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President told: Urgently stop "intrusion" of non-tribals into tribal areas, negatively impacting scheduled areas

By Ashok Shrimali*
In an unusual move, the apex body of several tribal organizations, Adivasi Coordination Front (ACF), has demanded, in a memorandum to President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, that he, as the constitutional head of the scheduled areas, should take urgent steps to stop what a sharp deceleration “in the numbers of scheduled tribes in the scheduled areas of India.”
Alleging that “permanent settlements of non-scheduled tribes (STs) in scheduled areas are having a negative impact on the socio-cultural practices of the tribals”, ACF, in a representation made to the President of India, has said, he should issue “directions” restricting non-STs settling down in scheduled areas.”
Insisting that surveys of settlements and habitat rights in scheduled areas and tribal villages should be made on the basis of their “local ancestral heritage and territory”, the representation, made, among others, by Amar Singh Chaudhari from Gujurat, Gajanan Brahmane from Madhya Pradesh, Nicholas Barla from Odisha and Devendranath Champai from Jharkhand, says, “the STs should be recognized as the aborigines and indigenous people of India.”
Wanting the Government of India should completely change in the administrative for the adivasi areas, the representation said, a scheduled areas administrative service commission should be formed specifically for “those who wish to render service in scheduled/tribal areas”, so that they could “learn and understand the tribals’ social, cultural and traditions and geographical situations.”
Pointing out that this commission should give preference to the tribal youths and those interested in the development of scheduled areas, the representation said, the tribal population – forming 8.6 per cent of the population of the country with a literacy rate of 59 per cent and a dropout rate of dropout rate is 70.9 per cent for children from Classes I to X – suffers from “unemployment leading to immense poverty can be directly linked to the increase in terrorism and rising membership of tribals in the ranks of Maoists and Naxals.”
Pointing out how tribals have been dispossessed from their own lands, the representation says, “During 1951-1990, 85 lakh tribals were displaced due to dams, mines, industries, wildlife sanctuaries etc., forming 40 per cent of the total displacement of 2.13 crore people against ST population percentage of 7.5 per cent.” However, it regrets, “Out of the 85 lakhs displaced, about 21 lakhs tribals were rehabilitated.”
Alleging that the Adivasi are not just being “displaced and dispossessed” from their ancestral land and territories, the representation says, they are also being deprived of their resources for survival, and all this is being done in the name development. “Often innocents are killed in fake encounters by security forces”, it says, adding, “We are termed as criminals, anti- nationals, accused falsely and put in the jails. We are harassed, extorted and treated inhuman way often by the state machineries.”
Making several proposals, the representation says, the state-level Tribes Advisory Council (TACs) should be “reconstituted, by removing the non-ST members and/or chief ministers immediately”, underlining, instead, the governors should “ function as per the advice/consultations with TAC for Schedule Areas and Tribal Areas.”
Other steps proposed include recognition of scheduled tribe languages in the eighth schedule of the Constitution, recognition of Adivasi religion separately in the national census (as per the 2011 Census the population under Sarna code 49,57,467, whereas the number of Jain religion is 44,51,753), and setting up of national, state, district, block, and village-level tribal advisory councils.
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*Secretary-general, Mines, Minerals and People

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