Issues of Concern For STs

Since the enunciation of the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s Panchsheel programme for tribal development, there has been no clear national tribal policy which could act as a roadmap for the welfare and development of tribals. There are about 5,000 forest villages predominantly inhabited by the tribals, especially the PTGs, which lack basic minimum services. There is need to undertake development of these forest villages in coordination with the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Efforts have already been initiated to prepare comprehensive projects for their development, initially in Assam, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chattisgarh where 80 per cent of the forest villages are located. The funds available under SCA to TSP and Article 275(1) of the Constitution need to be utilised for this. The PTGs live in the inaccessible pockets of forests, with declining sources of sustenance. A national plan of action for tribe specific comprehensive development needs to be expeditiously formulated and administered. The economic and livelihood activities of tribals are rooted in the forests where they live. However, they are being denied their traditional rights over forest land and over forest produce because of the development of sanctuaries, national parks and other environmental restoration projects. The National Forest Policy, 1988 stipulates certain measures to involve tribals in forest department activities The NCMP has also envisaged restoring the traditional rights of the tribals on forest produce, including tendu leaves. Minor forest produce has been now clearly defined to include all the bio-mass of non-timber forest produce and the Ministries of Environment & Forests and Tribal Affairs are working jointly to bring necessary legislations to confer ownership rights to the tribals living in forests. Action on this is required. Shifting cultivation is still being practised by about 600,000 tribals especially in the north-eastern states. The Ministry of Agriculture has a scheme for the control and transformation of shifting cultivation and this requires to be implemented properly. Tribals have been displaced in large numbers on account of various large developmental projects like irrigation dams, hydro-electric and thermal power plants, coal mines and mineral-based industries. A National Policy on Relief and Rehabilitation of Project Affected Families (PAFs) has been notified on 17 February 2004 with a relief package of 17 parameters to be fulfilled before permitting dislocation. This needs to be effectively implemented in tribal areas.