Bhubaneswar, Sept. 28: The Naveen Patnaik government today took two major steps to woo the tribal communities of the state.
The state government has decided to engage two lawyers in each block to provide free legal aid to people belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST).
The government has also decided to provide homestead land to the tribals in the state’s 108 blocks.
“SC and ST people are mostly illiterate and ignorant of their rights and laws. We will engage legal retainers to help them at block levels. The legal retainers (lawyers) will guide them in filing complaints and fight their cases free of cost at different levels,” SC/ST development secretary, S.K. Sarangi told The Telegraph.
Incidentally, incidents of atrocities on ST and SC communities have been on the rise in the state.
As per the state home department’s white paper on the law and order situation, the number of cases relating to atrocity on ST people has gone up to 406 in 2011 from 306 in 2009 and 355 in 2010.
Similarly, 1,256 cases of atrocities on SC people were registered in 2011 against 1,235 in 2009 and 1,224 in 2010.
It is in this backdrop that the state government has decided to open legal aid cells in all the 314 blocks.
Each retainer will be paid Rs 5,000 per month, official sources said.
While the Centre will provide 50 per cent funds for running the legal aid cells under the Central Sector Plan, the state government will bear the rest of the expenditure.
In another move, the government has decided to provide land to landless tribals in 108 tribal sub-plan blocks covering 19,016 villages over the next five years.
“It is expected that by 2016-17, no ST family in these areas will remain landless,” said chief minister Naveen Patnaik while chairing the State Level Tribes Advisory Council meeting here today.
The state government had last month mooted a proposal to increase the reservation quota for tribals and Dalits in educational institutions from the existing 20 per cent to 38.66 per cent.
The government had taken prompt action following Union minister of chemical and fertiliser Srikant Jena’s allegation that Naveen had not given the SC/ST people their due in educational institutions.
Though they constituted 38.66 per cent of the state’s population, they were getting only 20 per cent reservation, Jena had said.
The SC/ST development department has already submitted a proposal to increase the reservation and the government is expected to enact the necessary legislation.
On August 14 last, the state government had decided to provide free uniform to Class IX and X students belonging to SC and ST communities. An estimated 41,995 students of 305 residential schools being run by the SC and ST development department will be benefited.
They will be provided with a two sets of uniform every year.
The chief minister during his UK visit in May, had also extracted a commitment for DFID assistance to introduce a cash incentive scheme for SC/ST girls at the secondary level.
An estimated 2.4 lakh SC/ST girls studying in Classes IX and X will benefit from the scheme.
Earlier, on October 27 last year, Naveen had launched a scheme for distributing free bicycles to Class X girl students. The government spends Rs 75.4 crore every year on this project.