The Saptapadi (Seven Steps) For Tribal Empowerment in India
A.The Constitutional Frame
The establishment of an egalitarian social order, free from all forms of discrimination whatsoever, is
the cherished goal enshrined in the Constitution. Special care has been bestowed on the
disadvantaged sections of the society especially the simple tribal people to enable them to catch up
with the rest as early as possible. Accordingly, there is a comprehensive frame within the
Constitution for the protection and advancement of the tribal people.
1 . The Scheduled Tribes: Article 342 authorises the President, after consultation with the
Governor concerned, to specify, by public notification ‘the tribes or tribal communities or parts of
or groups within tribes or tribal communities with respect to any State, which shall be deemed to be
Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State…’. This list of Scheduled Tribes (STs) can be amended
only by Parliament through an enactment.
2. Scheduled Areas and Tribal Areas: Part X of the Constitution deals exclusively with the
Scheduled Areas (SA) and Tribal Areas (TA). According to sub-clause (1) of Article 244, the
provisions of the Fifth Schedule (FS) shall apply to the administration and control of the SAs and
STs in any State other than the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. Sub clause (2)
envisages application of the provisions of the Sixth Schedule (SS) to the administration of the TAs
in these States.
(i) Declaration of Scheduled Areas and Tribal Areas: The President can declare an area to be a
‘Scheduled Area’ under Para 6 of FS. The original provision was that the President could reduce this
area but not increase it. This provision was amended in 1976 to authorise the President to increase
the area of any SA in consultation with Governor concerned. The areas specified in Paragraph 21 of
the SS are designated as ‘Tribal Areas’. The Parliament can amend this provision from time to time.
ii) Administration of Scheduled Areas: The FS comprises ‘Provisions as to the Administration
and Control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes.’ The scope of ‘administration’ is
comprehensive and inclusive covering all aspects of people’s life and all facets of ‘administration’,
executive as well as legislative, with the clear objective of ensuring ‘peace and good government’ in
these areas. Paragraph 2 of FS makes executive power of the State in respect of SA therein ‘subject
to the provisions of this (Fifth) Schedule.' Paragraph 3 extends executive power of the Union ‘to the
giving of directions to the State as to the administration of the said (Scheduled) area.’ Moreover,
Article 339 specifically envisages control of the Union over the administration of SAs and the
welfare of STs. The executive power of the Union extends to ‘the giving of directions to a State as
to the drawing up and execution of schemes specified in the direction to be essential for the welfare
of the Scheduled Tribes in the State.’
Thus, in the scheme of sharing of executive power between the union and States, final authority on
SAs vests with the union. The States are expected to manage their affairs in accordance with the
law subject to directions of the Union.
(ii) Administration of Tribal Areas: The Autonomous District/Regional Councils are unique
institutions of self-governance. They have legislative, executive and judicial powers as envisaged in
the Sixth Schedule.
3. Fundamental Right and Abrogation of Disabilities: A special niche has been created for the
tribal people in the frame of the fundamental rights in Part III itself. While the members of STs
share these rights equably with other people with a guarantee for non-discrimination against them,
specific provisions have been made under Articles 25 (Freedom of conscience etc.) and 29 (Cultural
and Educational rights). Moreover, special dispensation can be made for STs as an exception to the
general provisions under Articles 15 (Prohibition of discrimination etc.), 16 (Equality of
Opportunity etc.) and 19 (Protection of the right to move freely and reside and settle anywhere).
Article 40 (Organisation of Village Panchayats) touches the most vital aspect of self-governance
amongst the tribal people. Article 23 (Prohibition of Trafficking in Human Beings and Forced
Labour) has special significance in many a tribal area where bonded labour in various forms is
4. Law applicable to Scheduled Areas: Paragraph 5 of FS deals with ‘Law applicable to
Scheduled Areas’. Sub-paragraph (1) authorises the Governor to make ‘such exceptions and
modifications’ in ‘any particular Act of Parliament or of the legislature of the state’ in its application
to ‘a Scheduled Area or any part thereof in the State’ as he may specify in the notification. This sub-paragraph
begins with the non-obstanate clause ‘Notwithstanding any thing in this Constitution’. It
ends with another significant clause, that is, ‘any direction given under this sub-paragraph may be
given so as to have retrospective effect.’ There is in no time limit. Thus, the entire legal frame of the
‘State’ is amenable to be suitably adapted for the SAs, 'notwithstanding anything in the
Constitution.' The Fifth Schedule, therefore, has been rightly described as ‘a Constitution,
within the Constitution.’
Sub Paragraphs (2) to (6) concern the framing of Regulations for 'the peace and good government'
in a SA. They envisage ‘in particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing
power, such regulations’ may be framed in respect of (a) transfer of land, (b) allotment of land and
(c) money lending. The scope of Regulations so framed for peace and good government is
boundless. It cuts across the formal boundaries set out for the union and the State under the Seventh
Schedule. The Governor is the sole Legislature for the Scheduled Areas. However, consultation with
the Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) before making a regulation and assent by the President before a
Regulation comes into effect are mandatory. Nevertheless, Parliament can invoke its legislative
jurisdiction in respect of SA and STs as well, if necessary, under Entry 97 of ‘List I-Union List’
namely, ‘any other matter not enumerated in List II or List III...’
Tribes Advisory Council: Para 4 of FS mandates that Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) shall be
constituted in every State having SAs. But President may direct a State having STs, but no SA, to
constitute a TAC. The Council comprises not more than 20 members, out of whom not less than
two-third shall be tribal MLAs. It is the duty of TAC to advise Governor on any issue concerning
welfare and advancement of STs that may be referred by him. Lastly, consultation with TAC is
mandatory before framing a Regulation.
5. Intention and Potential of the Fifth Schedule: The provisions concerning law- making for SAs
are imbued with deep concern for the smallest tribal community or group. The reason is that they
may be located at different stages in the wide spectrum of human progression with hunters and
gatherers at the one end through pastorals, shifting cultivators, early forms of agriculture, artisans
on to modern vocations and persons caught in the whirl of ubiquitous industrial and other new
activities. Accordingly, ‘Particularisation, not generalization’, and ‘discretion, not rule by rote’
comprise the moving spirit of this frame. It is the law that must be adapted to the specific situation
of each group howsoever small and minuscule, rather than forcing the simple people to adapt to a
frame that they do not know and are not in a position to appreciate. In particular, as observed by the
Hon’ble Supreme Court in Samatha Case, ‘ the purpose of the Fifth and Sixth Schedules to the
Constitution is to prevent exploitation of truthful, inarticulate and innocent tribals and to empower
them socially, educationally, economically and politically…The Constitution intends that the
land always should remain with the tribals…’ This position is in consonance with the
International Conventions (ILO 107 and 169), which call on the governments to ‘respect the special
importance for the cultural and spiritual values of the people’s concerned of their relationship with
lands or territories, or both as applicable, which they occupy or otherwise use, in particular the
collective aspect of their relationship.’
6. Self-Governance: The Directive Principle of State Policy in Article 40 envisages organisation of
‘Village Penchants’ as virtual ‘Village Republics’. The spirit of this vital provision that has eluded
even in the 73 rd Amendment has been captured in the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to the
Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA). It brings the community at the village level in the form of
Gram Sabha to the center of governance. It acknowledges its ‘competence’ to manage all its affairs
in accordance with its customs and tradition. PESA covers all aspects of people’s life. In sum,
before PESA the simple tribal was obliged under the law to approach some authority or other out
somewhere there in the unknown wide world beyond. After PESA, all roads lead to the familiar
setting of open village assembly.
7. Financial Provisions for SAs and STs: The first proviso to of Article 275(1) envisages special
dispensation for financing developmental programmes for STs and for raising the level of
administration in SAs as grants in aid to the States. These outlays are a Charge on the Consolidated
Fund of India. Accordingly, once the Government of India accepts a scheme as necessary for tribal
development, the above Constitutional provision is attracted. The financial sanction for such a
scheme is automatic. The GoI, therefore, decided to keep the SAs outside the purview of the
Finance Commission. The Constituent Assembly was unanimous while making this provision that
tribal affairs should be accepted as a national concern, above any other considerations including
8. Positive Discrimination : Articles 16(4) and 335 of the Constitution provide safeguards to
ensure adequate representation of STs in services and posts. The scope of this provision also
includes public sector enterprises, nationalised banks, statutory and autonomous bodies and
institutions receiving grants-in-aid from government.
9. Reservations in Representative Bodies: Articles 330, 332 and 334 envisage reservation in the
seats in the House of the People and Legislative Assemblies in States. This reservation was for ten
years. This time limit now stands at sixty years. Articles 243D and 243T envisage reservation in the
seats for STs in the Panchayats and Municipalities in proportion to their population. In the SAs,
however, a special provision has been made about seats in Panchayats ( Section 4(g) of PESA) that
reservation for the STs shall not be less than 50%. Moreover, all seats of chairpersons shall be
reserved for them. But the provisions of Part IX A concerning Municipalities have not been
extended to the SAs so far.
10. Minister in charge of Tribal Welfare: Clause (1) of Article 164 envisages that in the case of
Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, the Cabinet shall have a Minister in charge of
11. Mandatory Continuous Review and Periodic Assessment
A critical review of the tribal situation in the context of clear objectives and specific responsibilities
at various levels is a part of the Constitutional schema as in the following:
(i) The Governor : Para 3 of the FS envisages that ‘the Governor of each State having Scheduled
Areas therein shall annually, or whenever so required by the President, make a report to the
President regarding the administration of the Scheduled Areas in the State and the executive power
of the Union shall extend to the giving of directions to the State as to the administration of the said
areas.’ The term ‘administration’ here has a comprehensive and inclusive frame with a clear focus
on ‘peace and good government’. Thus, the Union Government is mandated to review the state of
administration in SAs on the basis of Governor’s Report submitted to the President, and take
suitable action including giving of directions to the States.
(ii) The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes: The Commission established under Article
338A is mandated, inter alia, ‘to investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards
provided for the Scheduled Tribes’ and ‘to present to the President, annually and at such other times
as the Commission may deem fit, reports on the working of those safeguards.’ The Government is
mandated to appraise the Parliament annually about the tribal situation as reflected in the
Commission’s Report along with details of Action Taken.
(iii)The Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes (SAST) Commission: As a final check on
efficacy of all reviews, mandatory or otherwise, in the long run, Constitution mandates a high-level
review and ‘report on the administration of the Scheduled Areas and the welfare of the Scheduled
Tribes in the States’ by SAST Commission under Article 339(1). There is no fixed periodicity
except that the first review is mandated at the end of 10 years. The first SATA Commission was
appointed in 1960 and the second after four decades in 2002.
The Constitution has bestowed fullest care on the welfare and advancement of the tribal
communities with full sensitivity to the perceptions of the people themselves. Financial provisions
that may be necessary for tribal affairs are guaranteed in full in the spirit of devotion to a national
task above party lines. The responsibility for continuous review and occasional special check is
vested in high-level Constitutional authorities. The Union is vested with full authority to ensure that
there is no deviation from the charted course and also that the progression is steady and in the right
direction. Here is an ideal holistic ‘legal’ frame that is unprecedented in terms of its vision, scope
and deep concerns about ‘the children of nature’ perhaps in the entire world.
While the State has remained busy with the ritual of formal legal compliance of Constitutional
mandate, its performance in vital matters concerning protection and advancement of the tribal
people in general has been rather poor. While a few educated have entered the modern sector of
economy, the overall economic status has gone down and in a large number of cases it has nose-dived.
The virtually ‘unplanned’ development has resulted in huge influx, wanton destruction of
natural resource, displacement, disorganization and destitution on a large scale in many areas. Land
alienation has been rising with no limits. About 45% tribals are landless. Even bare literacy rates are
abysmally low. Malnutrition is rampant and hunger deaths are rising. The entire tribal belt is in a
state of great turmoil.
I. Vital Omissions
1. The Policy Vacuum: Panchasheel was the first informal policy frame about tribal affairs after
adoption of the Constitution. The central thrust of this Nehruvian Vision was ‘to enable the tribal
people to develop according to their own genius’. It underscored quality of life, respect for tribe’s
rights over land and forest, working through their own social and cultural institutions and avoiding
over-administration. This policy was emulated, albeit as a rare exception, in NEFA for some time.
Otherwise, it remained a pious wish and a source of quotable quotes. The result is that new
challenges faced by the tribal people ubiquitously in countless forms in their traditional abodes
remained largely unappreciated by political leaders, administrators, social workers and
academicians in the midst of passionate unending debates about a non-existent phantom, the
museum piece theory.
2. Trivialisation of the Holistic Constitutional Frame : The failure on the tribal front has been
largely administrative. The first logical task was to provide flesh and blood to the skeletal sketch of
the Constitutional schema. The relevant bare provisions required supporting laws and procedures
and effective institutions at the Center and in the States dedicated to the Constitutional objective
with commitment to work in unison. This task was not even attempted. Therefore, all vital elements
in the Constitutional mandate were left to be attended to by concerned authorities and institutions as
per their perceptions about avowed goals and field situation. Moreover, the holistic frame of
traditional administration itself became dichotomous with the advent of planning that resulted in
fragmentation of tribal affairs with no holding frame Since the premises of Constitutional schema
for SAs are at great variance with general premises of the System, even major policy decisions
remain unattended in the midst of ambivalence amongst the functionaries as decades rolled by. Such
non-action by itself tends to put a question mark on the policy decision itself, especially in the
context of fast turnover amongst administrators and other decision makers with not even a
semblance of policy of selection.The holistic exercises of TSP in early 1970s and PESA in mid-90s
that aimed at meeting the impending crisis in SA, met the same fate after a real good beginning.
(Annexure 1:‘Unbroken History of Broken Promises’)
3. Un-alluded Historical Injustice : There was a qualitative change in the legal regime in the tribal
areas in 1950. All laws of the Center and concerned States got extended to these areas in routine on
the dot with the adoption of the Constitution. There is no place for community and its system of
self-governance in this frame. Thus, the tribal got stripped of the protective shield of community,
the very essence of his ‘being’. He is obliged to face the unknown world all alone. Moreover, all
practices sanctified by his hoary tradition, which comprise the core of tribal self-governance, have
been transformed into acts of ‘violation of the law of the land’. All concerned, including Governor
having full powers to adapt law, remained virtually unaware about this tragic transformation. It has
resulted in ‘Criminalisation of Community’ and also de jure ‘loss of community’s command over
resources’ in the face of other legal claims. It has rendered tribal people resourceless, vulnerable
and virtually defenseless. The situation has been worsening incessantly.
4. Trivialised Regulation Making Power: The Governor’s limitless regulation- making power has
been trivialised by limiting it to illustrations given in the FS, namely, land and money lending. No
one in the System cared to use it for undoing the historical injustice and create legal frame in
consonance with the traditional systems of communities concerned.
II. The Flawed First Steps
1. Scheduling of Tribes: There was reasonable groundwork for scheduling of communities under
Article 342. Yet the exercise was not flawless. There were some cases of omission, prejudice,
favour as also political intervention; the consequences are haunting many a people to this day. The
worst cases relate to communities like Kol on the UP-MP border. They were classified as SCs
ignoring the facts that bulk of their brotheren on other side of the border had ST status and that this
area was an ‘excluded area’ even during British period. These communities have been scheduled
recently but their area is still not scheduled. The wavering objectivity in inclusion as STs, even
though rare, has led to massive cornering of benefits by comparatively advanced groups and
effectively blocking the way of the rest to move up. The politicization of the issue in the absence of
statesmanlike stand is ominous.
2 Scheduling of Areas: The s cheduling of areas in 1950 was rather perfunctory. To cap it all, the
first SA and ST Commission in 1960 came to the conclusion that ‘scheduling is not necessary’.
Accordingly, the proposals submitted by various States, notably Kerala, were not considered. The
damage sustained by the affected people has been incommensurable.
3. Inapposite Rendezvous : Honouring the word is the kernel of tribal system governed by oral
tradition. Scant regard by officials and leaders for people’s perception about implicit ‘assurance’ in
a casual remark like ‘I will see’ and illusory promises of ‘creating heaven on earth’ have eroded the
credibility of the System. The ordinary tribal, therefore, stands alienated from ‘Trustee State’ and
vested interests are ruling the roost in his name.
4 Development without Protection : As FS faded out unsung from the tribal agenda in 1960s,
albeit leaving its lingering grin, tribal development became a mechanical exercise of allocation of
funds. So far as the adverse impact of new activities especially industrialization in SAs is
concerned, it is presumed that ‘the concerned State as Trustee of Tribal Communities’ will do the
needful. With the opening up of the area for harnessing the potential of natural resources, the area
has been flooded with mercenaries of all descriptions. The backlash of development has been
accentuating as the fear amongst adventurers of the unknown and unpredictable people of the wild
is waning. The State miserably failed to appreciate its role as trustee and protector of tribal people
in this unprecedented crisis, not to speak of rising to the occasion and honouring Constitutional
mandate in its true spirit.
5. Dysfunctional Tribal Sub Plans: The unrest in tribal areas continued to grow unabated and
reached a new peak in the late1960s. The Union Government decided to realise the fullest potential
of the FS for meeting this challenge . A holistic tribal policy popularly known as TSP, therefore, was
adopted in early 1970s. The policy comprises ‘two coequal pillars’, viz, the FS and the TSP. The
identification of left over tribal-majority areas not covered by FS was taken up in 1974. Some new
areas were added to the SAs during 1977-81. But the exercise was abandoned thereafter. In fact,
two crucial elements of even the holistic TSP, namely, (i) elimination of exploitation and (ii)
empowerment of the community, faded away from tribal agenda. It was so notwithstanding notable
beginning and striking success under TSP in many a vital issue including excise policy, bonded
labour, liquidation of debts, ownership over minor forest produce and restoration of tribal lands.
Even the ‘big bang’ exercises of preparation of TSP and Integrated Tribal Development Projects
( ITDP) got routinised and went into oblivion.
What has remained of that grand TSP strategy is the coveted quantification of financial outlays in
the State Plans and scramble for special central assistance with little concern even about their final
use. The story of severe backlash of ‘development without protection’ repeated itself with full
vengeance after a brief interlude of great expectations of the holistic phase.(Annexure II: Tribal
6. The Threatened Tribal Groups : The threatened tribes comprising smaller pre-agricultural
groups with stable or declining population were designated in the TSP frame as ‘Primitive Tribal
Groups’ (PTGs). They were kept outside its general TSP exercise with full financial support by GOI
for preparation and execution of special projects.
The exercises that followed tended to be mechanical . Even especially vulnerable groups within the
larger communities have not been identified. The programme has virtually remained a ‘non-starter’
notwithstanding clamour for inclusion of new groups and passionate debates on inapposite
nomenclature, liberal outlays and large expenditure . In many cases they became dysfunctional
because of liberal grants.
III. Administrative Lapses
1. Illusive Single Line Administration: The waning personal touch with formalistion and
fragmentation of administration resulted in bewilderment of the tribal people rendering them
extremely vulnerable. A simple, inclusive, responsive and effective administrative structure under
‘single line of command’, with focus on quality of personnel, discipline and accountability had been
accepted in principle from the very beginning as basic for implementation of the Constitutional
schema. Yet AP is the only State that has given a reasonable form to this ideal, albeit, with
ubiquitous interludes of ‘wax and wane’. A serious attempt was also made under TSP in some States
in the form of a unified command under ITDPs . The proposition of ‘single line’, however, has got
virtually dropped from the tribal affairs agenda with serious consequences.
2. Lapsed Agenda of Raising the Level of Administration : The Constitutional Schema for
raising the level of administration of SAs has remained unused. The Seventh Finance Commissions
in response to the submission by the MHA about the state of administration in the SAs as a part of
TSP exercise agreed to give ad hoc assistance for the same. The Eighth Commission also followed
suit. The Ninth Finance Commission, however, did not continue the practice for want of formal
presentations by the concerned States. A system of regular review of administration in terms of
First Proviso to Article 275(1) of the Constitution as a concurrent exercise of annual plans has not
3. Fractured Self-Governance: PESA engendered great fervor and high expectations throughout
the tribal territory. But nothing changed on the ground. The ritual of GSs has degenerated into
command performance under duress including fabrication and destruction of documents in land
acquisition cases. Even guidelines, in keeping with the spirit of PESA, have not been issued now for
more than a decade. The concerned ministries are still debating whether PESA is a part of the
Constitution. If this debate becomes public, it may prove to be the last straw on the credibility of
and faith in the System. The governance in the urban enclaves of SAs is without any authority of
law, because Part IXA has not been extended to the SAs till date.
Here is an anti-climax. The loss of faith after the great PESA fervor was largely responsible for
rapid spread of extremist activity in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
4. Unattended Ambivalence in the Era of Liberalisation : There is total confusion in SAs after
liberalisation with regard to unregulated market and money power and the role of trustee State as
defender of STs. The ambivalent ‘protector-predator’ administration is pitched against the people in
promoting industries, acquiring land and managing natural resources under incongruous laws in
open violation of the Constitution especially PESA. The issues about command over resources have
not been reasonably settled even after the SC verdict in Samatha case. It is adding to the confusion,
creating strife amongst various interest groups and accentuating inherent confrontation in SAs.
IV Governance without Focus
1. Perfunctory and Irregular Governor’s Reports : There is no appreciation that the Governor’s
annual Report to the President (Para 3 of FS) holds the key to the quality of administration in SA
Accordingly these Reports have largely remained insipid narration of departmental activities with
no concern for their regularity. There is not a single case where the Union may have deemed it
necessary to issue a direction on any crucial point raised in a Governor’s Report for more than half
2. The Powerless Politicised Commissions : The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has
singularly failed in critically reviewing the functioning of Constitutional safeguards of STs. There
are hardly any in-depth studies about the emerging tribal situation. The Commission is
overburdened with complaints about service matters. Its Reports, with some honourable exceptions,
are routine compilation of data. They are handled in routine. They may be placed before the
Parliament in bunches that evokes no serious discussion.
The SA and ST Commission appointed under Article 339 met the same fate. Thus, the
Constitutional mandate about continuous vigil has become ‘a long drawn exercise in utter futility’.
The practice of appointment of active politicians as members of the Commission has compromised
its role as a Constitutional watchdog.
3. Systemic Incapacity to Learn from Experience: The softest spot in the Constitutional schema
is its systemic incapacity to learn from experience and action in unison amongst all partners in tribal
affairs within the frame of a common vision. (Annexure 2: Tribal Sub-Plan Strategy: L 2 The
4. Missing Focus, Direction and Authority in Government : The Union Government has not
even attempted to create a nodal point at the Center and in the States for guiding tribal affairs in
keeping with the spirit of Constitutional schema. The strongest pillar of peace and good
government, the Fifth Schedule, was declared dispensable in 1960 with no questions asked. It was
again forgotten half way through after the phenomenal come back with TSP strategy under the
legendry leadership of Indira Gandhi in 1970s. Its resurrection from the ashes as PESA in 1996 in
the wake of the historic decision in 1988, under the sensitive leadership of Rajiv Gandhi, not to
extend general Panchayati Raj in SAs, has been jinxed. In the face of divided responsibility in the
Union Government, PESA has been a peripheral item for its foster Ministries, Rural Development
in the beginning and now Panchayati Raj. They have no realization about its ‘First Pillar’ role in
tribal affairs. The supposedly nodal Ministry of Tribal Affairs has remained engrossed in managing
huge financial outlays and other routine matters oblivious about the state of its foundation. The
ubiquitous effective measures in tribal affairs so far have remained chance events depending on
intervention of a powerful personality, emergence of crisis situation and potential for political
gains. Accordingly tribal affairs have failed to emerge as a national task cutting across party lines.
The running down of the System is inevitable.
V The Deepening Crisis
Inadequate Response to the Deepening Crisis: The entire tribal tract in the country is facing an
unprecedented challenge in the form of Capitalist onslaught and people’s reaction supported by
Maoists. It is portrayed as a socio-economic phenomenon, yet is being handled as a purely law and
order problem. The State has not even cared to assess the extremely sensitive social situation of the
Muria-Maria belt in South Bastar with infamous record of ‘suicide as escape from rigours of the
rule of law’. The Union is seen at best as behaving like an unconcerned bystander. This approach
has led to civil war like regime under the banner of Salva Judum. In this situation, even the
lingering faith in the System and waning credibility of the State are at stake with disastrous
consequences for the tribal people irrespective of the tally of ‘heads and tails’ on either side in the
end. (Annexure 4 : Of Crisis in the Central Indian tribal Belt & Annexure 5 ‘Of Crisis in Bastar’ )
C.The Urgent Tasks
I Regaining the Confidence
The first task in the tribal areas is to regain the confidence of the people. Mere words will not do. A
simple policy frame, which the people can understand and assimilate, say, Panchasheel Revisited,
should be prepared beginning with a dialogue at the grass roots in respective Gram Sabhas. It
should be presented to the people as a ‘People’s Vision’. This exercise must not be allowed to
become an alibi for non-action. An emergency action plan comprising those elements that touch
every tribal and are visible like Indiraji’s ‘bees sootri’ should be launched forthwith. It should be
accompanied with a clear message to one and all that any violation thereof or denigration of its
spirit shall not be tolerated.
1. Deeds with a Vision
(i) Self-Governance : The most sensitive aspect of tribal life is self-governance. The promise of
real self-governance in PESA tickled the feelings of one and all with the image of ‘MY VILLAGE,
MY RULE’. It has been badly mauled by the anti-climax of non-action and even perverse action.
Amends should be made to contain that damage and recreate earlier milieu. The Gram Sabha (GS)
should become fully functional in the image of Village-Republic within this year with apology for
delay by the State.
The States concerned should immediately take the following steps in this regard:
(a) Prepare Guidelines in the form of a Regulation for the functioning of the Gram Sabha with the
comprehensive frame as envisaged in PESA so as to enable the people to deal with the System with
confidence and authority; and
(b) Frame a Regulation to the effect that ‘notwithstanding anything in any law for the time being in
force, all formal or informal transaction of any description whatsoever between a tribal and any
other person, including a juridical entity shall be in the open assembly of the Gram Sabha and shall
have no effect unless the GS authenticates the same.
(ii) Stop Commercial Vending of Intoxicants: The nefarious commercial vending of intoxicants
introduced by the British in the tribal areas was stopped in 1975 as a part of TSP strategy. The
practice has resurrected in blind pursuit of excise-revenue by the States in blatant violation of the
1974 excise policy. It should be stopped with effect from April 1, 2008. All State excise laws,
including prohibition laws, should be suitably amended through Governor’s Notification/Regulation
or by State Law to harmonise them with the spirit of PESA. (See Annexure 3 / G 1 (1) Excise
(iii) Make Ownership on Minor Forest Produce Effective beginning with 1.1.2008: The minor forest
produce in most of the tribal areas comprise a major source of livelihood for the tribal people.
Nevertheless its collection has been deemed to be a concession. This anomaly was formally
removed in the policy resolution in State Ministers Conference in 1976 conceding community
ownership. A mandatory provision been made in this regard in PESA in 1996. These measures have
made no difference in the ground situation except in MP and Chhattisgarh. The principle has been
reiterated now in the Forest Rights Act. It must be ensured that story does not repeat and community
rights become a reality beginning with the next season and the primary collector is assured of full
value of his collection without any levy of any description whatsoever. (See Annexure 3 / G 1 (2)
(iv) Resource Base for All: A resourceless tribal has no identity; a people without ‘des’ or
command over their habitat comprise a rootless crowd. The life of a wage-labour is mortifying
ignominy for a tribal. The lost honour of countless tribals should be redeemed by taking full
advantage of favourable population-resource matrix, communitarian values, dignity of labour and
the wide spectrum of their economy. Every tribal in the SAs should be enabled to create a
reasonable resource base for his living, severally or collectively, in full employment village
economy within 5 years.
(iii)Bridging the Great Divide: The yawning gap between the SAs and the rest should be filled
within ten years in terms of the provisions in the First Proviso to Art 275(1).
2. Amends for Lapses with Apology
(i) Apology for Historical Injustice: The historical injustice meted out to the tribal people needs to
be redeemed in the broad context of ‘criminalisation of the community’ on account of the acts of
omission and commission of the State itself. The following measures should be taken immediately
as a part of ‘Regaining the Confidence’ resolve of the State:
(a) All those cases pending in the courts or under investigation, which (i) involve technical
violation of the laws concerning forest, fishing, wild life and excise, and (ii) come within the ambit
of ‘dispute resolution’ of GS under PESA, should be withdrawn or sent to the concerned GS for
(b) All those cases where a party is alleged to have proceeded with the establishment of any project
in the SA on the basis of contrived consent of GS should be referred to the District Tribunal for
(ii) Redeeming Promises concerning Projects: The promises that may be made while starting a
project but not kept, go into ‘folk memory’ of concerned people. These broken promises may find
expression in numerous forms. All such promises made after independence through out the tribal
area, but not kept, should be collected, collated and redeemed as far as possible within a year.
(iii) Healing Touch for Victims of Development: The fact that the government does not have
figures even about the formally displaced not to speak of actually displaced persons in tribal areas is
indefensible. It is gross violation of the spirit of FS. A compressive survey of displaced persons in
the SAs should be taken up under the guidance of Registrar General of India to be completed within
a year. Restoration of dignity to all people already displaced by providing them an alternative base
for their livelihood, but not as a casual wage earner, in terms of the provisions of Rehabilitation
Policy of the concerned State or the Union, as the case may be, should be taken up in a campaign
mould to be completed within 5 years.
3. Liquidation of Liabilities Another essential and also crucial step for ‘Regaining the Confidence’
will be to liquidate all doubtful and iniquitous liabilities that tribal people may have been saddled
with because of their ignorance, unless the authenticity of the claim is ratified by concerned GS.
Without prejudice to generality of above formulation, it will specially include the following:
(i)Liquidation of debt liabilities: All exiting debt liabilities of all descriptions should stand
liquidated by law on an appointed day. The terms of credit in all future transactions should be the
same as in vogue under taccavi rules in 1947. (ii)Annulment of doubtful liabilities: All liabilities
relating to any programme in which the beneficiary did not receive the intended benefit should be
liquidated unless mala fide is established against him in the Gram Sabha. (iii) Eradication of
Bondage: The crucial task of striking at the horrendous relationship between master and worker
under the Bonded Labour Act in 1976 had a serious set back in 1980s when focus shifted from
eradication to rehabilitation. Moreover, the wide canvass of that Act, which covers many items
including advance purchase agreements of sale even before the crop is sown and the standing crops,
depressed wages, etc., has been forgotten. A bondage eradication campaign with the broad frame
as envisaged in the Act should be launched in SAs to be completed within 2 years.
II Effective Protection Protective measures must precede developmental programmes with suitable
amends in the TSP frame to ensure that the story of their earlier neglect is not repeated. The
following are some of the urgent issues for time bound action.
1. Regulation of Markets and Marketing: The markets in tribal areas are hubs of economic
expropriation. They exercise virtual strangle hold on tribal economy. Yet markets in SAs have
remained beyond the reach of any regulation. The mafia is in exclusive command. All markets
should be suitably regulated under the aegis of Paragana Parishad within a year. The entire tribal
produce should be brought under support price system with in 2 years.
2. Forest Rights : All claims of the occupants over forestland under the Forest Rights Act, 2005
should be settled within 2 years. Regulations should also be made so that the GSs can protect forest
in their traditional habitats.
3. Land Alienation and its Restoration: All State laws about land alienation should be reviewed
and suitably amended to enable GS to take effective action for protecting tribal land and restoration
of illegally alienated lands in keeping with the spirit of PESA as has been done in MP. The task
should be taken up as a campaign and completed within 2 years.
4. No Displacement : The very concept of displacement violates the spirit of Constitutional
schema. The transition, which tribal people have to negotiate in the process of development
including use of natural resources for a variety of developmental projects, should be meticulously
planned with prior informed consent of likely affected people. The plan, with statutory backing,
must ensure a place of honour on terms of equality in the new economy of the area for all as
recommended by Bhuria Committee. 6. Special Missions for Vulnerable Groups:
(i) Mission Navajeevan (PTGs): The situation of the especially vulnerable groups is much too
complex and delicate to be handled by routine administration. Even special Projects with built-in
flexibility did not click because of routine handling. As the issue here is of survival, a dedicated
small team, including a doctor and a social scientist, committed to the cause and prepared to work
in mission mould, should be constituted for each group or part thereof under an umbrella
organisation, Navajeevan Mission.
(ii) Mission Abhayadan for Vulnerable Girls: The implications of weakening community with a
comparatively weak family in tribal area have been overlooked. The young girls are the worst
victims. They are enticed, deceived and even captured from open markets by gangs for domestic
service and flesh trade in an unknown world with no one to defend. The situation is serious in
Jharkhand and Orissa. The issue should be flagged for urgent administrative action under a
regulation for immediate relief. A long-term plan should also be prepared, on the basis of a time
bound systematic study of 2 years or so.
(iii) Mission Dignity for Migrant Labour: There is a large exodus from SAs in search of work at
bare subsistence or even sub-subsistence wage level. There are gruesome stories of their
exploitation, especially of women and girls. As the saying goes in tribal pockets in Wynad, Kerala,
‘The girl goes for filling her belly; she returns with a ‘filled’ belly’. Effective legal and
institutional protection should be provided for migrant labour from SAs.
III Social Services
1. Health Services : The unacknowledged health crisis in tribal areas (Annexure 2 J 3 Health)
should be handled in a Mission mould in a holistic frame. It should cover all aspects of people's
health from pauper like diet status at one end and invasion of new diseases at the other. The
traditional healers and daies should be integral part of this Mission. Comprehensive health coverage
should begin with establishment of a fully equipped health center for each Paragana Parishad, or
group of villages, and accomplished within 3 years.
2. Education After early enthusiasm when people contributed in kind to engage teachers, their
reluctance to send children to school for fear of becoming ‘useless and misfit’ is a long story of
casual handling of this vital element of tribal development. A major special thrust is necessary to
ensure that (i) education is for life for the young, (ii) special handicaps are overcome and the great
cultural heritage is used as the foundation of real education and (iii) education overflows the
boundary walls of the school and involves meaningfully every Citizen. A time bound programme
should be taken up comprising inter alia (i) Universal enrolment in elementary stage as a campaign
within 2 years;(ii) A system of ‘academic linkage and guidance’ should be established right from the
nursery to the University (from ‘n to u’) with in 2 years so as to make the entire educational system
vibrant and capable of moving in unison with a purpose; and (iii) The school in the village should
become the hub of citizen education, equipped with a good library. (Annexure 2; J 2 Education) IV
Sustainable Development with Equity With effective protective shield in position as envisaged in
FS and resurgent spirit of self-governance, the community will be ready to move forward with
confidence. It would make good the loss sustained so far and take advantage of the buoyancy
engendered by the new economic thrust. The potential of community spirit, the greatest treasure of
tribal people, should be so harnessed that it reinforces the communitarian frame and promotes
equitable sharing of all dividends. (For details See Annexure 5: Sustainable Development with
1 Rejuvenation of the Traditional Economy: The first truth of the tribal economy is that it has
been badly mauled through incessant expropriation in countless forms and weakening
communitarian traditions. A comprehensive ‘ Operation Rejuvenation’ (OR) should be taken up
forth with in every village in the SA. While Operation Rejuvenation is on, steps should be taken for
laying the foundation for sustainable development by delineation of micro agro-climatic zones that
would provide the frame for long-term sustainable development. The inclusive frame of the tribal
economy for optimizing the use of unique resource endowment of the local area should be
harnessed. A Center for Sustainable Development (CSD) shall be established forth with in each
ITDP. Preparing young leaders for change should be given the highest priority. Diversification
should begin with obligatory first processing of local produce within each micro zone. An Udyami
Sahyog Sansthan should be established in each ITDP with the comprehensive agenda of continuous
assessment of the local situation, advising concerned groups in crisis, providing direct assistance,
preparing micro turn key projects and helping entrepreneurs in dealing with the unknown new
economy. About 15% of the tribal people, located largely in the North-East and parts of Orissa and
AP, still subsist on shifting cultivation. A ten-year Project Transformation should be launched under
the overall guidance of a National Center for Shifting Cultivation with a strong functional Unit in
every concerned State.
2 Taming the Modern Sector The most serious challenge in tribal areas is relatable to the
rudderless development in the situation of ‘rich resources and simple folks’ in a frame which
ignores the tribe’s association with its habitat and their traditional command thereon. An
unequivocal national resolve to pursue the path of ‘Development with Equity with Tribal People at
the Center of the Stage’ alone can measure up to the great crisis in the tribal areas. The very concept
of ‘displacement’ and ‘rehabilitation’ as two distinct entities is incongruous in the tribal context.
The structural transformation informs an entire tract, the zone of influence of the new venture that
has to be tamed and attended to. The confidence of the people in the System that has been badly
shattered must be regained with a clear resolve that no scheme of any description shall be taken up
without prior informed consultation with the community that should virtually mean their consent.
Any violation of this spirit by any one regardless of his position in life shall be treated as a heinous
offence against the community. The historical injustice implicit in the current paradigm of
development must be attended to as recommended by Bhuria Committee in 1995. According to this
Committee a provision should be made for share in the equity for the community, affected farmers
and also the workers. This formal structure can be termed as Community Sector. The National
Advisory Council has endorsed this formulation for adoption. The urban centers of expropriation
should be transformed into pulsating centers of holistic development. Any entrepreneur starting a
venture in a SA on tribal land should be legally bound to induct the owner of land as an equal
partner. The Provisions of Municipalities in Part IXA should be extended to the Scheduled Areas
with exceptions and modifications as recommended by Bhuria Committee.
3. Concurrent Study and Research: The need of independent, systematic and regular appraisal of
the complex tribal situation is self-evident. The Tribal Research Institutes started with some real
good work but gradually became mere decorative pieces. A new chapter of concurrent and
collaborative study and research should begin with the collation of whatsoever is available and
defining the future tasks in terms of the past experiences and future vision. V Negotiating the Crisis
especially in Bastar It is generally admitted that basic issues in the disturbed areas are socio-economic.
They must not be handled as a law and order problem. (Annexures 4 & 5: Of Crisis in
the Central Indian tribal Belt & Of Crisis in Bastar) But the crisis is a reality that is pushing all
socioeconomic measures in the background and keeping law and order in the forefront. There are
two facets of dealing with the crisis, for example, in its epicenter in Bastar. Bastar comprises a large
geographical area with a strong functioning traditional socio-religious network. If the package of
protective and developmental measures discussed above is vigorously implemented in the entire
Bastar, the message of New Deal will percolate to the disturbed area there in from all sides and
engulf the same. The wave of new hope that will be engendered in the process, if properly
harnessed, can become instrumental in checking expansion of crisis area; nay, it may even engender
a process of ‘retreat’. But this process by itself may not be strong enough for the final resolution of
crisis. It is possible that ‘crisis’ areas may not welcome the message of some and even all the
measures. In that situation a different strategy will have to be adopted. The focus in that case will
have to be on ending of confrontation between the people and the State. A new administrative
culture must be engendered that guarantees natural justice to the people in accordance with
their customs and tradition. The State in this situation should assume the role of a ‘stand by’
force ready to protect the people in all eventualities. A team of sensitive hand picked officers
especially empowered should be inducted in the crisis area with a clear mandate to create
conditions for reestablishment of the system of self-governance as envisaged under PESA. The
community must feel reassured that the State shall stand by it in all eventualities and will no
seek alibi for non-action under some pretext or the other.
‘ Where there is will there is a way’, holds the key to success in simple socio-economic situations
especially in the tribal areas where the people are pitched against not only the adverse forces but
also even the ‘Trustee State’ itself. Its legal frame does not recognise even the very existence of the
tribal’s functioning system of self-governance. Accordingly, discretion is the foundation of the
special provisions for administration of the SAs under the FS and other special Constitutional
provisions. The ubiquitous spells of intense activity in tribal affairs are in response to some
challenging situations and/or under committed leadership at the local, regional or national level.
These spells get subsumed in the inert expanse of the routine that follows as the situation
‘normalises’ and/or the motive force of individual initiative disappears or wanes. The tribal situation
has been incessantly running down, perhaps irretrievably, in the shadow of illusion of earlier
achievements that tends to persist for some time.
The biggest failure of the System has been in the arena of (i) appreciation of internal signals about
the crisis situations in the extensive tribal territories outside the common reach and (ii) aiding
internal processes for identification, nurture and promotion of committed leadership at various
levels in the establishment, including political.
I Single line Administration
1. Scheduling of Left-over Areas
(a) All areas already identified as tribal majority areas should be brought under the FS within a
period of one year in pursuance of the commitment made in 1976.
(b) All tribal majority areas that have been left out for any reason whatsoever or that may have
newly qualified by virtue of new communities being classified as STs as in UP should be identified
within a year and brought under the FS within two years.
2 Administrative Reorganisation: The tribal areas are generally located on the borders of
administrative units, be it, block/taluk, district or state. The compact tribal areas thus stand
vivisected claiming little attention of concerned authorities. Administrative reorganisation of these
areas within concerned States should be taken up and completed within 2 years so that compact
tribal areas are brought under same administrative units at an appropriate level.
3. Single line Administration: The simple tribal is bewildered in the face of numerous
departments/institutions dealing with minute specialties. Moreover, no one is responsible for
ensuring that the administration and all its constituents behave and any element there of does not
become dysfunctional. A single line administration should be established at the level of ITDP with a
clear chain of command and specific wide-band functional domain. While Panchayat Raj
institutions at the District/intermediate level should have decision-making powers in relevant areas,
implementation should be the exclusive domain of administration. On the other hand, the domain of
Gram Sabha should remain non-violable with administration playing a supportive role. (See
Chapter 3 Urgent Tasks Deeds with Vison)
II Holistic Frame
1 Recreating Holistic TSP Frame: With a set of urgent tasks and need for effective
implementation, the holistic frame of TSP should be put in place immediately. The Central
Ministries/ State Departments must assume their responsibilities. They should assess the lost ground
and make good omissions in the Eleventh Plan.
2 Defining Nodal Role: The Ministry/ Department in charge of tribal affairs at the Center and in
the State should be devoted exclusively to the nodal role. This should, inter alia, include
coordination in preparation of sectoral plans and giving them a holistic frame. It should provide, if
necessary, supplemental inputs of any description as may be demanded by the situation. It should
monitor and oversee implementation and act as a trouble-shooter.
3 No Line Functions for the Nodal Ministry/Department: The nodal agencies at national, state or
project level should have no line functions whatsoever. Their representatives should be constantly
on the move in the field amongst the people to have a realistic idea from the people’s end about the
quality of administration, shortfalls of the System, nature of problems that remain unattended and
improvise remedial measures followed by systemic amends.
4. Tribal Affairs Units in Ministries/Departments: All Ministries/Departments, except those
especially exempted, should immediately setup a strong Tribal Affairs Unit (TAU). This Unit should
go ahead to identify its role and responsibility, in consultation with the nodal Ministry/Department
of tribal affairs in terms of the immediate and long-term tasks taking into consideration, inter alia,
the issues identified here.
5. Planning from Below: The process of planning from below should begin with ITDP from the
very beginning in the eleventh Plan. It should move on to block unit in the form of a broad
perspective along with annual plan exercises in not more than three years. This preliminary
exercise should pave the way for a real process of planning from below for SAs in twelfth
Plan. Competent micro planning units should be established at State and also ITDP level.
6. Single Window Organisation for Credit Marketing and Supply: A single window system for
credit, marketing and supply under the system of Large Sized Multipurpose Societies (LAMPS)
should established, or revamped where already established, with competent and reliable personnel
under the unified control of the ITDP.
7. Personnel- Quality and Discipline: Selected personnel with empathy for the tribal people
should be posted in tribal areas with an extendable tenure of not less than five years and provision
for in situ promotion. In larger States sub-cadres may be established with a provision for choice to
join the main stream after ten years service. The entire personnel should be brought under a special
disciplinary regime keeping in view the fact that cleaver outsiders familiar with the system wield
exceptional influence by virtue of that fact and misuse the same. An annual review of personnel
with a stringent provision for weeding out the undesirable elements should be made
obligatory and any default in this a serious dereliction of duty.
8 Postings, Rewards and Punishments: An effective system of postings, rewards and punishment
should be worked out for the SAs. In particular, all positions in the Ministries/Departments dealing
with tribal affairs must be held by offices who may have worked in a tribal area for not less than
9. Devolution of Powers: Devolution of powers to the nearest level in the field should be the rule.
Instances of misuse should be met with stringent action against the culprits and institutionalizing
effective correctives. It should not be allowed to be used as a ploy for its reversal. Devolution of
powers to the GS under PESA should be treated as sacrosanct. Any attempt to mislead or
influence the GS and misuse the aura of authority of any description, administrative,
institutional or political should be treated as a crime against democracy.
10 Annual Review: The quality of administration is the firm foundation of planned economic
development. This aspect has been badly neglected notwithstanding the provisions in Article
275(1). The Government of India should institutionalize annual review of administration in the SAs.
The first review under this Constitutional mandate should be done within the current year
itself in terms of a clear frame that may be prescribed.
11. Review by the Finance Commission: The GoI should specially revise the Terms of Reference of
Finance Commission so that (i) the state of administration in the SAs is especially assessed and (ii)
specific provisions are made for its improvement in its Reports .
III Peace and Good Government
· Administration essentially comprises the interface of the State with the people in various
facets of their life in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution, provisions of relevant
laws, rules, formal executive decisions, discretionary powers, if any, and the perspective of
officials at the cutting edge. Dissonance between perspectives of the people and the State
about this interface results in discord and unrest. Para 5 of FS aims at erasing the possibility
of such dissonance. Immediate action should be taken to erase this dissonance in keeping
with the spirit of the Constitution especially PESA read with the Fifth Schedule through (a)
adaptation of laws through Governor’s Notifications coverings all items of PESA, (b)
framing of model regulations in relation to all facets of administration not covered by (a)
above and (c) issue of ‘Guidelines’ about the role, responsibilities and functioning of GS
honouring its ‘competence’. This task should be completed within the current year. ( For
details see Annexure 3: Of PESA and After)
· District Tribunals: The effectiveness of GS as the institution of self-governance as
envisaged in PESA holds the key to peace and good government in SA. The GS, therefore,
must be given highest regard by all concerned irrespective of the position they may hold in
the System. Any act that may amount to denigration of GS should be deemed to be an
offence against democracy. A District Tribunal with District Judge as the Chairman
should be constituted that should, inter alia, have jurisdiction to entertain complaints
about alleged offences against democracy.
IV Continuous Vigil
1. Administrative Reports: A continuous flow of information about the ground situation in
terms of various indicators and its critical appreciation at various levels up to the top, taking
full advantage of advances in information technology, alone can be the foundation of an
effective administrative system. Sensitive and simple indicators spanning the entire gamut of
administration should be worked out for monthly, quarterly and annual reports with the ITDP, State
Department and the Union Ministry as the nodal points for qualitative assessment, review,
identifying weak points and action thereon.
2. Governor’s Report: The Governor’s Report should present an overall assessment of the tribal
situation in the State with special reference to weak spots and corrective action. The President may
prescribe a clear time schedule from its submission, through consideration to Presidential directions
thereon, if any, so as to ensure that all action points are suitably accommodated in the annual
administration/developmental plans and also in the budgets.
3. Report of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes: The Commission’s Report may
concentrate on the working of Constitutional safeguards and present the situation from the people’s
perspective based on its own investigations, complaints received and the findings of researches by
other institutions. The President may prescribe a strict time schedule for the presentation of
Commission’s Report to the President and its consideration by the Parliament. The Commission
should be depoliticised. The appointment of the Chairman and members of the Commission
should be entrusted to a committee comprising the PM, the Leader of the Opposition and the
Minister in charge Tribal Affairs.
4. The National Development Council: A Committee on Administration of Scheduled Areas may
be constituted in the National Development Council, which may regularly place before the Council
its assessment of the tribal situation.
5. Vigil at the Top: While the Ministry of Tribal Affairs will act as the nodal authority for tribal
affairs, action in unison in a broader frame on a continuing basis will be necessary especially in
view the valuable time lost in many a crucial tasks and the impending crisis in many a tribal area. A
Standing Committee of the Cabinet with the Prime Minister in Chair should be constituted for
regular review of the tribal situation in the country and measures taken by concerned authorities on
vital issues emerging from the proposed reporting system.
6. A National Task: The ‘natural’ state of the tribal people is being taken advantage of various
interest groups, including political parties, in a variety of ways. (Annexure 3) There is utter
confusion with serious implications especially with the weakening of the traditional system. It is
high time that the basic premise of ‘Tribal Affairs -- a National Task’ as envisaged by the founding
fathers is reiterated and conditions are created to enable tribal people to guide structural
transformation in terms of their perception. Accordingly a ‘People’s Vision’ and National Policy
based on that Vision should be prepared as early as early as possible which can serve as a
guide for further studies, deliberations and action programmes.
7. National Council for Scheduled Areas: The situation in the tribal areas is so complex, the
vested interests of all descriptions are so entrenched and the crisis is so deep-rooted and
multidimensional-social, economic, administrative and political that the various measures discussed
above may still leave some crucial aspects uncovered inspite of the best efforts of all the partners.
Therefore there is urgent need for establishing a body that (i) is free from routine and (ii) has access
to all relevant authorities/institutions within the System and outside, that can have a realistic
perception of the total situation on a continuing basis. It should be able to identify omissions and
opine on the efficacy of various measures in achieving the national task. National Council for
Scheduled Areas should be established for this crucial task comprising persons with different
backgrounds with deep understanding of the tribal situation.
V Crisis Resolution as Trustee Caretaker
An important precondition for the measures outlined above is that the message of the New Deal
should reach the people and they may be in a position to respond. The State so far has singularly
failed in having a meaningful dialogue with the people. Even the great opportunity after the
enactment of PESA has been missed. On the contrary the misdemeanor of the State had an adverse
effect. The crisis has deepened in many areas. The situation will worsen if the State proceeds in a
routine style as hitherto before. (Annexure 2 ‘The Failure’) Therefore, the crucial issue is a
meaningful dialogue with the people.
The simple message of effective and visible action under of ‘bees sootri of Gram Swaraj’
( Annexure 3: The Urgent Tasks: Deeds with a Vision & Amends for Lapses with Apology) alone
can create at this stage the fervour amongst the tribal people, exhilarated by the realisation of being
‘masters of their destiny’ and “inheritors of ‘des’ to which they belong”. This image alone can
engender the confidence to face challenge of any description behooving the tradition of their valiant
ancestors. Their ‘living images’ in the folklore continue to inspire the old and the young alike in
their struggles against injustice perpetrated in various forms including the ‘historical injustice’ of
the State. As the unwholesome image of State becomes brighter with the spread of new message in
the new frame and its role as a ‘friend in deed’ is internalised by the tribal people, they will refuse
to tolerate even an allusion to compulsion and coercion in any form and also to any thing that is
alien to their customs and tradition unless voluntarily imbibed. All sorts of involuntary impositions
are bound to wane and finally disappear in face of the Will of the People that will find full and
uninhibited expression in village assemblies of their real republics.
But here is the real test. Will the State be able to honour the implicit commitment of the New Deal?
Will the State be able to order its legions out to conquer the fabled land with fabulous wealth to
‘Halt and Salute’ the standard bears of ‘Little Republics’? Can we begin a new chapter of
Development with Equity, in the Scheduled Areas to begin with, under the unquestioned command
of the community at the village level as mandated by the Constitution? Can those activities of the
State that are continuing in blatant violation of the national policy and are all black with not faintest
silver line in favour like commercial vending of liquor be stopped with one stroke through out the
E. The Saptapadi (Seven Steps)
1. Credibility and Confidence: The vision of self-governance that tickled the imagination of tribal
people, with potential of ending the longstanding confrontation between State and tribal people,
should be made functional forthwith in keeping with the spirit of PESA. In particular,
· All transactions of any agency with tribal people, severally or collectively, be brought under
the purview of GS and unless executed in its open assembly be deemed to be void.
· Commercial vending of intoxicant in violation of 1974 excise policy be stopped forthwilh.
· Community ownership of minor forest produce be honoured and made operational.
· A crash programme be taken up for ensuring minimal resource base for every tribal family.
· Amends be made for all acts of omission and commission of the State concerning tribal
people so far; all cases about any matter falling within the purview of GS be withdrawn.
· All promises made while establishing various enterprises, still in folk memory, be redeemed.
· All victims of development be identified and suitably rehabilitated.
· All debts and doubtful liabilities be liquidated and bondage in all forms be eradicated.
· As the System regains people’s confidence, the tribal people be helped to prepare a ‘People’s
Vision’ for SAs as guide for the onward journey with confidence.
2. Continuous Vigil: Continuous vigil is an essential condition for fulfillment of ‘People’s Vision’
as a national task. In particular,
· A system of continuous flow of information about the state of tribal people in the form of
administrative reports should be setup forthwith.
· The annual Report of the Governor be streamlined to serve its Constitutional objective.
· The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes be ‘depoliticised’ and empowered to
function as Ombudsman of tribal people.
· The Ministry of Tribal Affairs to function as a nodal ministry continuously appraising the
Union Cabinet about developments through a Standing Committee of Cabinet for SAs.
· A Standing Committee of NDC to specially review tribal situation and present it to NDC.
· The Scheduled Areas and Tribes Commission be constituted under Article 339 (1) every
decade for special review of policy and recommending changes there in, if any.
· A National Council for Scheduled Areas be established for continuous assessment of tribal
situation and presenting a realistic perspective thereof before the nation from people’s end.
3. Effective Protection, Peace and Good Government are essential preconditions for tribal
development. In particular,
· All leftover tribal-majority areas be scheduled followed by (i) administrative reorganization
of SA in each State and (ii) establishment of single line of administration therein.
· The immediate urgent tasks in SAs should include (i) regulation of markets and money-lending,
(ii) restoration of alienated lands and (iii) special Missions for especially vulnerable
groups including (a) PTGs, (b) belles in distress and (c) migrant labour.
· The entire legal frame in SAs be brought in consonance with PESA through (i) adaptation of
laws, (ii) framing of regulations and (iii) issue of GRs and Guideline under FS.
· A District Tribunal be established for offenses against democracy including PESA violation.
4. Operation Rejuvenation including Social Services:
· As the spirit of self-governance permeates SAs, operation rejuvenation of ravaged tribal
economy be launched beginning with each village with reference to its micro ecological-climatic
zone to be specified by Center of Sustainable Development to be setup in each
Integrated Tribal Development Project.
· Diversification of local economy be pursued by making first processing of all produce
obligatory within the zone, supported by turn-key projects and training of young leadership.
· A ten-year Project Transformation for shifting cultivation be launched in concerned States.
· An effective comprehensive programme for health services and nutrition be launched with
focus on meeting endemic health crisis in extensive SAs.
· A special thrust in education should be given to ensure universal coverage with
establishment of ‘school complexes’ and focus on outdoor activities and sports. Academic
linkage be established from n (nursery) to u (University) in SAs for improvement of
academic standards. All schools to develop as hub of citizen education and cultural life.
5. Sustainable Development with Equity:
· The rudderless development in the situation of ‘rich resources and simple folks’ be
transformed into a voyage of ‘Development with Equity with tribal people at its center’.
· The current concept of ‘displacement’ and ‘rehabilitation’ to give way to a frame of ‘guided
structural transformation of entire zone of influence of proposed enterprise’. All new
Projects to be established only with informed consent of community and provision for
majority shares of community, affected people and workers, that is, in the ‘community
sector’ as recommended by Bhuria Committee and concurred by National Advisory Council.
· Part IXA of the Constitution should be extended to the Scheduled Areas with exceptions and
modifications as recommended by Bhuria Committee.
6 Holistic Frame and Planning from Below in SAs: While the holistic frame of protection and
development as envisaged under Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) be institutionalized and reinforced in the
light of experience, an exercise of planning below with reference to the special situation in each
micro unit in keeping with the spirit of FS must start forth with.
· The nodal ministry/department for tribal affairs in the Center/State should be divested of all
line functions. All other Ministries/Departments should have a strong tribal affairs unit.
· A single window system in all field organizations especially in credit, marketing and supply.
· Quality of personnel be underscored; sub-cadres to be established; personnel with empathy
be posted with provision for awards; scourge of punishment posting be erased with stringent
regulations about conduct and annual review under apex Ministry of Personnel.
· Annual review of the state of administration in SAs be institutionalised, like annual
development plans, in terms of the First Proviso to Article 275(1) of the Constitution.
7. Negotiating the Crisis: The phase of projected unconcern by the Center about ‘areas in crisis’
must end. Let the message of New Deal reach these areas in high profile engendering waves of new
hope, checking expansion of ‘crisis areas’ and even forcing ‘retreat’. In areas of sever resistance, let
the focus be on ending of confrontation. A new administrative culture be engendered guaranteeing
natural justice to people within their familiar setting. A team of sensitive hand picked officers
especially empowered be inducted with a clear mandate for creating conditions for reestablishment
of self-governance as envisaged under PESA with State’s assurance to stand by the community in
all eventualities with on alibi for non-action.
As the unwholesome image of State becomes brighter with the spread of new message and its role
as a ‘friend in deed’ is internalized, the people will refuse to tolerate even an allusion to compulsion
and coercion in any form and also to any thing that is alien to their customs and tradition unless
voluntarily imbibed. All sorts of involuntary impositions are bound to wane and finally disappear in
face of the ‘Will of the People’ that will find full and uninhibited expression in the grand assemblies
of Village Republics.