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Sansad TV: Perspective- Protecting the Tribes

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Introduction:

The last known member of an indigenous tribe in the Amazon rainforest has died after living alone for decades. The unidentified man from an uncontacted Indigenous tribe in Brazil was known as the ‘man of the hole’ because he was often spotted taking shelter in pits dug in the ground. His death has now resulted in a lot of discussion among activists, once again bringing to spotlight the need to protect the indigenous people. In India, most of the tribes are collectively identified under Article 342 as “Scheduled Tribes”. There are 110 million tribals in the country, distributed across 18 states. The tribal population is known to live sustainable lives, in harmony with nature. However, with their numbers dwindling due to various contributing factors, the concern is on how not just to protect their population, but also to preserve their heritage, culture, language, art, traditions and sensibilities,

Initiatives towards Tribal Welfare

  • Pradhan Manti Van Dhan Yojana: It is a market-linked tribal entrepreneurship development program for creating clusters of tribals and strengthening them.
  • Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana: Aims at creating enabling environment for need based and outcome oriented holistic development of the tribal people.
  • Ekalavya Model Schools: To provide good quality middle and high-level education to Scheduled Tribe students in remote areas, not only to enable them to avail of reservation in high and professional and ensure access to best opportunities in education at par with non ST population.
  • Minor Forest Produce: To safeguard fair monetary returns to MFP gatherers for their labours in the collection, primary processing, storage, packaging, transportation etc.
  • Vocational Training Centres in Tribal Areas

Shortcomings

  • The benefitshave been unsuccessful in reaching the lower strata of the societyand got concentrated in the hands of the upper crust of the tribal community.
  • The most important drawback of the tribal in development blocks is that the entireprogram has been carried out depriving the participation of tribal people. The tribals had no predominant say in the programs articulated for their development, nor were their co-operation gained in the implementation of these programs.
  • The unchanging bureaucracy has been unsuccessful to fulfil the role of development agency.
  • Local politicians and local elite power were also not in the interest of the tribal population.They perpetuated the situation in their self-interest.
  • Nutrition and health of the tribal community: It was identified a while ago that sickle cell anaemia is one of the major diseases afflicting the tribal community in the country and a lot of effort is being made to improve the health status of the community.
    • Research by the Indian council of Medical research has further shown that the scheduled tribal community is generally at the lower level of nutrition.
  • Tribal Housing: Most of the tribals live in single room houses and faced challenges in accessing potable drinking water, Sanitation and electricity access.

Various initiatives have been taken by the Government of India over the years for the development of tribal people in the country, comprising the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission, and TRIFED.

Solutions for the challenges faced:

  • Infrastructure facilities like road connectivity will improve   the quality of life in tribal areas, in terms of quick access to health services, better education, and social service. Special focus is also given for repair and maintenance of existing roads in tribal areas.
  • The High-Level Committee (Virginius Xaxa committee) has made numerous recommendations such as exclusive mining rights for tribals, greater freedom for tribals to make decisions on land acquisition and other common property resources and, strict implementation of the new land law, Forest Rights Act and strengthening of the PESA.
  • It has also proposed a complete overhaul of the legal constitutional regime by recommending that laws and policies enacted by the Parliament and state legislatures shouldn’t be applied automatically in the Fifth Schedule areas.
  • State government should be made to obtain permissions from owners and occupiers of land for major minerals, and consult with Gram Sabha in 5th and 6th schedule areas for minor minerals.
  • It should be mandated that all clearances (forest and environment) under forest conservation act and wildlife protection act should be taken before a lease was given.
  • Tribal cooperatives should be made eligible for grant of license of minor minerals in 5th and 6th schedule areas.

Conclusion

Strengthening of institutions meant for delivery of goods and services with adequate administrative, technical and financial powers such as Tribal Welfare Departments as nodal Department, Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Integrated Tribal Development Projects (ITDPs) and creation of new ones where they do not exist etc. Convergence of scattered resources and activities being undertaken under various components is need of the hour.