October 29, 2020
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The Missing Prong

The PM and the home minister never tire of repeating their two-pronged mantra in tackling Maoism. But when it comes to the tribals, even the open and blatant flouting of the law of the land is sought to be brushed aside

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The Missing Prong

Editor's Note:

On April 24, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released the State of Panchayats Report (SOPR) 2008-09, commissioned by none other than himself from Institute for Rural Management, Anand (IRMA), Gujarat. He perhaps did not realise then that there was one chapter —‘PESA, Left-Wing Extremism and Governance: Concerns and Challenges in India’s Tribal Districts’ —missing. 

It was deleted, apparently at the suggestion of the home ministry, because it deigned to show how PESA continues to be flouted.

The chapter began with a quote from none other than the PM himself. The chapter, which uses  government statistics and records, goes on to link the rise of Maoism/Naxalism with the blatant flouting of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 in land acquisition

Take this sample paragraph:

The sale of tribal lands to non-tribals in the Schedule Five areas is prohibited in all these states. However, transfers continue to take place and have become more perceptible in the post-liberalisation era. The principal reasons are—transfer through fraudulent means, unrecorded transfers on the basis of oral transactions, transfers by misrepresentation of facts and mis-stating the purpose, forcible occupation of tribal lands, transfer through illegal marriages, collusive title suits, incorrect recording at the time of the survey, land acquisition process, eviction of encroachments and in the name of exploitation of timber and forest produce and even on the pretext of development of welfarism.”

Or, since mining continues to be the flavour of the season:

When it comes to acquiring mineral resources for industry, the stakes are similarly loaded against the functioning of the PESA Act. The past decade has witnessed a boom in mining, and the sector is exhorted by the government to grow at an annual rate of 10% a year. Yet, there is still no legal framework in place for communities to dissent to such activity in their area if they so desire, or to secure a direct stake in the earnings, through instruments such as jobs or
debentures. Successive governments have systematically ignored the Samata judgment (Supreme Court, 1997), to the severe detriment of tribal communities.

... The great boom in mining — for example, in the past years, companies paid a royalty to the state of Rs 26 per tonne of iron ore, selling it for over 100 times that, or an average of Rs 3,000— means profits run into crores of rupees. Thus there is a great financial incentive to ignore the PESA law and the Samata judgment, or ensure that they do not get in the way. A former Chief Minister explained the mindful neglect of PESA thus: ‘Its implementation would put an end to mining projects’.13 Communities not only have to bear the brunt of this violent mining/industrialization process, but they also testify that its immense profitability skews the political and administrative agenda in favour of industry, and away from protective laws like PESA.

And now read the full chapter that the home ministry did not think fit for the PM or others to read:



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