Problems with PESA

  • Dilution of role of Tribal Advisory Councils: PESA comes under the Fifth Schedule, which mandates Tribal Advisory Councils to oversee tribal affairs and also gives extrajudicial, extra constitutional powers to the Governors of each State to intervene in matters where they see tribal autonomy being compromised.
  • However, the councils, with the Chief Minister as their chairperson, have evolved into a non-assertive institution amid the machinations of upper-class politics, and its representatives hardly speak against the State governments’ policies.
  • The Governors, in order to have friendly relations with the Chief Ministers, have desisted from getting involved in tribal matters. Tribal activists have constantly complained that there is not even a single instance where the Governors have responded to their petitions for interventions in threatening crises, such as deepening clashes over land, mining or police excesses.
  • Lack of coordination at Centre: Even if one were to expect proactive intervention from the Centre, PESA would get entangled in bureaucratic shackles. Two different ministries, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, have an overlapping influence on the implementation of PESA and they function almost without any coordination.
  • Lack of operationalization: In most of the state the enabling rules are not in place more than eight years after the adoption of the Act suggests that the state governments are reluctant to operationalize the PESA mandate.
  • Ignoring the spirit of PESA: The state legislations have omitted some of the fundamental principles without which the spirit of PESA can never be realised. For instance, the premise in PESA that state legislations on Panchayats shall be in consonance with customary laws and among other things traditional management practices of community resources is ignored by most of the state laws.
  • Ambiguous definitions: No legal definition of the terms like minor water bodies, minor minerals etc. exist in the statute books. The states in their conformity legislations have also not defined the term leading to ambiguity and scope of interpretation by the bureaucracy.

In recent years, many reports ‘The Report of Expert Group of the Planning Commission on Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas’ (2008), ‘The Sixth Report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission’ (2007), ‘The Balchandra Mungekar Committee Report’ (2009), etc. have clearly underlined the dismal situation of the implementation of PESA.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to opt for an effective device whereby maximum people can be informed, made aware and motivated to come forward for the proper implementation and execution of PESA. There is an urgent need to break the culture of silence among tribal and to strive for capacity building, sensitization and orientation to improve the tribal self-rule scenario.