adivasi settlements as Scheduled Areas, preparation of a masterplan covering the entire Adivasi population with the involvement of the Adivasis and efforts to secure at least 10,000 acres of land for distribution among landless Adivasis in Wayanad.
The Chief Minister said the Government would stand by its earlier offer to provide 90 per cent of employment in forests to the Adivasis. Ms. Janu said the Adivasi-Dalit Action Council was happy that the Government had accepted almost all its demands.
The council, she said, was aware of the difficulties in finding sufficient land instantly to provide five acres to each landless Adivasi family. So, it had decided to accept the Government offer to provide five acres where land was available and between one acre and five acres in other places.
The Government, she pointed out, had accepted the demand that the Adivasi settlements be declared as Scheduled Areas. She hoped that the Government would not force the Adivasis to return to the agitational path over the same demands and announced that the `Adivasi refugee camps' before the Chief Minister's official residence and the Secretariat would be dismantled immediately.
The Chief Minister and his Cabinet colleagues involved in the negotiations visited the agitating Adivasis at their `camp' in front of the Secretariat and were received by the Adivasi volunteers with drum beats and slogans.