Plan panel raps Govt for tribals' plight

The Times of India: Akshaya Mukul

NEW DELHI: The adverse impact of globalisation on tribals and their marginalisation has come in for sharp criticism from the Planning Commission's sub-group on `Policies and Legislations relating to Protection and Development of Scheduled Tribes'. The report observes that "the existing rights, directions and provisions relating to the STs in the Constitution, including the 5th and 6th Schedules, have not been operationalised adequately, as the present predicament of tribes avers".

In a detailed chapter on tribal dependence on land, the report categorically states that landlessness among them has increased. In 1961, 68.18 per cent of the STs were cultivators. According to the 1991 census, this came down to 54.5 per cent. The report pinpoints two causes behind the dispossession of tribal lands. First, the entry of plainsmen into the interior tribal areas and second, the increasing pace of industrialisation and urbanisation.

"History will bear witness to the fact that little thought has been spared for the oustees at the time of induction of the steam-roller of industrialisation. Even their rehabilitation has been given little attention. To this day, the government of India has no policy on rehabilitation of such evictees," the report says.

Attacking the new economic policy, the report says, "We are conscious that with the increasing pace of liberalisation and privatisation, as per the canons of the new economic policy, and notwithstanding the historic Samatha judgment of the SC, there is likely to be accelerated acquisition and utilisation of tribal lands with less concern for human costs."

Equally critical of the tribal development plans, the report says these have become "subject to a number of ills, chief among them being lethargy, indifference, apathy and even corruption." The physical achievements have not been commensurate with the investment of Rs 40,000 crore over the past four plan periods, says the report. "In totality, the tribal sub-plan seems to have lost it spirit, getting bogged down in mechanical and ritualistic routine," it adds.

While prescribing the strengthening of Panchayati Raj institutions by making tribals a part of it, the report observes, "For too long, we have depended on the bureaucratic machinery for development...The result has been that people themselves are a witness to the god that failed."

In fact, the report in the context of Panchayati Raj says, "In scheduled and tribal areas it needs to be borne in mind that tribal self-management has been a practice since the earlier times..." and suggests "the local communities should have the option of deciding whether to go in for the elective system or consensual traditional set-up. The traditional structures may require strengthening in the current context."

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Referred by: Mukandan CM
Published on: July 7, 2001
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