Monday, 30th October 2017

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Policy for 100m tribals

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By BASANT KUMAR MOHANTY
  • Published 22.08.13
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New Delhi, Aug. 21: Restoration of alienated land, fast-track courts to settle land disputes and targeted action for vulnerable groups are among measures being planned under India’s first policy for the welfare of its 100 million tribals.

The national tribal policy, being drawn up by an expert panel, may also prescribe steps to improve the human development indicators among tribals.

“Within the next two or three months, the draft policy will be ready and will be taken to the cabinet for approval,” tribal affairs minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo told The Telegraph. (See chart)

The government has set up another expert committee, headed by National Advisory Council member Virginius Xaxa, to study the tribals’ socio-economic, educational and health status. In his Independent Day speech, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced the committee’s formation.

“The panels are independent of each other. The preparation of the tribal policy was started in 2005. It has undergone a series of consultations at various levels,” Deo said.

So far, India has not had a policy for its tribals though there are several laws to implement the constitutional safeguards guaranteed to them.

The states have laws banning transfer of land from tribals to non-tribals in Fifth Schedule areas (regions with a tribal majority). The Centre has passed the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act and the Forest Rights Act to ensure that tribals can preserve their traditional rights over natural resources, land and forests.

However, non-tribals have succeeded in getting round the state laws and occupying land illegally in scheduled areas. The policy will study all the state laws and prescribe amendments so that the alienated land can be restored to the tribals and further land-grabbing prevented.

The policy will promote farming and foraging for forest produce — tribals’ main sources of livelihood. It will suggest affirmative action for particularly vulnerable tribal groups, such as the Jarwas of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena, an expert on social-sector issues, was sceptical about the national tribal policy, saying the government should focus on strengthening the existing programmes instead of drafting policies.

“There are enough programmes and laws for the protection and development of tribals but they are not implemented because of negligence by the Centre and the states. As long as implementation is weak, no policy can yield the desired outcome,” Saxena said.

Social activist Nikhil Dey, however, said the tribal policy would help implement the existing schemes since it will detect flaws in the execution of the programmes.

“I think the policy will suggest ways to implement the schemes better. There are so many problems relating to the tribals. The policy will take a fresh look at them,” Dey said.

LAND, LIVELIHOOD AND WELFARE

Key features of the proposed national tribal policy

• Restoration of alienated land (occupied illegally by non-tribals) to tribals in scheduled areas

• Amendments to state laws to prevent illegal occupation by non-tribals

• Fast-track courts to settle land disputes involving tribals within two to three years

• Legal aid to tribals to fight their cases

• Development and promotion of tribal handicraft

• Creating awareness to curb alcoholism and witchcraft

• Promoting value addition to, and marketing of, minor forest produce collected
by tribals

• Support to tribal horticulture and agriculture

• Programmes to help particularly vulnerable tribal groups

• Expanding educational institutions and health facilities in tribal areas