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Odisha Drops 48,000 Cases Against Tribals, Allots Rs 100 Crore For Minor Forest Produce Scheme

The state government's move to withdraw these cases indicates they are minor in nature and a result of the administration's attitude towards tribals.

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Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik
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In a major decision, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday ordered the withdrawal of 48,000 cases against tribals involving the excise, home, and forest departments. The 48,000 cases include 36,581 cases from the Excise Department, 9,846 cases from the Home Department, and 1,591 cases from the Forest and Environment Department.

After reviewing cases related to tribals, the state government found that cases against members of tribal communities drag on, causing mental and financial burden on them. Therefore, the state government has decided to withdraw cases related to the community, which would also reduce pressure on courts and judicial system.

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The excise department registered cases against tribals in the context of liquor, which is an important part of the traditions and rituals of tribal communities. Tribals consume liquor during festivals and also offer it to their deities. For this purpose, tribals prepare liquor at home which is considered illegal as per law.

The other set of cases are registered by the forest department, exacerbating the decades-long conflict between tribals and the forest department over forest rights. Unfortunately, even after the Forest Rights Act 2006, the forest department has been reluctant to recognize tribal rights over forests.

The state government's move to withdraw these cases indicates they are minor in nature and a result of the administration's attitude towards tribals.

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In addition to withdrawing 48,000 cases, the state government has also decided to allot Rs 100 crore under the Odisha Millets Mission scheme. Under this scheme, the state government has announced that it will procure 60 minor forest produces from tribals at minimum support price.

The Odisha government has also recently withdrawn its permission to transfer tribal land to non-tribals. All these decisions clearly indicate that the Odisha government is trying to woo tribals ahead of the upcoming elections. Tribals form a significant share of seats in both the state assembly and Lok Sabha.

Out of Odisha's 21 Lok Sabha seats, 5 are reserved for tribals. In the state assembly of 147 seats, 33 are reserved for tribals. Last November on Constitution Day, in the presence of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Odisha Chief Minister had said while some tribals who get bail are still unable to get released from jail, others don't even have money for bail. He had urged the judiciary to pay attention to such cases.

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