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Pranab visit sparks tribal outcry

Tenancy tweak protests meet 'illegal' RMC zinger

By VIJAY DEO JHA
  • Published 27.03.17
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President Pranab Mukherjee's upcoming visit to the capital on April 1 is already brewing two storms, a known one and another that comes as a surprise.

Tribal organisations Jharkhand Adivasi Sangharsh Morcha and Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan protesting amendments in CNT and SPT Acts by the Raghubar Das government want to meet President Pranab Mukherjee during his Jharkhand visit in April to plead for his intervention to roll back the changes.

A third, Adivasi Buddhijivi Manch, wants the President to abstain from laying the foundation stone of Rabindra Bhavan in the capital as it maintains the upcoming cultural hub's civic guardian, Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC), is an illegal body.

The President will arrive in Ranchi on April 1 and is scheduled to lay the foundation stone of Rabindra Bhavan the next morning, after which he will visit Deoghar and leave for Bihar in the afternoon.

Patron of Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan and two-time MP Salkhan Murmu who launched the " Sarkar girao, Jharkhand bachao (Fell government, save Jharkhand)" campaign urging tribal MLAs across parties to resign and pull down the Raghubar Das government, said he would write to the President's office for an appointment on Sunday. Salkhan, who has announced a rally in Ranchi on April 7, said on March 21 he wrote to the President to dismiss the Das government for jeopardising the life and property of tribals.

Alleging that the government wanted to shield the President from the reality of people's sentiment, Salkhan said: "I personally know our President has been very sensitive to safeguard tribal interests. So I will request President's office to give us time."

Jharkhand Adivasi Sangharsh Morcha, which on March 6 held a huge rally in Delhi to seek national attention against amendments, said they were also trying for an appointment with the President.

"We request the President to give time to tribals of Jharkhand who are suffering at the hands of corporate houses and the BJP government with a corporate mentality. Tribals of Jharkhand are genuinely concerned about their life and property after the Das government brought in amendments in CNT and SPT Acts to benefit corporate houses and settle outsiders in Jharkhand," said convener-cum-spokesperson Prem Shahi Munda of the Morcha, which has also asked traditional organising bodies of Sarhul to organise tableaux, banners and posters decrying tenancy law amendments during this year's festival, introducing a political hue.

On the other hand, Adivasi Buddhijivi Manch, whose members are mostly government employees, has questioned the very validity of the RMC and sent emails to the President's office requesting him to skip the foundation stone laying ceremony, because according to law, a 5th Schedule area can have a Autonomous District Council and not a municipal corporation.

Manch president Prem Chand Murmu called their objection purely legal and constitutional. "The 74th amendment was brought for creation of local governance system and devolution of power. But the same is not applicable for areas under 5th and 6th schedules of the constitution inhabited by tribals. Autonomous District Council should be established in them. Ranchi is under 5th schedule category and municipal body is illegal. We want the President to reconsider his plan," he said.

A Manch office-bearer and senior manager at Punjab National Bank Ghanshyam Biruly, posted in Jamshedpur, said he had emailed the President that being a custodian of 5th and 6th Scheduled areas in the country, it was unbecoming of him to lay the foundation stone of a building of RMC.

Asked about the validity of the RMC, Ranchi mayor Asha Lakra said she would not comment on its legal and constitutional aspects.

"People are free to raise their voice. But I will request them not to politicise the issue. It is an honour for Jharkhand that the President will lay the foundation stone of a building named after Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore," she said. "I think the government has taken due care of tribal population under the RMC. The post of mayor is reserved for scheduled tribe. Councillors of 23 out of 55 wards under RMC are also reserved.

A senior official of urban development department, the parent of RMC, refused to comment on the municipal corporation's legal validity.