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India's region-centric development of tribal areas 'triggered' dispossession of Adivasis

Odisha's Dongria Kondh adivasis
By Rajiv Shah
A new book, “India’s Scheduled Areas: Untangling Governance, Law and Politics”, published by Routledge, appears to point towards a veritable dilemma Indian policy makers have been facing vis-a-vis India’s Adivasis: Should they emphasise on the development of scheduled areas (SA), designated as such because here scheduled tribes (STs) or Adivasis live, or specifically emphasize on the welfare of their?
Edited by Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly and Sujit Kumar, containing 10 academic papers, the book, in its introduction, suggests that “moving from a tribe-centric approach to a region-centric/SA-centric approach” appears to be fast becoming a norm, even as pointing out in one of the chapters that this is particularly reflected the manner in which funds are allocated and utilized for tribal welfare.
The chapter “Issues of financial governance in Scheduled Areas”, by Bhagat-Ganguly, who has been professor as the Centre for Rural Studies, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie, and Bhanu Shree Jain, an advocate associated with the Chir Amrit Legal LLP, identifies this as one of the major “puzzles” leading to Adivasis being deprived of the funds meant for them.
The authors of the chapter say, while the funds meant for ST may be in the “non-transferable and non-lapsable” category (i.e., they can’t be diverted to other schemes and not lapsed), what actually happens is, even when the fund allocated is 100 percent utilised during a specified period of time for tribal development, in actual practice, “it has been a trend that such funds get diverted.” 
This, they say, is largely the result of how states undermine laws seeking to address tribal welfare. 
Thus, there is a Central PESA law – Panchayati Raj Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, 1996 – as one of the top legal instruments which provides the right to the elected tribal representatives of the local governance to participate in the decision-making related to resource utilisation. 
The book cover
But most often, state laws override PESA. For instance, the Jharkhand Panchayat Raj Act, 2001 denies “the Gram Sabha’s rights on the management of community resources”, leading to “non-utilisation and diversion of funds”.
Then, as per the Constitutional mandate, funds must be released in proportion to the tribal population (i.e., tribal population of the state to total tribal population of India). However, one finds that this surely is not always the case, and the funds utilization is "not in proportion to the tribal population and are always less.”
In fact, states are found to be flouting the norm of proportional allocation by interpreting this to suggest these are meant for scheduled areas (SAs). While Meghalaya does this by stating that funds are meant for backwardness rather than the proportion to the tribal population, Chhattisgarh states there is a veritable discrepancy between tribal sub-plan and SAs. 
The Chhattisgarh government has particularly argued it has 81,669 sq km as SAs, while 88,000 sq km in the state under TSP, leading to a situation where there is a disparity, which it says must be addressed, as SAs should be “coterminous” with TSP areas. Such as approach leads to “a shift” from “community-development approach” to “territory-centric approach”.
In fact, the authors note, both the central and state governments have “failed" to comply with a  Planning Commission guideline for discharging responsibility for tribal welfare. Some state governments have gone to the extent of suggesting changes in tribal sub-plan in favour of SAs, despite the fact that the fund allocation for TSP has to be “based on ST population, not on SAs.”
The book elsewhere suggests that this type of situation is reflective of the the approach adopted by the Indian state towards its Adivasi people, “which emerged as a compromise between the discourses of ‘isolation’ and ‘assimilation’.” 
If in the colonial period the missionaries were both proactive in transforming the Adivasi society with their discreet and micro operations, the approach progressively shifted towards assimilation, leading to a situation where the Sangh Parivar is attempting to “assimilate the Adivasis into the fold of Hinduism”. 
Post-independence, the book argues, there was an “overwhelming thrust of Nehruvian era towards the modernisation of the newly independent state through state-led developmental projects like dams, industries, and mining caused irreparable damage to the Adivasi communities.” 
Overwhelming thrust of Nehruvian era towards modernisation  through state-led developmental projects like dams, industries, and mining caused irreparable damage to Adivasi communities
It underlines, “The temples of modern India had evicted the Adivasis and also their deities/spirits alike to make way for development. While the monumental story of modern Indian state was being written, the story of its dispossessed though archaic and episodic in nature could not be hidden. This is the reason why the discourse of development cannot be discussed without discussing its costs.”
The result of such integration, the book seeks to say, can be seen in "terms of their disproportionately high number in cases of ‘development-induced-displacement, poor literacy, poverty, and high mortality rate”, as noted by the High Level Committee (HLC) constituted in 2014 under Virginius Xaxa to study the socio-economic, education, and health status of Adivasis.
“The committee identifies the insensitive bureaucracy, traders, and money lenders as well as the onslaught of private companies as the responsible factors behind underdevelopment of Adivasis”, the book states, adding, “These aspects of dispossession can be captured in terms of objective data”.
Anjana Singh's chapter on Pathalgadi -- a movement that seeks to erect stone slabs declaring Adivasis' constitutional right to govern their affairs -- suggests how the result of the policy dilemma has led to a unique form of protest in Jharkhand. While the movement is allegedly direct result of Adivasis losing hope of development through the state, it puts forth the Adivasis' "right to be governed by their historically developed distinct form of village governance.” 
A Pathalgadi slab
“The movement lays bare Adivasi resistance against land expropriation, displacement, and environmental degradation”, argues Singh, who is assistant professor of history in the Ranchi University, Jharkhand.
She adds, “The movement also underlines the need to formulate and implement a pro-Adivasi and a participatory form of development in which village mechanisms will have a decisive role”, insisting on the “urgent need” to dispassionately reappraise the functioning of the importance of local self-governing institutions for Adivasis’ meaningful development.
In yet another chapter, Richard Hemraj Toppo, a scholar at the  the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, argues that the Naxalite movement should in the "context of increased Adivasi dispossession and exploitation as well as an un-concerned or complicit state", leading to extremists establishing its stronghold amongst Adivasis in the SAs. 
It is in this overall context that the book proposes the need to implement laws like PESA, Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, which ensure community control over their institutions and resources were also promulgated in the post-liberalisation period, and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act, 2013, (RFCTLARR), which lays down legal framework for land acquisition, including in SAs.

Comments

Uma said…
The more laws and acts are formulated the more is the scope for corruption. Also, laws are passed without consulting the stakeholders, which includes the states, and immediately loopholes are found. The most recent example of this is the Motor Vehicles Act.

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