Hyderabad: Governor of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu Ch. Vidyasagar Rao said that to ensure ‘good governance’ in tribal areas,
there is a need to ensure self-governance of tribal communities and safeguarding their right to access and manage the community’s own resources.
Speaking at the inauguration of two day National seminar on “Governance, Resources and Livelihoods of Adivasis in India:
Implementation of PESA and FRA” at National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj at Rajendranagar in Hyderabad today, Rao said that for tribal communities,
PESA and Forest Rights Act assume immense importance in the context of historical denial of access to forests, displacement, alienation of land and the denial of acceptance to local governance systems.
He further said that despite its potential to transform Scheduled Areas, PESA was hardly implemented for a very long time.
“State legislation remained out of line with the letter and spirit of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA).
He also informed that Gadchiroli district has become the beacon for the entire country in the implementation of PESA.
The Fifth Schedule lays down responsibilities on the Governor to look after the welfare and advancement of the scheduled areas”, he said.
Vidyasagar Rao informed that in Maharashtra, steps have been taken by the institution of the Governor to ensure the effective implementation of Forests Rights Act (FRA) and PESA and for general welfare of tribal communities.
“I have mandated that at least 5% of Tribal sub-plan funds shall be developed directly to gram Panchayats and Gram Sabhas in Maharashtra”.
The local state legislations with regard to minor forest produce have been amended to ensure that all minor forest produce, including bamboo and Tendu now belong to Gram Sabhas.
“Hundreds of Gram Sabhas have started exercising their rights over bamboo and Tendu and earning income ranging from Rs. 10 lakh to about 70 to 80 lakh”, he added.
The Governor further mentioned that due to follow-up from Governor’s office, Maharashtra also stands at the forefront in the area vested under community Forest Rights with almost 20 lakh acres being handed over to forest dwelling communities for management.
“The PESA rules of Maharashtra are recognized as progressive rules which answer the aspirations of those in schedule areas.
The State is also implementing the concept of hamlet level Gram Sabhas so that Panchayat Raj can filter down to the small gram Sabhas envisaged at the community level.
In order to allocate greater resource to tribal nutrition,
I have amended the national Food Security Act-2013 in Maharashtra to ensure that in Scheduled Areas Children get eggs 4 times in a week and pregnant and lactating mothers get ‘one full meal’ everyday.
The tribal Communities in India have been deprived of their natural rights for a very long time as far as governance, natural resources and livelihoods are concerned.
British ushered in forest laws not for the purpose of conservation or for environmental considerations, but to exploit and were aimed at establishing a monopoly over forest resources.
Tribal communities repeatedly revolted against the British and local exploiters who took away their forests and lands. Many of these revolts were brutally crushed by the British.
Rao also said that he personally believes that “whenever legislations or policies impact Tribals unfavorably in Scheduled Areas,
it becomes imperative on the institution of Governor to step in for the welfare of tribal communities.
In our search for development, we displaced and uprooted millions of tribal persons from their communities.
Estimates suggest that while the percentage of Scheduled Tribes in the population of India is around 8%, their percentage among those displaced for development projects ranges from 40% to 55%.
The burden of development fell disproportionately on the shoulders of our tribal brethren but its fruits often did not reach tribal communities.
Speaking on the occasion, Tevita G. Boseiwaqa Taginavulau, Director General, Center on Integrated Rural Development for Asia And The Pacific (CIRDAP),
said that there is lack of harmonization between tribal cultural practices and laws.
He also said that there is a need to come back to the basic values of honesty and good governance.
In his welcome address, Director General -NIRD and PR, W.R. Reddy highlighted the importance of PESA and FRA Acts.
The PESA Act mandated the States to make provisions to safeguard the rights of Tribals on forest land and forest products. Prof. R. Radhakrishna, Chairman of the Advisory Committee of S.R. Sankaran Chair (Rural Labour), Prof. Kailash Sarap also spoke on the occasion. The Two day national seminar is organized by the NIRD and PR, Hyderabad. (INN)