Growing tribal unrest following impoverishment of tribal communities and the alienation of tribal people from their land, forest and mineral resources reveals an acute recognition among the tribal people regarding their state of under-development. As compared to other sections of the Indian society, the tribal population has the lowest Human Development Index (HDI). In addition, they suffer from geographical and cultural exclusion, which are not captured in the HDI. Lack of food security, sanitation, safe drinking water, poor nutrition and high poverty levels aggravate the poor health status of tribals. Forced and distress migration is common to many communities but it is inordinately high in certain tribal areas.
The issue of tribal land grabbing for the “so called” Development Projects in violation of the provisions of PESA, 1996 and FRA of 2006 have been glaring. There are also cases of massive land grabbing by non-tribal individual contract farmers and companies. The collection and marketing of MFP is a major source of livelihood for most tribal families contributing around 40% of their total income. In spite of the provisions in PESA and FRA recognizing the ownership, control and management of all forest produce by the Gram Sabhas, collection and trade of MFP is largely monopolized by the corporations of the Forest Departments of the States.
PESA requires the State Governments to change their existing laws, wherever these are inconsistent with the central legislation. In reality, very little has happened. Many State Governments including Odisha have passed laws or amended existing ones, but not fully in conformity with the Central law.
The quality of administration is an extremely critical input in development. The level of administration of Scheduled and other tribal areas has to be raised expeditiously to match the challenges. At this point of time, when the country is moving towards an accelerated GDP growth rate of 8% to 9%, if the fabric of Indian society is to be kept intact, it is necessary to ensure that all segments of society participate in, and benefit from, the growth – the much talked about ‘inclusive development’.
In this backdrop, the Odisha Development Conclave-2016 would discuss following issues and prepare key policy asks for establishing tribal rights and self-governance in Odisha.
- Implementation of PESA in Fifth Schedule areas
- How to strengthen Institutional mechanisms (Gram Sabhas, FRCs, sub-divisional and district level committees, State level monitoring committees and a dedicated structure within the nodal ministry) for the proper implementation of FRA
- Mechanisms for allocating requisite TSP funds at the disposal of Tribal Development Department for inter-sectoral prioritization
- The MoEF and its programs to complement and enable the control and management of forests by Gram Sabhas and local communities
- Scope and challenges of strengthening ITDAs in Schedule Areas
- Mechanisms for giving special attention to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)
- Strengthening Support System including Minimum Support Price for MFP based livelihood of forest dependent people including tribals
- Enforcement of laws and restoration of alienated lands to the tribals