#India- National Commission for Scheduled Tribes puts Governors in the docks


Governors in the dock

 

Author(s): Jitendra, downtoearth

Issue Date: Apr 15, 2013

image

Tribals in Jharkhand protest for land rights. Conflicts are growing in tribal areas ( photo credit: ARVIND YADAV / CSE)

They turn a blind eye to laws overriding tribal rights, complains national commission

 

GOVERNORS of states with sizeable tribal population have come in for indictment over not performing their special administrative roles. To ensure partial autonomy in tribal areas, the Constitution entrusts governors with immense powers to supervise the administration and governance in such areas. They can allow or disallow any law or development programme in tribal areas to protect self governance and development needs. They can also make regulations for harmony and effective governance. But governors are hardly doing so, finds the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.

 

In a confidential report sent to the President, the Commission has recommended that governors be made more accountable in dispensing their special duties in tribal areas notified under Schedule Five of the Constitution, which protects tribal interests. This comes at a time when the government is allocating large development funds for these areas, many of which are reeling from Maoist insurgency.

 

“There is a need to evolve a mechanism for the governor … in scheduled areas to monitor and ensure implementation (of constitutional provisions) in letter and spirit. So that governors may play an oversight role in the matter,” states the report sent in June last yearand seen by Down To Earth.

 

The Commission, a constitutional body, sends an annual report to the President on the state of affairs in tribal areas notified under Schedule Five.

 

According to sources, the President, who also enjoys special powers in Schedule Five areas, has sent the report to the tribal affairs ministry. It should have been placed in Parliament after a review by the ministry. But the ministry, due to reasons known to it best, did not do so. “We did not table it in Parliament due to complex procedures and nonavailability of a Hindi version of the report,” A K Dubey, joint secretary of the ministry, says. He does not elaborate“complex procedures”.

 

Since its inception in 2004, the Commission has sent five annual reports to the President. Except for the first one, no report has yet been tabled in Parliament.

 

Review all laws

The latest report indicates constant failure of governors in overseeing developments in Schedule Five areas.

 

The most important responsibility of the governor is to ensure that the special panchayati raj law for tribal areas, known as PESA—Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act—is implemented effectively and any law that contradicts it is put aside. Through a notification, a governor can annul, restrict or modify state and Centre’s regulations without seeking the opinion of the Council of Ministers headed by the chief minister.

 

Governors’ reports rarely mention poor governance, insurgency or displacement

However, according to B D Sharma, the last commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, “All the laws are automatically applicable until the governor does not want to implement or amend as per the need of the Fifth Schedule areas.” As governors fail to perform this duty, general laws have automatically been applicable to tribal areas, often leading to conflicts.

 

 

The confidential report has recommended a review of all laws for their adaptation in Scheduled Areas. Every year the governor is supposed to send a TACs conducted meetings till December 2012. Senior journalist B G Verghese, who has written extensively on the issue, says sarcastically that it is mutely accepted by the Government of India that the governor in the Fifth Schedule, meant to be a “governor-in-council”, is acting on the aid and advice of his council.

The confidential report has recommended a review of all laws for their adaptation in Scheduled Areas. Every year the governor is supposed to send a report to the President on the state of affairs and his/her interventions.

 

The commission has suggested that the ministry of tribal affairs should issue a uniform format for preparation and submission of governor’s report. The format should have a provision for review of Union and state laws and their compatibility with the constitutional provisions safeguarding tribal interests. It should also have a specification for listing steps taken to protect the constitutional rights of tribals.

 

In reviewing laws, governors can consult the Tribes Advisory Councils (TACs) constituted by the states with tribal areas. In the current financial year, four states out of the 11 that have TACs conducted meetings till December 2012. Senior journalist B G Verghese, who has written extensively on the issue, says sarcastically that it is mutely accepted by the Government of India that the governor in the Fifth Schedule, meant to be a “governor-in-council”, is acting on
the aid and advice of his council.

 

The confidential report has recommended making TACs more accountable. The advisory councils should be reconstituted regularly and meet at least twice a year, says the report.

 

Out of focus

Governors’ role in Schedule Five areas has been under scrutiny ever since the enactment of PESA. It gained urgency in the recent past with large-scale industrialisation triggering conflicts in several tribal areas.

 

Governors are not only irregular in sending annual reports to the President (see map), but also evasive on the subjects these reports are meant to address. R R Prasad, director of the National Institute of Rural Development, has analysed such reports. According to him, none of these reports talks about burning issues like displacement, poor governance and insurgency.

 

“The reports are hardly objective assessments as required by the law. Largely, they read like a laundry list of physical targets and financial allocations under various schemes as reported by the state government’s department,” says Prasad. “It is time a more stringent system is put in place so that the annual report truly reflects the condition of tribes in these areas.”

 

There is no proper record of the annual reports submitted to the President. Non-profit Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative sought records on governors’ reports between 1990 and 2008 through the right-to-information route. But the tribal affairs ministry furnished reports dating from only 2001, citing the reason that the ministry was created in October 1999.

 

This is not the first time government’s own wing underscored governors’ negligence in tribal areas. In 2008 and 2011, during governors’ meetings in Delhi, the then president requested them to look into their roles in tribal areas more seriously. In April 2012, the Central government for the first time issued a directive to a governor in respect to his constitutional duty in Scheduled Areas. V Kishore Chandra Deo, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj, asked the governor of Andhra Pradesh to cancel the memorandum of understanding signed for bauxite mining in the state’s Scheduled areas. The governor, however, ignored the directive.

 

The Commission’s report has officially raised an issue that has been simmering for some time now.

 

 

 

#India- Tribal affairs ministry against MoEF move to dilute forest rights Act #CSR


 

MoEF notification on 5 February says linear projects such as roads, canals wouldn’t require gram sabha consent
Liz Mathew   |  Neha Sethi  ,           First Published: Fri, Mar 29 2013. 10 28 PM IST, livemint.com
 
The clearance of such developmental projects shall be subject to the condition that the same is recommended by the gram sabhas, according to the text of the forest rights Act. 
  
New Delhi: A move by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to exempt promoters of so-called linear projects such as roads, pipelines and canals from seeking the consent of village councils in forest areas will likely be a non-starter unless the government moves to amend the forest rights Act (FRA).
MoEF issued a notification on 5 February that such projects, including power transmission lines, wouldn’t require the consent of gram sabhas, or village councils. It acted in the face of criticism over the delay of many infrastructure projects for want of environmental approvals.
But the measure won’t have any constitutional validity until FRA is amended, an official in the tribal affairs ministry said, indicating a possible face-off between MoEF and his ministry.
The person did not want to be identified given the sensitive nature of the ongoing debate within the government.
The tribal affairs ministry has raised its concerns in a letter to MoEF asking it to revise the 5 February notification.
“The concern of this ministry is that it be made amply clear that the rights of FDSTs (forest-dwelling scheduled tribes) and OTFDs (other traditional forest dwellers) on forest land proposed to be diverted must get recognized and vested under the FRA (without any exception) before forest clearance is granted to any such proposal,” said the letter, a copy of which was reviewed by Mint.
The 5 February notification, posted on the MoEF website, states that the decision was taken after consultations with an inter-ministerial committee. However, the tribal affairs ministry contends that it hadn’t been consulted.
The matter was raised at the last meeting of the cabinet committee on investment, but no decision has been taken. “The matter is still unresolved,” said the official cited above. The cabinet committee on investment has been set up to speed up the clearance of big infrastructure projects and is headed by the Prime Minister.
A top environment ministry official said he wasn’t aware of the reservations of the tribal affairs ministry. “The notification that we issued was done after consultation with the tribal affairs ministry, then why will they have a problem?” said the official, who requested anonymity.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, stipulates that projects such as schools, hospitals, anganwadis (child and mother care centres), fair price shops, electric and telecommunication lines, tanks and water bodies, water pipelines, rainwater harvesting structures, minor irrigation canals, vocational training centres, roads and community centres require the permission of village councils.
“The clearance of such developmental projects shall be subject to the condition that the same is recommended by the gram sabhas,” according to the text of the Act.
While clearance for projects is given by MoEF, and the tribal affairs ministry doesn’t play a role in that, it comes into the picture if there is a dispute over gram sabha approval or if “someone contests the clearance given”, said the tribal affairs ministry official cited in the first instance.
In such cases, the tribal affairs ministry will have to go by FRA, the official said.
Clause (11) of FRA states that the tribal affairs ministry is the nodal agency for the implementation of its provisions, the same person said. That’s why the Act will have to be amended for the notification to come into effect, he said.
“How can a memorandum or a notification from a ministry repeal an Act passed by Parliament?” the official said.
The MoEF official cited above said nothing was done by the environment ministry on its own. “It was only after a meeting that the Prime Minister had with both the environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan, and the tribal affairs minister, V. Kishore Chandra Deo, that it was decided to issue the notification,” the official added.
To be sure, it was unlikely gram sabhas would oppose development projects such as roads, electric transmission lines or drinking water pipelines. FRA, one of the United Progressive Alliance government’s landmark items of legislation in its first term, was passed by Parliament in 2006, said the second official.
Only the nodal ministry, in this case the tribal affairs ministry, can issue fresh guidelines or notifications amending the rules.
“However the tribal affairs ministry has not yet issued any such notification that calls for changing the provisions in the Act,” the same official said.
Tushar Dash, a researcher with Vasundhara, an Orissa-based not-for-profit organization that’s working on forest rights and conservation, said a group of states and non-governmental organizations had raised the issue of the dilution of tribal rights with the tribal affairs ministry earlier this month.
“We had told them to intervene in this matter and make sure that the forest rights Act does not get diluted,” Dash said, adding that if the tribal affairs ministry had written to the environment ministry, then it was definitely “a good move on their part”.

 

 

#India-After 100 years , Odisha villagers get rights to harvest bamboo rights #agriculture


JAMGUDA, March 4, 2013

Prafulla Das, The Hindu

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh is handing over the patta at Jamguda in Kalahandi district on Sunday. Photo: Lingaraj
Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh is handing over the patta at Jamguda in Kalahandi district on Sunday. Photo: Lingaraj

Tribal development must for curbing Naxal growth: Jairam

For the residents of this tiny non-descript village in Odisha’s Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput region, it was a rare celebratory occasion on Sunday when they got back the rights that had been snatched away by the British rulers nearly a century ago.

The official transit passbook for cultivation and harvest of bamboo was handed over to the Jamguda Gram Sabha by Orissa forest officials. Union Rural Development and Tribal Affairs Ministers Jairam Ramesh and Kishore Chandra Deo and Odisha Revenue minister Surjya Narayan Patra attended a Tribal Rights festival organised by the Gram Sabha to mark the event.

Jamguda became the first village in Odisha to be provided community rights to harvest and sell bamboo under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Mendha Lekha in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra was the first village in the country to have been given bamboo transit passbooks in April 2011. A few more villages near Mendha Lekha obtained the rights subsequently.

Mr. Ramesh had earlier written to Orissa’s Naveen Patnaik and the Chief Ministers of five other Maoist-affected States to hand over full control of transit passbooks to the Gram Sabhas where community forest rights were recognised.

Addressing Jamguda villagers, Mr. Ramesh and Mr. Deo said the Centre would extend full cooperation in providing tribals and other traditional forest dwellers the right over minor forest produce such as bamboo, kendu leaf and mahula flower.

Mr. Ramesh underlined the need for ensuring development of the tribal people in order to check the growth of Maoists in the tribal regions. “We have to understand why the tribal people were feeling alienated and were unhappy that benefits of development had not reached them so far and their land was being taken away by non-tribal people for different projects.”

Hostile treatment

Tribal people had been treated as enemies by Forest Department officials since the British enforced the Forest Act in 1927 and all land in tribal areas was declared forest land, said Mr. Deo. Under the present laws, granting tribals land rights should be the main priority, he said.

 

#India- Tribal Affairs Minister Deo opposes bauxite mining in Vizag agency area


Our Bureau

Our state: A tribal points to the Galikonda hill range in Visakhapatnam district, the hub for the proposed mining of bauxite ore, in this file photo.
Our state: A tribal points to the Galikonda hill range in Visakhapatnam district, the hub for the proposed mining of bauxite ore, in this file photo.
Visakhapatnam, Feb. 14:

Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Kishore Chandra Deo is firm on bringing down the curtains on the bauxite controversy in the agency (tribal) area of Visakhapatnam district, which he represents, by getting the mining leases cancelled.

At a meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on February 4 on the issue, he made his stand clear and wanted quick action by the Union Mining Minister Dinsha J. Patel.

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Dinsha J Patel, Minister of Environment and Forests Jayanti Natarajan and Law Minister Ashwin Kumar also participated in the meeting, it is learnt.

Firm stand

The Union Mines Ministry has already given its permission to the AP Government, while the Ministry of Environment and Forests is in the process of clearing the proposal. Sources said that the Home Minister and Finance Minister were called for the meeting as the Tribal Affairs Minister had hinted to the Prime Minister that if mining was allowed it would alienate the tribals in the region, which may result in a major law and order problem.

The Finance Minister explained how the Centre was pumping in funds for development of tribal areas to combat the Maoist influence in the region, sources added.

Deo took a firm stand against mining and justified his intervention to protect the rights of the tribals enshrined in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, sources said.

On February 10, the Tribal Affairs Minister wrote a letter to the Minister of Mines to direct his ministry to issue a communication revoking permission to the State Government to mine bauxite in the Scheduled areas.

In the letter, he pointed out that the agreement/MoU entered into by the State Government did not flow out of an enactment of the State Legislature or Parliament and could be cancelled. The agreement was in violation of the land transfer regulations of the State Government which prohibits non-tribals from purchasing or taking on lease land in the Scheduled Areas.

sarma.rs@thehindu.co.in 

 

All Eyes On Govt Vs Vedanta Case


| Jan 22, 2013 | Forbes

The government versus Vedanta case has the entire mining industry interested in the outcome, in the hope of getting more clarity on mining permissions
All Eyes On Govt Vs Vedanta Case
Image: Getty Images
Vedanta’s aluminium refinery at Lanjigarh in Orissa remains shut due to nonavailability of bauxite

The Supreme Court is hearing a petition filed by the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) against the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ decision to withdraw the permission given to mine bauxite reserves on the Niyamgiri hill range. A joint venture between OMC and the local unit of the Anil Agarwal-owned Vedanta Resources, wants to develop the mines in Orissa and supply bauxite to the alumina refinery run by the London-based company. 
Though the Supreme Court had cleared the mining proposal in 2008, three years later the environment ministry withdrew its clearance. A committee set up by the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh alleged that provisions of the Forest Rights Act had been violated.

The apex court’s ruling will decide the fate of Agarwal’s aluminium project in Orissa that has till now coughed up losses of Rs 2,500 crore. The refinery is right now shut down for want of bauxite supply.

But the whole mining industry is interested in the outcome of the case. Some of the biggest companies, from SAIL to ArcelorMittal and Posco have applied for mines that fall in forest areas, and one of the most important aspects discussed by the Supreme Court is the scope of the Forest Rights Act. In a hearing on December 6, the court had asked the Central government to make its stand clear on whether a local gram sabha has the final right over mine reserves.

In a 2009 directive, the environment ministry had said that any project that intends to use forest land will need to first settle the rights, including taking consent of tribals and other traditional forest dwellers, through a gram sabha before the land is taken from them.

While companies like Vedanta claim to have held gram sabhas for land-owing tribals, bringing “other traditional forest dwellers” under the purview of the Forest Rights Act would “increase expenditure”, said a senior executive of a leading private Indian mining company.

Interestingly, there might be a re-think happening at the Centre. This prompted Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo to warn in his letter in early December to Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, “This order is extremely significant… any dilution of the above mentioned circular of 2009 will have an adverse impact on the Vedanta case which is sub-judice,” a newspaper report quoted him.

The biggest concern though is whether this will further increase the uncertainty around mining project permissions. “A balance is needed as neither environment nor industrial development should suffer. Any clarification from the government should help reduce the confusion on what is and what is not allowed to be mined. Overall, government policies should be aimed at reducing the uncertainties for project proponents who put risk capital on large infrastructure projects,” says Gurpreet Singh Chugh, director, Natural Resources, Crisil Infrastructure Advisory.

Read more: http://forbesindia.com/article/special/all-eyes-on-govt-vs-vedanta-case/34539/1#ixzz2Ii3WE9rq

#India-Union Tribal Affairs & Panchayati Raj minister, May your tribe increase #tribalrights


From a soft-spoken, easygoing politician, KCS Deo has emerged as a combative, ‘activist’ minister for tribal affairs.
Bhavdeep Kang

January 17, 2013, Issue 4 Volume 10

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

VYRICHERLA KISHORE Chandra Suryanarayana Deo — Kishore to his friends — has upset many during his tenure as Union Tribal Affairs & Panchayati Raj minister. For those who dismissed the soft-spoken, easygoing political middleweight as a “sweet nothing”, the “activist” minister’s relentless crusade for tribal rights and trenchant (albeit politely worded) criticism of party and Cabinet colleagues comes as a surprise.

On tribal rights, Kishore has taken on his own government, countering repeated attempts to dilute the Forest Rights Act (FRA) with a volley of letters to Cabinet colleagues, chief ministers and governors. His role has been crucial at a time when various government agencies have been seeking to set aside the provisions of the Act, which demand consent of the tribal dwellers before diverting forestland for infrastructure or industry.

Given his seniority — he is 65 and a sixterm MP — he might have expected highprofile portfolios. Panchayati Raj is regarded as second string and Tribal Affairs is a relatively new ministry; earlier clubbed with Home, then Welfare, then Social Justice, it was given independent status in 1999. Kishore is the fourth minister to hold the portfolio and the first to give it teeth.

Kishore implicitly believes mining in tribal areas is the biggest challenge faced by forest dwellers and the root cause of Naxal insurgency. “All of us are talking about left-wing extremism. The PM has described it as a threat to national security. People must wake up and realise that this is due to the neglect and extreme exploitation of forest dwellers,” he says.

Forest Activism
7 April 2012
Writes to AP governor on ‘illegal’ mining leases
24 May
Writes to CMs on FRA, also to governors on special powers
28 June
Writes to Naveen Patnaik on Kalahandi
August
Amends rules to give FRA teeth
29 September
Cancels AP mining leases, writes to AP CM
Octobe
States objection to NIB overruling FRA/PESA
19 November & 7 December
Writes to Jayanthi Natarajan on FRA
January 2013
Sets up board to fix fair price for forest produce

Kishore is not opposed to mining, per se, but firmly believes that forest dwellers ought to have a share in the proceeds of mining, a decisive say in the pace and manner of mining and a right to forest produce. What he does not say on record (but conveys in his letters to the Minister of Environment and Forests) is that the Forest Department is the biggest hurdle in securing justice for tribals.

He fired his first salvo on behalf of forest dwellers last April, in a letter to Andhra Pradesh Governor ESL Narasimhan, demanding that leases granted to the AP Mining Development Corporation (APMDC) in violation of the FRA be cancelled. When he did not receive a response, he shot off a letter to CM Kiran Kumar Reddy cancelling the leases in exercise of his constitutional powers as Tribal Affairs minister — a first.

In his letter to Narasimhan, he points out that Vishakapatnam district, where APMDC has been granted mining leases, has become a hotbed of Maoist activity. The killings by extremists, he adds, have to do with the bauxite mining lobbies.

Kishore did his homework before taking on the AP government. First, he secured the Attorney General’s opinion on whether the governor had the power to cancel the leases granted by the state government. The AG concluded he did. Despite the legal go-ahead, Narasimhan chose not to take on the government. Kishore waited five months, then sent off a letter cancelling the leases: “By virtue of the powers vested in GoI vide Clause 3 of Vth Schedule of the Constitution… hereby directs the AP government to cancel the mining leases to APMDC immediately and report compliance.”

At the time of writing, compliance has yet to be received. The PM may well have to arbitrate between the minister and the CM and the results of that exercise would have immense significance. The PM is said to have reservations about Kishore’s leftof- centre leanings.

Meanwhile, Kishore busied himself with drawing Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan’s attention to the fact that her ministry made it a “practice of ignoring the FRA when diverting forestland for large projects”. He wrote: “I’m anguished to find that even five years after its enactment, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) continues to ignore this law’s existence.” The prior, informed consent of the gram sabhas is a mandatory requirement for diversion of forestland under the FRA and this provision is being blatantly flouted by governments.

He referred in particular to the clearance given by the MOEF to the Lara Thermal Power Project in Raigarh of Chhattisgarh, even while acknowledging that the mandatory gram sabha certificates had not been obtained! “Why is it (FAC) misleading the public into believing that these projects are in compliance with the law when they often are not?” he asks.

In a follow-up letter to Natarajan last month, he referred to the Niyamgiri case: “Proceedings are pending in the SC in regard to the proposed mine by Vedanta in Niyamgiri where people are seeking to argue that they can bypass, ignore or undermine the FRA in the name of advancing a project.” It behoves the government to take a clear stand that upholds the law and the rights of the people, he maintains.

Kishore has been urging state governments to take the FRA seriously. In a letter to all the CMs, he pointed out that community rights to pastures, water bodies and minor forest produce were not being given recognition; that tribals who sought to claim land rights were being given a fraction of the area to which they were entitled and claims were being rejected without assigning a reason. “As a result, forest dwellers are facing eviction or harassment by the authorities,” he wrote.

No issue is too small for Kishore to take up. Earlier in 2012, he wrote to Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik on Jamguda, a small tribal village in Kalahandi. The gram sabha had decided to harvest flowering bamboo, which (having flowered) would otherwise be destroyed. They proposed to sell it at 30 a pole and so earn about 1 lakh but the forest authorities refused to allow them to transport the bamboo. This random abuse of power, he said, “goes against our professed adherence to rule of law”.

Far more than his activism on tribal rights, his alleged description of AP Pradesh Congress Committee chief Botsa Satyanarayana as a “land, liquor and mining don”, in a letter to Sonia Gandhi, made a big stir. Kishore denied having written a letter. Correct, but only technically, sources say. It was an 11-page report, not a letter. And it severely criticised the functioning of the state government in general and the CM (and Botsa) in particular.

Kishore’s view on Kiran Reddy and Botsa are well-known, so the leak did not come as a surprise. It did, however, leave many wondering how this blunt, outspoken man had managed to fly below the radar for most of his four-decade-long political career. Given his distaste for lobbying, it was perhaps not surprising that he made it to the Cabinet only in 2011.

Last June, he took on the then home minister P Chidambaram over the massacre of 17 civilians in Chhattisgarh, saying his acceptance of the state government’s version that they were Maoists was “illinformed”. “By killing 17 innocent tribals, you are creating 1,700 Maoists,” he warned.

He was to take on Chidambaram as finance minister as well, when he opposed the National Investment Board’s reported attempt to bypass the FRA. While he didn’t do so directly, he said he would insist on the implementation of the FRA and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act. The UPA stood for inclusive growth and so, no development project could be more important than the livelihood of millions. If the two laws that offer protection to tribals were an obstacle to development, then the Tribal Affairs ministry could well be wound up.

One of his first initiatives after taking over was to amend the FRA rules, because some of them, he says “were against the spirit of the Act”. Manoeuvring the amendments through the bureaucracy took him a year. Currently, his big project is setting a minimum procurement price for minor or non-timber forest produce, so that tribals don’t get shortchanged on their bamboo, herbs, etc.

Like his Cabinet colleague from AP, S Jaipal Reddy, he enjoys a reputation for probity. Both come from privileged backgrounds; Kishore is from the royal family of Kurupam. Apart from that, they are at polar ends of state politics, coming from different regions. Neither has ever openly expressed an opinion, but it is widely accepted that while Reddy, who hails from Telangana, sees little alternative to bifurcation of AP, Kishore is opposed to it.

Nor does he have a soft corner for Jaganmohan Reddy. In fact, in his letter to the governor, he even took on the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy, duly deified by the state Congress (even as the Centre claps his son in jail), for having betrayed “our commitment to the cause of the STs” in granting the mining leases, which was “a flagrant violation of our Constitution”. When it comes to tribal rights, Kishore doesn’t believe in holding back.

letters@tehelka.com

 

National Convention on democratic control over Natural Resources


PRESS STATEMENT

 

Groups from Across Country Attend, Joined by Political Leaders and Social Movements, to Demand an End to Resource Grabbing

More than 400 adivasis and forest dwellers gathered from across the country today at a National Convention on Democratic Control Over Natural Resources that was held at Delhi on Jan 13th 2013 . The meeting put forward a demand that planning, use and takeover of forests and land should be under the control of those dependent on these lands for their livelihood and survival. All laws and state action – whether in implementing the FRA, framing the new Land Acquisition Bill or amending the Mines Act – should comply with this basic principle. The main demands that were finalised at the Convention, after amendments suggested by various organisations and speakers, are annexed below.

Organisations from Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal attended along with sympathisers and representatives from other organisations. The meeting was addressed by Minister for Tribal Affairs Shri Kishore Chandra Deo, who also took questions from the gathering, as well as by political leaders from the CPI, the CPI(M), the Congress, the All India Forward Bloc and the CPI(ML) Liberation and by movement leaders from the All India Forum of Forest Movements, the National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers, the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch and the Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights.

Representatives from each State organisation addressed the meeting and put forward their experiences and perspectives. The meeting was inaugurated by Dr. B.D. Sharma, who outlined the illegal manner in which resources are being grabbed by the state and argued that people’s ownership over their lands and resources should ber respected in all projects. The Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj, Shri Kishore Chandra Deo addressed the gathering and said that his Ministry is in full support of many of the issues raised in the demands and the process for acting on them has already begun. He stated that the Ministry has issued guidelines and amended the Rules under the Forest Rights Act to strengthen recognition of community rights, end insistence on illegal evidence, and to ensure that the Act’s process is implemented correctly. He said that he has just written to the Environment Minister to reiterate that the gram sabha’s consent must be taken prior to diversion of forest land. The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has recently issued directions to State governments to ensure that gram sabha meetings are held at the level of actual villages and not those of panchayats. He requested that those gathered here should help ensure that people are aware of their rights. He also stated that the Ministry had taken steps to ensure provision of a minimum support price for minor forest produce. In response to questions from those gathered, he reiterated that oral evidence is admissible as proof of claims by non-ST claimants and that he is taking steps to ensure implementation of the Act in municipal areas. Finally, in response to the many incidents of illegality, violations and atrocities that were raised by those present, he requested them to submit written complaints so that action can be taken.

Shri Bhakta Charan Das (Congress), Member of Parliament from Kalahandi, Odisha, addressed the gathering and expressed his strong support for the people’s struggle for rights over natural resources and against illegal takevoer. Shri SP Tiwari, All India Forward Bloc, stated that Netaji did not fight for freedom in order to have a state machinery that expropriates adivasis and forest dwellers for private capital; he called for a united struggle to change this system. Com. D. Raja(CPI) stated his party is in full solidarity with this struggle and with the demands of the Convention. He committed that his party would raise these issues inside and outside Parliament. Com. Pulin Baske (CPI(M), and Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch) stated that the government is not concerned with the problems of forest dwellers and tribals and will not provide people with rights; rights must be fought for and won. Hence the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch has planned actions to demand rights and to halt the handover of natural resources for the benefit of private capitalists. Com. Kavita Krishnan (CPI(ML) Liberation) welcomed the convention and its proposed demands, as the real issue is not one law or the other, but the fact that a democratic system of resource control should be in place. It is not people who need a land acquisition law; it is the state and the capitalists; people need systems of planning and resource use that are under their control. For this it is necessary to fight the exploiters at every level and fight for systemic change.

Among movement leaders, Com. Smita Gupta (Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch) noted that the Manch agrees with most of the demands of the Convention and that it is a united struggle that will produce a way forward for democratic control over resources. She raised the additional issues of people’s right to food and for obtaining a minimum support price for minor forest produce. Roma (National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers) narrated the manner in which the Forest Rights Act has been subverted in Uttar Pradesh and the fact that everyone is attempting to undermine, bypass or ignore the gram sabha. She called for a united struggle to strengthen the gram sabha. Ningreichon (Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights) expressed her solidarity with those who had gathered and pointed out that similar issues are arising in the Naga areas. Lal Singh(All India Forum of Forest Movements) called for a united struggle on these matters across the country. Com. Reddy from the Trade Union Coordination Committee welcomed the gathering and narrated similar experiences that his comrades had had in struggling against illegal tiger reserves and evictions in Andhra Pradesh.

After inclusion of points suggested by the speakers and a discussion, the demands were agreed upon at the Convention and approved by those gathered.

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

9873657844, forestcampaign@gmail.comwww.forestrightsact.com

DEMANDS

Across India today there are struggles for forest rights, against land acquisition and against mining projects. These struggles are united by their resistance to the use of state power to expropriate natural resources in the interests of the ruling class.

In this context we believe the crucial struggle is to bring natural resources under democratic, collective control. We therefore hold that the following basic principles should be part of all laws relating to forests, land and minerals:

  • All community and individual rights under the Forest Rights Act must be recognised and respected. Rejected claims should be reopened and all deadlines on filing of claims should be lifted. Officials who reject claims on illegal grounds should be prosecuted. Gram sabhas should be called at the level of actual villages, not as per arbitrary panchayat or other boundaries. Non-ST forest dwellers’ rights should be recognised, all forest dwellers should receive community rights without discrimination, and oral evidence should be accepted as evidence of eligibility. Titles that are much smaller than people’s actual occupation should be corrected. Cases against forest dwellers for exercising forest rights should be withdrawn.
  • Procedures similar to those under the Forest Rights Act should be put in place to recognise individual and community rights over revenue lands. State governments like Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and others that have framed Rules contrary to PESA should withdraw them and ensure that the gram sabha’s powers over natural resources are respected. All tribal areas should be brought under the Fifth or Sixth Schedules. The Sixth Schedule pattern should be followed in all Fifth Schedule areas as mandated by PESA. All Ministries and all levels of the government should be mandated to comply with and respect people’s rights.
  • The powers of the gram sabha under PESA and the FRA to manage and protect forests and community resources, and to use all forest resources including timber, should be respected. All forest diversion in violation of the Forest Rights Act and done without the consent of gram sabhas should be stopped. Joint Forest Management should be withdrawn.
  • After recording of rights, a land use plan should be prepared for each district starting from the village upwards. No projects or other economic activities that do not fit this plan should be permitted. No takeover of lands assigned to weaker sections, such as Dalits and adivasis, for homestead or cultivation should be permitted.
  • In rural areas, no project involving expropriation of these natural resources should be permitted without the consent of the concerned gram sabhas of the affected villages. In urban areas, the concerned basti sabha can serve the same purpose.
  • Every change of land use above a certain limit – in the case of rural areas, the agricultural land ceiling – should be treated as an acquisition and subject to requirements for consent of the community and provision of rehabilitation.
  • State subsidies and projects should be directed towards cooperative projects where those in the area itself cooperatively utilise their natural resources. Harvesting of minor forest produce; small hydropower projects owned and operated by the community and feeding regional electricity grids; etc. are such possibilities. Subsidies and tax incentives for corporate expropriation of resources should be halted. Instead of acquisition and diversion of forest land, land and resources should be leased from communities.
  • Where large projects are accepted by communities, ownership of share equity in the project should be provided to the community as per the Bhuria committee recommendations of 1996; there should also be provision of complete rehabilitation in tribal areas with land for land and land to landless people. Further, a white paper should be brought out by the government about the total displacement, rehabilitation and resource expropriation that has taken place since independence. Further expropriation for large projects should be halted until this is completed.
  • The state machinery should provide support to people’s livelihoods through a universal PDS, provision of minimum support price for minor forest produce, etc. rather than supporting the corporate sector with subsidies.

 

Cancel bauxite mining leases in Vizag: House panel


HYDERABAD, January 9, 2013

Special Correspondent, The Hindu Jan 9,2013

‘MoUs signed with Emirate of Ras al Khaimah and Jindal South West Holdings not in interest of State’

The Petitions Committee of the Legislative Assembly has recommended scrapping of the memorandum of understanding entered into by the State government for bauxite mining in Visakhapatnam district with the Emirate of Ras al Khaimah (AnRAK) and Jindal South West Holdings Limited.

The committee headed by Deputy Speaker Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka held elaborate discussions on the lapses in the MoUs on Tuesday.

The members were unanimous in seeking cancellation of the MoUs claiming that they were not in the interest of the State and would immensely benefit the two firms.

MoUs signed by YSR

The then Congress government headed by late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy had entered into the MoUs for establishment of value added alumina plant and an industry with an estimated Rs. 9,000 crore. Accordingly, 1,212 hectares of forestland, predominantly in the agency areas, was alienated for prospecting and mining.

Discussions held

The issue had come under scrutiny ever since Union Minister Kishore Chandra Deo addressed a letter to the Centre recommending cancellation of the MoUs as they would affect the interests of tribals. The committee held discussions on the issue in response to a petition filed by former legislator Ch. Ramesh through Telugu Desam MLA A. Revanth Reddy.

Speaking to media after the meeting, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) legislators — P. Keshav and R. Chandrasekhar Reddy — alleged that there were several shortcomings in the MoUs. “While the mining project will yield profits to the tune of Rs. 1,200 a tonne, the MoU stipulated that the APMDC would be paid Rs. 170 a tonne.

“Giving the volume of aluminium present, the agreement will translate into huge profits for the two companies,” Mr. Keshav said.

 

Govt says AIIMS refusal to admit Soni Sori will be probed



First Post, May 10, 2012

New Delhi: Government today assured Rajya Sabha that it will inquire into the denial of admission by AIIMS of  Soni Sori despite the Supreme Court directing the hospital to medically examine her.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, T N Seema (CPI-M) said Soni was “brutally tortured” in police custody for last one year in Chhattishgarh, a remark which drew sharp reactions from BJP members who opposed raising a subject related to the state in Parliament.
P J Kurien, who was in the Chair, however, said the matter related to a tribal and is within the ambit of the central government.

Seema said she was not talking about the case but about the failure on the part of the AIIMS authorities to admit her despite the Supreme Court order.

“When the Supreme Court has ordered to admit her, on whose authority AIIMS turned her away on 9 May? Why the government has not ordered a high level inquiry into allegations of custodial violence and sexual exploitation?” Seema asked.

She rued that instead of taking actions against the accused policemen, they were given gallantry awards. “The Union government cannot wash its hands off treating it as state matter,” she said.

As members from the CPI-M sought a response from the government, Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo assured the House that he will get details of the matter and “will surely inquire why the AIIMS did not admit her”.

Amid allegations that foreign bodies were thrust into her private parts, the Supreme Court had last week directed AIIMS to medically examine  Soni Sori to treat her and ascertain the charges and submit a report to it before 10 July.

Soni-, Sori has been accused by the police of receiving “protection money” from a company. She was arrested on 4 October in South Delhi by Chhattisgarh police.

PTI

AIIMS silent on Soni Sori’s admission after 24-hour delay as police play hide and seek

By Newzfirst Correspondent5/10/12

NEW DELHI – The whereabouts of Soni Sori, a tribal woman allegedly tortured by Chhattisgarh Police last year, were unknown to her lawyer and family until Thursday noon, more than 24 hours after the police were supposed to bring her to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences here for treatment under orders from the Supreme Court.

“I have been here at the AIIMS since the morning but I do not know if Sori has been admitted or not,” Supreme Court lawyer Brinda Grover, who is Sori’s counsel, told Newsfirst.

AIIMS was yet to put out a formal statement. Unconfirmed reports from within AIIMS suggested that Sori is inside and that hospital has constituted a board of doctors of gynaecology, endocrinology and cardiology to examine her health, as the Supreme  Court directed on May 2.

The Chhattisgarh Police brought Sori from Raipur, the state capital, on Wednesday by a 7a.m. flight. Even though they landed in Delhi before noon, they brought her to AIIMS only at 5p.m. and were sent back because admissions at the hospital close at 4p.m.

Since then, Grover said, Sori’s whereabouts are unknown.

A 35-year-old schoolteacher is to be treated at AIIMS under orders from the Supreme Court given May 2.

Rights activist Himamshu Kumar slammed the police as well as AIIMS for violating the Supreme Court order, both in letter and spirit.

“How could the hospital deny admitting a patient in emergency and that, too, on the Supreme Court’s orders?” Kumar asked.

Sori accuses Chhattisgarh Police of brutal torturing her, including putting stones in her private parts, to gain a false confession from her that she belongs to an outlawed Maoist group that is waging a long-running insurgency in the central Indian forests.

In October, the police alleged Sori and a nephew of hers extorted money from an industrial group with interests in Chhattisgarh. The nephew, Kodopi Linga, is in jail.

Sori and her nephew claim the police framed them after they refused to play ball with the police. They claim the police wanted the nephew to pose as a Maoist to trap a contractor with the industrial group into paying him extortion money.

Fearing arrest in her home district of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, Sori fled to New Delhi, only to be arrested by the police here on October 4.

A Delhi court rejected her bail plea on October 7 and she was taken to Dantewada district, to which she belongs, and jailed. Police failed to produce her in a court on October 10 as they had been ordered. They claimed she was injured after falling in the washroom.

But a video of her shot privately at the government hospital where she was brought appeared to suggest she had been badly tortured. A public outcry forced the police to take her to a government hospital in the neighbouring Jagdalpur city.

When doctors there denied she had been tortured, Sori’s lawyer Grover moved the Supreme Court seeking an order for Sori’s independent examination.

The Supreme Court Sori to be sent to Kolkata for the examination. On December 2, a government hospital in Kolkata reported to the Supreme Court that Sori had indeed been brutally tortured. They said they found “foreign elements” inserted in her private parts.

Grover approached the Supreme Court again last month pleading for her to be treated at AIIMS as Sori had fallen very ill at the Raipur Central Jail, where she was returned.

On May 2, the Supreme Court directed AIIMS to form a special medical board, including experts of gynecology, endocrinology and cardiology, to examine Sori.

The court ordered the AIIMS director to submit the report of the board before July 10.

Sori has three preteen children. They are in Dantewada.

” Mining “greatest Threat to Tribals says Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo


HYDERABAD: Terming mining as the “greatest threat” faced by the tribal community in last two decades, Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo has asked the youths selected under an ambitious programme to create awareness among the forest dwellers about their constitutional rights over the land.

“Today the greatest threat that has come to the tribals and people living in forest areas is actually the threat of mining,” the Minister told the youths selected under the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows (PMRDF) programme.

Addressing the youths assigned to bring convergence of development and welfare initiatives and schemes by the central and state governments in the Naxal-hit districts of the country here, Deo, who is also the Minister for Panchayati Raj, noted that there are laws like Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act under which only a Scheduled Tribe members can buy or take land on lease in tribal dominated areas.

Noting that even rights of the non-tribals who own only two cents of land in the tribal areas for generations is notified, he wondered, “How then are we able to give mining leases to corporates and companies which are neither either owned by the Scheduled Tribes or controlled by the Scheduled Tribes.”

Pointing out the loopholes in the laws through which the mining companies have managed to take the land on lease in mineral-rich forest areas, Deo told the 156 youths selected for the fellowship that “there are rights which we will have to make the local people aware of.”

The Fellows will have a duration of 2 to 3 years to work with the administration of 78 Left-wing extremism affected districts in nine states including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

The Minister said though the Parliament passed Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act was passed in 1996, only Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have implemented it.

The Act extended the provisions of Panchayats to the tribal areas of seven other states including Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan. (ET) 8 Apr, 2012,

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