The Chhattisgarh government has enacted rules under a central Act to protect the interest of tribals and enhance the power of gram sabhas, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has said.
Though the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) was in force in Chhattisgarh, the tribals were not getting desired benefits and hence the state government drafted rules and got them cleared by the cabinet and notified them in a gazette on Monday, an official statement quoting Baghel said on Tuesday.
The CM was referring to the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Provisions (Extension of the Scheduled) Rules. He was addressing a function organised by the Sarva Adivasi Samaj to mark the International Day of the World's Indigenous People (also called World Tribal Day) at Pt Deendayal Upadhyay Auditorium here.
The fundamental spirit of the central PESA is that it devolves power and authority to gram sabhas (village assemblies) and empowers them in approving development plans. Baghel said the new rules drafted under PESA will allow tribals to take decisions on their own about resources like forest, land and water in Chhattisgarh.
The enforcement of these rules will enhance the power of gram sabhas. The rules provide for 50 per cent representation to the tribal community in gram sabhas and out of this, 25 per cent have to be women members, he said.
The state government is committed to protect and conserve the tribal culture and tradition, he added.
Baghel said his government has declared a public holiday on the World Tribal Day, given lakhs of forest rights and community forest rights certificates to adivasis and forest dwellers, and has been procuring 65 minor forest produce on support price.
The Congress government was also committed to increase education and healthcare facilities in tribal areas of the state, he said. Malaria cases have witnessed a decline of 65 per cent and 300 schools which were closed have been reopened in tribal areas, the CM said.
Notably, Chhattisgarh minister TS Singh Deo, who last month relinquished the panchayat and rural development portfolios, had said in a letter to CM Baghel that important points in the draft rules under PESA, prepared by the panchayat department and sent to a cabinet committee, were changed without taking him into confidence.
Singh Deo continues to hold four other portfolios including health. Baghel later handed over charge of the panchayat department to senior cabinet colleague Ravindra Choubey.
Meanwhile, forest and tribal rights activist Alok Shukla said the PESA rules framed by the state government are neither in accordance with the original intent of the law nor with the "constitutional system" of tribals.
“With such rules, the state government is playing with the rights of the residents of areas under the Fifth Schedule (tribal majority areas). These rules will work only in the direction of furthering the corporate loot," Shukla claimed.
(With PTI Inputs)