Mainstream Weekly

Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2008 > June 21, 2008 > Recommendations

Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 27


Report of expert group on “development issues to deal with causes of discontent, unrest and extremism”

Wednesday 25 June 2008


[(The following is one chapter of the Report of the Expert Group on “Development Issues to Deal with the Causes of Discontent, Unrest and Extremism”, set up by the Planning Commission, in May 2006. With D. Bandyopadhyay, the architect of ‘Operation Barga’ of West Bengal in the eighties and former Secretary, Rural Development, Government of India, as the Chairman, the Group consisted of sixteen members. Besides D. Bandyopadhyay, the other members were S.R. Sankaran, Dr B.D. Sharma, Kamala Prasad, Prakash Singh, Ajit Doval, Sukhdeo Thorat, K. Balagopal, Ms Bela Bhatia, Dr E. A. S. Sarma, K.B. Saxena, Saibal Gupta, Dilip Singh Bhuria, Ram Dayal Munda, Dr N. J. Kurian and Santosh Mehrotra. The Group completed its work in April 2008. Apart from Prakash Singh and Ajit Doval who supported the Salwa Judum movement, the remaining fourteen members unequivocally opposed the project. One chapter of the Report, entitled ‘People’s Discontent and System Failure’, appeared in Mainstream (June 7, 2008). Another chapter, ‘The State’s Response’, was published in Mainstream (June 14, 2008). —Editor)]

Various aspects and roots of popular discontent were discussed in the preceding pages. The Naxalite movement is principally a political action for armed conquest of State power. It functions to this end through various organisations and by various means. There are also armed cadres, usually organised as squads (Dalams). Violence or the threat of violence by the armed cadre invariably accompanies the solutions the Naxalite movement offers to popular grievances.

When the State undertakes its response it cannot replicate this process. It is required to function through the law. Therefore recommendations are in terms of modifications to the law or effective implementation of the law, and State interventions to remove the basic causes of discontent, disaffection and unrest. It cannot be denied that the Naxalite movement does have popular support in many areas.

I. Effective Implementation of Protective Legislation
The State’s response to continued unrest and social dissension in areas predominated by Scheduled Castes and Tribes was to formulate three protective laws and a major policy decision. These three Acts are the Provisions of the Panchayats Extension of the Schedule Areas Act, 1996, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, and the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007 (for which a Bill has been put up before Parliament). It is necessary to build up an impregnable protective shield of the State, against multi-faceted exploitation of these communities. This should be done by effective implementation of the existing constitutional provisions, protection of civil rights and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act laws and programmes in place for this purpose.

The affected groups experience violence in their daily lives—SCs due to the caste based social order and STs due to cultural dominance of the larger society. The incidence of atrocities is on the increase and the deterrence envisaged in the laws specially enacted for this purpose is not in evidence. This is because the implementation of important criminal laws—PCR Act and SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act—has been dismal.

There are many custodians of interests of Schedule Castes, Scheduled Tribes and marginalised groups, namely, (i) the Tribes Advisory Council in States with Scheduled Tribes, (ii & iii) National Commission for SCs under Act 338 and National Commission for STs under Act 338, (iv) National Humans Rights Commission, (v) National Commission for Women, (vi) National Commission for the Rights of Children, (vii) National Commission for Minorities, and (viii) National Commission for Safai Karmacharis. There is neither clear focus nor dynamic coordination among all these venerable institutions. Their studies, reports and recommendations languish without any interest whatsoever. The neglect by Parliament of their work and recommendations is a matter of deep regret. The Expert Group seriously urges consultation among all these bodies and launching of joint initiatives for concerted and compulsory action on their joint recommendations, which should become mandatory for Chief Ministers. There are counterpart Commissions in the States. In addition there is a Standing Parliamentary Committee on SCs and STs.

Without any disrespect for any of the high powered Commissions, it is felt that they themselves feel inadequate to deal with the subjects assigned to them. To make these Commissions effective, they should be given power of investigation and to pass orders which they could enforce. This is because the recommendations are not carried out by different authorities. So, the National Commissions for SCs and STs and the National Human Rights Commission would have to be given powers to make them effective in cases of violation of laws.

Usury and indebtedness are the chief causes of acute distress and exploitation like land alienation and bonded labour. Indebtedness among STs is particularly widespread on account of food insecurity, non-availability of production and consumption credit through public institutions, and corruption in the public lending agencies. Laws to check indebtedness and regulate credit through private sources do not get implemented. This should be corrected by the following measures: All debt liabilities of weaker sections should be liquidated, in cases (i) wherein the debtor has paid an amount equivalent to the original principal amount and (ii) wherein the intended benefit for which the loan was advanced has not accrued to the borrowers. The onus to establish that such benefit did accrue will be on the lending agency. The processes should be completed within six months after the notification.

The Budget (2008-09) announcement of debt relief does not address the root causes of indebtedness. It covers only farmers having land and provides relief for overdues. Any meaningful debt relief should cover not only small farmers but other such poor persons like small encroachers, small artisans, small fisherfolk, etc. who go to moneylenders for credit. The Government should specifically prohibit banks from putting tribal lands for auction to realise overdue debts.

The revival and restructuring of the Large Area Multi-purpose Cooperative Societies (LAMPS) and Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies (PACS), with the specific targets of meeting all credit needs of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and weaker sections, should receive highest priority. Similarly, the cooperative banking structure which is most accessible to the poorer sections should be urgently revamped and revitalised in the light of a multitude of recommendations made in this regard, and the Central legislation to enable member-controlled and member-dominated cooperative societies. There is also the need for widespread provision of Grain Banks managed by Gram Sabhas in tribal areas. Special provision of long-term loans for purchase of land by assetless poor and resourceless families who are dependent upon agriculture for their livelihoods should be arranged. The NREGA should be intensively implemented in the indebtedness prone areas.

Forest produce should be provided a protective market by fixing minimum support price for various commodities, upgradation of traditional haats, and provision of modern storage facilities to avoid post-harvest losses. At the same time, the public distribution system should be specially designed for the specific requirements of the forest dwellers. In this respect the existing Tribal Development Corporations and cooperative marketing organisations such as Girijan Cooperative Corporation, Orissa Tribal Cooperative Corporation and Trifed in Government of India can play an effective role just like the Food Corporation of India in regard to rice and wheat for ensuring support price to procurement and professional marketing support. The State should support the expenses relating to the infrastructure, administration and operation of these corporations and they should not have monopoly rights to procurement.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is a very significant step in recognising and vesting the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forest for generations but whose rights could not be recorded. It provides for a framework for recording the forest rights so vested. The Act has addressed this issue of long standing insecurity of tenurial and access rights of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers including those who were forced to relocate their dwelling due to State development interventions. This Act needs to be strictly operationalised in letter and spirit. The clarifications in the draft rules circulated for this Act on June 19, 2007 for certain difficult points like “other traditional rights”, “primarily reside in and dependent on forest or forest land”, “rights to minor forest produce” etc. for removing any ambiguity and for easy implementation benefit to the target groups, which were summarily deleted in the final notification of the Rules published on January 1, 2008, should be fully restored.

All petty cases registered under forest related legislations against the tribal people and other poor persons should be withdrawn.

With the implementation of economic policy reforms labour had been at the receiving end. The social security recommendations for workers in the unorganised sectors, recommended by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, which have been on the anvil for the last couple of years, should be implemented urgently by Central and State Governments with high priority in disturbed areas. Other segments of society similarly affected by the reforms through physical and occupational displacement would require appropriate special schemes for their relief.

II. Land Related Measures

Efforts at implementation of ceiling laws have stopped about two to three decades ago, as if there is no possibility of identifying ceiling surplus land hereafter. This is not a fact. A serious effort must be made to continuously implement the land ceiling laws, so that the ceiling surplus land thereby obtained is made available for distribution amongst the most vulnerable sections of the landless poor. The various loopholes in the respective States to ceiling legislations have resulted in bogus claims aimed at evading the law. Such loopholes should be done away with and all cultivable land, irrespective of the legal form in which it is held, should be brought under ceiling laws. The ceiling limit of lands which were earlier un-irrigated but have become irrigated after the coming into effect of ceiling laws should be predetermined as per their existing status.

In view of the increased land productivity under the impact of the new technology and improved agronomic practices, the ceiling limit should be refixed and implemented with retrospective effect.

Land Tribunals or Fast Track Courts under Article 323-B of the Constitution should be set up for expeditious disposal of the ceiling cases. Old cases should be unearthed and fresh inquiries should be conducted. Since land owners have already got decades to manipulate, create false documents, no cut- off date for reopening the old cases should be prescribed. Any transaction or transfer of land, beyond the ceiling limits, done with the intention of benefiting the transferor and/or members of his family with the intention of evading the ceiling laws, should be subject to scrutiny and annulment after due process.

The definition of ‘personal cultivations’ in the State tenancy law should be modified to eliminate absentee landlordlism. The rights of tenants cultivating the land of absentee landlords should be secured as per the prevailing provisions in the law.

Despite ban on agricultural tenancies in most States, the incidence and problems of tenancy are increasing. Nearly 40 per cent of land in irrigated and non-irrigated areas is cultivated by tenants, who do not have access to institutional credit and markets. Tenancy laws have failed to protect interests of tenants in most States except Kerala, West Bengal and Maharashtra. With the onset of economic reforms, the incidence of reverse tenancy is increasing. So there is an urgent need to review tenancy laws to protect the interests of tenants cultivating the land of land owners on oral leases by providing them security of tenure and fare share of produce etc. At the same time the interests of small and marginal farmers and tribal peasants would have to be protected against reverse tenancy. All types of agricultural tenancies should be recorded and the rights of tenants should be fully secured through enforced land to the tiller policy and ensured accessibility of tenants to non-land inputs. A policy and legal framework should be put in place to enable small and marginal farmers to lease-in land with secure rights on a formal basis and at the same time to protect them against reverse tenancy of medium and large farmers and corporate agencies.

Correct and updated land records are crucial for the security of land rights. Failure to maintain proper records and ensuring land rights has led to proliferation of disputes and deprivation of the legitimate rights of land holders resulting in discontent. Modernisation of the land administration system, including a crash programme of updating of land records, computerisation of textual and spatial records and integration of the registration office, should be taken up on priority basis. The Government of India should provide necessary funds for this purpose.

In many cases where land has been assigned to the landless poor under ceiling and bhoodan laws and government lands, possession over this land has not been delivered. Where possession was delivered, many beneficiaries have been dispossessed from their land. Where dispossession has taken place after possession was delivered, land should be restored to the allotees and proper entry made in the land records. Criminal cases should be filed against persons who had dispossessed them. Where possession was not delivered after allotment of land this must be done without any delay and this must be entered in the land records. Financial assistance should be provided to allotees for cultivation of land. Where litigation has been responsible for loss of rights, free legal aid of beneficiary choice should be provided to the allotee to defend his rights. Several landless poor have been subsequently alienated from their lands. These lands should be restored to them and proper entries should be made.

Landless poor in occupation of Government land should not be treated as encroachers and should not be evicted ordinarily. All eligible occupants should be regularised. In case of eviction alternative sites should be provided. Such provisions should be given statutory force. Often land assigned to the poor is illegally grabbed by the powerful. The government should restore possession to the poor. If there are lacunae in the law, these should be removed.

Comprehensive record of rights showing possession, ownership etc. of all lands under cultivation should be prepared and made accessible to the people. Some States have made laws to this effect but their implementation is not satisfactory. Some States have no such law. The responsibility of the State to regularly update land records should be backed up by a law involving participatory and transparent mode of implementation.

Laws prohibiting transfer of adivasi lands to non-adivasis and acquisition of land by non-adivasis in the Fifth Schedule areas, where such laws exist, suffer from numerous loopholes besides tardy implementation. These loopholes are adequately documented Statewise but States have not amended their laws to remove them and strengthen the protective measures against alienation of tribal land. This must be done as a priority national programme and action taken regularly to monitor its progress. Thereafter, all cases decided against all tribals must be reopened and disposed of afresh. Meanwhile, pending cases should be decided expeditiously and all alienated lands should be restored to adivasis in a time-bound manner. The provisions of PESA relating to the power of the Gram Sabha in this regard must be fully incorporated in existing legislation. States having sizeable adivasi populations and not included in the Fifth Schedule shall enact suitable laws/amend existing laws for the protection of adivasis in the same manner as in the Fifth Schedule. The land holdings of Schedule Castes should be similarly protected against alienation of their land.

The entire Tribal Sub-Plan area should be brought under the Fifth Schedule. A policy decision in this regard taken as far back as 1976 should be implemented without any further delay.

Whenever the Government assigns land to the landless, or when pattas are given under some settlement regulations, such assignment deeds and patta shall be jointly given in the name of husband and wife, in order to effectively protect the land rights of women. Where land records are being updated, the rights of women members of the family must be recorded along with those of male members. Which updates the land records, which name should be a part in the records.

Wherever any occupation group like fisherfolk, graziers, honey gatherers and the like had customary rights over Common Property Resources and other natural resources, such rights should be statutorily protected and property recorded and user pattas should be issued jointly for husband and wife and for female headed households.

Lands and/or natural initially occupied by eligible persons through people’s action should be statutorily regularised and owners should be compensated wherever legally due.

Secure and sustained access to land is central to the dignified survival of the poor. Land Reform Laws provide for such access to the poor through redistribution of land. But the land reform laws have been poorly implemented. The intended objective has not been achieved. The effective implementation of these land laws should be ensured prioritized by following measures:

Time bound survey of all land under cultivation of SCs/STs culminating in (i) grant of title to those who do not have title, (ii) identification of the land of STs alienated illegally, and restoration through Gram Sabhas under powers vested in them under provisions of the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Area) Act 1995 and in an analogous manner in non-Scheduled areas. This protective shield should be extended suitably to Scheduled Castes in all areas and Scheduled Tribes beyond the Scheduled Areas, through appropriate legal provision as recommended by various Commissions and as is prevalent in parts in some States (Rajasthan/MP). Any move to relax or dilute the existing measures in respect of these communities should be strongly opposed.

The Bhoodan land still in the possession of donors or their heirs should be taken possession of as per procedure prescribe in the concerned State laws for distribution to eligible beneficiaries as per priority laid down in the national land reforms policy. Temple and other endowment lands beyond ceiling should be taken over by the State for redistribution. Lands abandoned by mining projects or any other industrial activity should be restored as agricultural land and utilized for redistribution to eligible categories. All homeless families should be given house sites of at least five cents along with financial assistance for constructing a livable house. There are eight million families that are without a homestead; urgent action is needed so that they are given priority in the allocation of not just a house under the Indira Awas Yojana, but also a piece of land on which that house is to be constructed. The existing laws which confer secure rights to land- less persons living on the lands of land owners should be vigorously implemented.

Declare all small landless poor encroachers of government land as seemed pattas and as-is-where loans.

III. Recommendations relating to Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement

Acquisition of land has emerged as the single largest cause of involuntary displacement of tribals and turning them landless. Indiscriminate land acquisition should be stopped and land acquisition for public purpose should be confined to public welfare activities and matters of national security. The proposal of amendments contained in the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007, however, fails to achieve this objective. These proposals need to be further revised to minimise displacement and secure the rights of the affected displaced persons.

‘Public purpose’ as defined in the amended Land Acquisition Act (amendment currently with Parliament) should be revised further and restricted to projects taken up for national security and public welfare implemented directly by the government. ‘Public purpose’ should not be stretched to acquisition for companies, cooperative and registered societies, whether under the garb of infrastructure or any other activity conceded essential by the State. Minimum land determined by independent experts should form the basis for deciding on the quantum of land to be acquired. Lands of those already displaced earlier should be excluded. The definition of ‘person interested’ should include occupancy of government and panchayat land eligible for regularisation under state policy, informal tenants and share croppers etc. Adequate safeguards should be built into the law to protect poor and vulnerable sections in case of direct procurement by companies. There should be mandatory provision for rehabilitation and resettlement of persons whose lands are procured by companies or other private interests. Acquired land remaining unutilised should be restored to the erstwhile land owners. The definition of land should be amplified so as to include government, public, forest, panchayat land and community property resources. So that loss of use rights can be compensated. The determination of compensation should be based on replacement value based on market value.

Responsibility shall lie on the acquiring authorities to ensure free and informed consent of the Gram Sabha in the acquisition of land. The Consent of the Gram Sabha obtained through misinformation, misinterpretation, fraud or force should be deemed to be void and should attract criminal action against the perpetrators.

The Government of India has already notified the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007 to guide the rehabilitation and resettlement processes where large areas of land are acquired and people are involuntarily displaced. While implementing the positive aspects of the policy, the serious inadequacies should be addressed. The objective should be to minimise displacement. This exercise must be done in consultation with affected persons and not merely with the requiring agency. Only the minimum area of land commensurate with the purpose of the project should be acquired based on expert assessment prior to the initiation of the land acquisition proceedings. The affected persons must have a right to express their views on this assessment. As far as possible, projects should be set up on wasteland, degraded land or unirrigated land but users of those lands must also be compensated for loss of access where such lands are not privately owned. Acquisition of agricultural land for non-agricultural use should be kept to the minimum through a land use policy with statutory backing. Social impact assessment should be strictly done in all cases to ensure that the impact of the project on the affected families is assessed in a holistic, anticipatory and transparent manner and ameliorative measures built into the rehabilitation plan. Loss of livelihood must be compensated along with loss of land. There should be no restriction relating to the size of displacement for applicability of rehabilitation and resettlement benefits. The policy should be applied to all displaced persons not rehabilitated in the past. Also there should be clear and assured provision for either land or employment. For tribal displaced persons land allotment should be mandatory. Land allotment should not generally be conditional on availability of government/waste land. There should be mandatory provisions for provision of training, apprenticeship for all displaced persons and preparing them for employment in accordance with the needs of the market. Until their employment is secured, minimum wages should be paid to them as subsistence allowance. Gender rights needs should be built into the rehabilitation for land. The rehabilitation and resettlement efforts should continue until the improverishment is neutralised. Updating of land records should ensure that rights recognised during the process are taken into account for compensation.

In the case of all major projects that cause displacement, advance action should be taken to appraise the socio-economic and cultural impact on the families likely to be displaced and upgrade the sills of the members of those families so as to ensure that they are in a position to take full advantage of the livelihood opportunity provided by such projects.

One of the main causes of rural poverty, identified in the Report, was disappearance of Common Property Resources (CRPs) through which poverty stricken households used to supplement their livelihood and incomes. The Planning Commission should consider devising a programme for restoration of CPRs for the purpose of sustenance of the poverty groups.

Panchayats have to be empowered for effective management of CPRs with requisite autonomy, legal backing, adequate resources, provision of expertise and capacity building. A model legislation may be drafted incorporating the above and other relevant aspects of CPR management which can be suitably adapted by States for their purpose. Incorporate within the law a provision summary eviction of ineligible encroachers of CPRs.

IV. Livelihood Security

SCs and STs are the two groups that have truly taken advantage of the employment being offered under the NREGA. The SCs account for only 14 per cent of the population, but their share in households that received employment under the NREGA in 2006-07 was 27 per cent; the corresponding shares for STs are eight per cent share in population but 32 per cent share in employment. In other words, the NREGA is even more important for the STs than it is for the SCs. Therefore, we would recommend that resource depleted areas with high incidence of involuntary migration and malnutrition be identified for saturation under the NREGA as the first priority. We also need to ensure that the norms for manual work for different items are worked out to ensure that the workers, especially women, are entitled to the minimum wage for seven hours of reasonable effort. The NREGA should be implemented in a “mission mode” to do away with the dilatory and restrictive procedures of the secretariat.

The government should saturate the entire rain-fed and dry farming area with Participatory Watershed Development Projects for conservation of soil and water and development of natural resources with suitable changes in the cropping pattern under the common guidelines issued by the Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development for the National Watershed Development Projects for Rainfed Areas. The common guidelines for watershed development under consideration by NRAA constitute an excellent base for participatory institution building, capability development and convergence of all activities pertaining to land and water.

Given that most of the rural poor, SCs and STs are dependent upon agriculture, the focus on agriculture in the 11th Plan is appropriate. This requires strengthening subsidiary and supportive activities in animal husbandry, fisheries, horticulture, sericulture and poultry through establishment of quality infrastructure, supportive technical services and efficient market linkages at the village or a cluster of village level. It also requires establishing sub-systems essential or intensive agriculture, such as the (a) research system, (b) extension system, (c) seed/feed/sapling supply system, (d) credit system and (e) marketing system.

Intensive capacity building is needed in modern advances in agriculture and allied sectors for selected young farmers, especially women, in every village with Krishi Vigyan Kendras acting as nodal agencies for quality training and for dissemination of knowledge and skills.

Outside of agriculture, there is need to intensify the state of investment skill development of educated unemployed youth without employable skills for promoting regular employment or self-employment among them.

Three New Programmes
There are half-a-dozen programmes relating to the Rural Development Division for alleviation of poverty. The Ministry of Rural Development (MORD) administers them from the Centre. At the field level there is often a large disconnect among these programmes, though they have the same objective, namely, to mitigate the poverty of the people.

It is evident from the Report that, excluding the ideological goal of capturing State power through violence, the basic programmes of the extremists relate to elimination of poverty, deprivation and alienation of the poor and the landless. The Government of India in the Ministry of Home Affairs have identified 460 police stations spread over 12 States covering roughly 125 districts as ‘Naxal-affected’. Basically, these districts suffer from lack of proper governance and appropriate implementation of poverty amelioration programmes. To reduce the anger of the people, it is necessary that they should feel that they are a part of the mainstream of Indian society and not an external element to be looked down upon by others. What is necessary is to saturate these districts with the proper implementation of the existing programmes by ensuring their convergence both at the Planning Commission level and at the implementation level, whether at the District, Block or the Gram Panchayat stage.

Currently, there are two major programmes of the Planning Commission, namely, the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF) and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP). All the ‘Naxalite affected’ districts are included in the BRGF and NREGP. The BRGF is being administered by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the NREGP by the Ministry of Rural Development (MORD). Though at the ground level the Gram Panchayat/Block are involved in implementation, because of the verticality of these programmes, they do not often converge at the implementation level. As a result of such non-convergence their beneficial impact does not have the criticality they deserve. Hence, it is recommended that for these districts, both these programmes should be merged into one single programme and the two focii should be administered by one Ministry through the instrumentality of the three-tier panchayat system. The Planning Commission should keep the power of directly monitoring the effects of the implementation of these programmes, so that it could give proper guidance to the implementation agencies at the ground level, to make deep penetration in the areas which remained uncovered because of the activities of the armed violent groups. In fact, attempts should be made to have deep penetration of such un-reached areas so that the potential beneficiaries do not feel isolated, alienated or being left out.

One of the major causes of rural poverty identified in the Report was disappearance of Common Property Resources (CPR), through which poverty stricken households used to supplement their livelihood and income. Over time these CPRs got ‘Privatised’ by the land grab mafia of the area. Thus, there has been total disappearance of CPRs, and whatever have remained have lost their productive capability. The Planning Commission should consider devising a programme for restoration of CPRs for the purpose of sustenance by the poverty groups. Old revenue records in many States would clearly show the areas of CPRs. So the programme should be to identify these CPRs, removing encroachment, particularly by the rich, and restore their productivity through afforestation, pasteurisation, rainwater harvesting etc. The programme could include protective measures to prevent the upgraded CPRs being grabbed again by powerful people in those areas. Restoration of upgraded CPRs for common use by the poor may help in reducing their anger against the authorities.

The new legislation, that is, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2007 conferring forest rights on the Scheduled Tribes and other Non-Tribal Forest Dwellers is a step in the right direction and will serve to reverse the ‘historical injustice’, and thus reduce the disaffection of millions of forest dwellers. Apart from this, a large part of the land termed as forest consists of degraded land. The Planning Commission may consider devising a programme to raise the tree cover on these lands, by the local poor people, with an equitable sharing of benefits. This would also be in consonance with the government’s general policy of upgradation of bio-diversity and increasing the density of tree population in the forest areas. These programmes should be implemented by the panchayat bodies wherever they exist or through legally constituted beneficiary committees, where panchayats do not exist.

V. Universalise Basic Social Services to Standards

The area affected by the extremist movement in central India has a concentration of tribal population, hilly topography and undulating terrain. The area has much less density of population than the plains. The failure to provide infrastructure and services as per national norms is one of the many discriminatory manifestations of governance here. These disparities therefore result in non-available/poorly provided services. Universalisation of basic services to standards among the people in this area should be given top priority to remove this disparity.

If poor SCs and STs are to take advantage of the opportunities being opened up by rapid economic growth, they need to acquire a modicum of education and be healthy. Market-based development is characterised by the survival of the fittest; neither the SCs nor the STs constitute the fittest in the society.

Disparities in availability of physical, developmental and social infrastructure should be removed by speedy creation as per national norms within the 11th Plan for which adequate allocations have to be provided for. The existing infrastructure should be rejuvenated and modernised with provision of adequate funds for their maintenance and upgradation. Fully functional services on par with the developed areas with personnel, equipment, facilities and funds for contingent expenditure should be created and provided for.

The elementary education infrastructure would need strengthening, by providing fully qualified and trained teachers in every school per suitable norms of pupil-teacher ratio; providing quality technical/vocational training facilities for a cluster of 10 secondary schools offering training in a wide variety of local/specific needs; providing at least one residential high school each for boys and girls in these districts under the pattern of Navodaya Schools, together with Bridge school facilities for slow learners and out-of-school children. Existing ashram schools should be upgraded to standards. Eklavya schools should be established in each block in these districts. Thus a structure of the following kind would emerge: ashram and vocational schools in a cluster; eklavya schools in a block; and navodaya schools in a district.

There is need for a universal public health and nutrition system that is functional at the primary level of care. A first requirement in this task is to discontinue commercial vending of liquor and other intoxicants in terms of the excise policy for tribal areas (1974) and institutionalise control of the Gram Sabha over the preparation and use of traditional drinks. It is also important to ensure accredited functioning health facilities as per national norms, namely, (a) Health Sub-Centres (one for every 3000 population in hilly/tribal districts and one for every 5000 population in other districts); (b) Primary Health Centres (one for every 20,000 population in hilly/tribal districts and one for every 30,000 population in other districts); and (c) Community Health Centres for curative and referral services for every 100,000 population. The districts where the Naxalite movement is active are located in States which have the worst social infrastructure in general, and SC and ST hamlets tend to get excluded when location for such social infrastructure is being decided. The 11th Plan allocations should be used for filling this gap.

All sanctioned posts should be mandatorily filled in by trained professionals/para-professionals on regular/contractual/adhoc basis and there is need to address the problem of chronic shortage of staff, if necessary, through provision of special allowances and local recruitment. Only then can we ensure (a) universal full immunisation (DPT, BCG, Polio, Typhoid) of all children; (b) guaranteed safe deliveries through accredited health providers/skilled birth attendants and; (c) management/treatment of communicable diseases together with supply of essential drugs, up to health Sub Centre level with full utilisation for united funds of Rs 10,000 per annum per health centre.

It was noted that SCs and STs have worse nutritional levels than others. Anganwadi centres will increase during 2008-09 to at least 12 lakhs from the current level of 10 lakhs in the country as a whole. Anganwadis should be provided on demand to SC and ST hamlets, which are the worst provided in terms of anganwadi centres in the country. Fruther, ICDS is to be restructured during the 11th Five Year Plan, and it is necessary to establish an identifiable and effective nutrition chain (a) for all pregnant women and nursing mothers in rural areas (comprising of nutrition equivalent to 500 calories and 15 to 20 grams of protein), (b) for all mal-nourished children in the age-group of 3-6 (comprising of nutrition equivalent to 600 calories and 20 grams of protein per child) and (c) for all children in the age-group of 0-3 (comprising of nutrition equivalent to 300 calories and 10 grams of protein per child) and (d) for all children studying in Government schools, Local Body schools, aided schools upto class V hot and cooked mid-day meals (comprising of nutrition equivalent to 300 calories and 8 to 12 grams of protein per child).

As part of the NHRM, every village/large habitation should be provided with a Female Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), who is trained at least as an ANM, chosen by and accountable to the panchayat to function as an interface between the community and the public health system.

Rural electrication has to mean households actually receive electricity, not merely an electric pole with a line going to BPL households, as specified under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana. If the RGGYV money is used for building poles and laying lines to BPL households, without the actual supply of electricity, experience shows that both the poles and wires are stolen; at the very least, it is wasted investment, since there is no electricity flow for years after the investment in transmission lines. Therefore, we recommend: Electrify all villages and habitations through creation of Rural Electricity Distribution Backbone in each block and Village Electrification Infrastructure with at least one distribution Transformer in each village/habitation or Decentralised Distributed Generation (DDG), where grid supply is not feasible, together with electrification of all unelectrified below poverty line households.

Research in India, China and other developing countries has demonstrated that one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce poverty is to ensure rural roads connect to markets. Therefore the Central and State Governments need to commit to connectivity through all-weather roads to all villages, habitations with a population of 500 (250 in the case of hilly and tribal areas) in the next four years.

In four years of the 11th Plan, there is need to commit to provide safe drinking water to all habitations as per the national norms of coverage, that is, (a) 40 litres per capita per day (LPCD), additional 30 LPCD for cattle in DDP areas, (b) potable water source within 1.6 km in plains or 100 mtrs elevation in hilly areas and (c) one hand pump/stand post for every 250 persons. Without this action, there is little likelihood that health indicators will improve significantly, even if the public health system was to become functional.

Finally, houses as per the Indira Awas Yojana Guidelines to all houseless persons, giving high priority for SCs/STs have to be ensured by the end of the 11th Plan.


A comprehensive regulation should be made to the effect that no law having a bearing on the provisions of PESA, read with the Fifth Schedule and other provisions of the Constitution concerning tribal people, shall extend to the Scheduled Area, until it is approved for extension there to in full or with such exceptions and modifications as may be notified by the Governor, in consultation with the Tribes Advisory Council of the State.

The Annual Report of the Governor to the President about the Administration of the Scheduled Area under Para 3 of the Fifth Schedule should be comprehensive, and cover all aspects of governance, especially the provisions of PESA. A high-powered small Group may be established under the Union Cabinet with the mandate for continuous review of the state of administration in the Scheduled Areas.

In view of the fact that governance in the Scheduled Areas with regard to many a vital aspect of tribal life is without any authority of law, the concerned Governors should issue a notification under Para 5 (1) of the Fifth Schedule (to be referred hereafter in brief ‘Para 5(1) Notification’) to the effect that ‘Notwithstanding anything in the Constitution, the Panchayat Act or relevant Acts of the Parliament or the Legislature of the State for the time being in force, the provisions of PESA shall prevail.’ This is necessary to ensure that there is no ambivalence or contradictions in the frame of governance at the village level as a result of diverse legal provisions made from time to time and extended to the Scheduled Areas in routine.

The definition of ‘village’ in PESA is in terms of its natural community-centric character. It is at variance with the general definitions of ‘village’ in vogue in different laws that are essentially administrative. It must be ensured that all Panchayat Raj Acts of States having Scheduled Areas adopt the PESA definition of ‘village’ with no change therein of any description whatsoever.

The scope of the clause ‘resolution of disputes’ in section 4 (d) of PESA should mean that Nyaya Panchayats are constituted for Fifth Schedule area. Each State law should clearly indicate the types of disputes (civil, criminal, social marriages etc). which Nyaya Panchayats should deal with.

The PESA authorises Gram Sabha to restore all unlawfully alienated land to the rightful owners. However, in none of the States the original jurisdiction of GS under PESA to exercise this important power has been conferred on them. In case of non-compliance of the orders of GS, the support of revenue authorities to implement the orders has not been clarified. Only when this is done will this power of GS become operational. This would go a long way in mitigating land related discontent in the tribal areas.

It should be made obligatory for all concerned with management and working of forests to consult the Gram Sabha resulting in consent before taking up any operation in the geographical boundary of the village as defined above.

It shall be the duty of the State to ensure that the full value of the minor forest produce is made available to the primary collector without any cuts of any description whatsoever. The entire marketing and transportation cost from the collection centres, which shall not be beyond half-a-day march from the Gram Sabha, shall be borne by the State as a charge on the welfare activities in the Scheduled Areas.

The residents of habitations located on the periphery of a reservoir shall have full rights to use the water body for fish-culture and for fishing for the common good of the entire community, subject to honouring the livelihood rights of those traditionally engaged in fishing. This collective right, however, shall be exercised through a cooperative or other instrumentality that is exclusively and wholly answerable to the concerned GSs, in accordance with a scheme that may be adopted by the concerned GSs.

Displacement of tribals in areas notified under the Fifth Schedule should be avoided, as it tends to deprive the tribals of the rights conferred on them under the Fifth Schedule. If the setting up of a project in these areas is considered to be in the national interest, even then, the prior consent of the tribal Gram Sabhas should be made mandatory. The Government should evolve a suitable institutional mechanism to ensure that the tribals retain their ownership rights in respect of the land and resources associated with it.

The Mineral Rules should be amended transferring all quarries with annual lease value up to Rupees 10 lakhs to the Gram Sabhas and Panchayats at different levels. This dispensation should cover all minor minerals. Provisions should, inter alia, cover the following:

Consent of concerned Gram Sabha before awarding a lease to be made mandatory as per the directions of the Ministry of Mines and Minerals dated December 26, 1997;

Discontinuance of the practice of outright purchase of mineral bearing land by the Mining Companies as the Mining Act envisages only a lease. All the deals of any description whatsoever should be converted in the form of leases for which the Governor may provide through ’Para 5 (1) Notification’.

A condition for restoration of the leased lands, as far as possible, to their original status as a part of consultation with the Gram Sabhas; and

Making good all damage to the ecology etc. on account of the neglect of the State and the concerned parties according to a time bound programme, and provision of special funds to the concerned Gram Sabhas.

A clear and categorical provision should be made in the Panchayati Raj Act or the Excise Law through ‘Para 5 (1) Notification’ to empower the Gram Sabha in all aspects mentioned in Section 4 (m) (i) of PESA, and the State Government should not intervene.

It is unfortunate that despite powers defined in section 4(m) of PESA, several States have not issued the notification under para 5 (1).To facilitate the State Governments, Government of India should prepare model provisions for endowing these powers which will make provisions of PESA real and operational.

Any plan or programme of the State Government or any parastatal organisation should require that the GS be consulted before it is taken up in its area.

All Utilisation Certificates pertaining to all projects should be validated by the GS.

In many States the provisions under section 4 (i) of PESA (requiring GSs or the panchayats at the appropriate level be consulted before land acquisition or rehabilitation under such projects) are not being followed, or there are several instances of coercion from higher authorities in seeking this consent. The consultation under this provision should include concurrence with them, as provided for consultation with the Supreme Court.

VII. State Response

The public policy perspective on the Naxalite movement is overwhelmingly preoccupied with the incidents of violence that take place in these areas and its ideological underpinnings. Though it does concede that the area suffers from deficient development and people have unaddressed grievances, it views the movement as the greatest internal security threat to the country for above reasons. Accordingly, the attention of the Government is concentrated on curbing violence and maintaining public order to achieve normalcy. While area development is also being speeded up, the security-centric view of the movement accords primacy to security operations. The contextua-lisation of this violence is missing from this perspective. The scale, intensity and approach of security operations cause considerable collateral damage leading to greater alienation of the common people. The strategy of security forces to curb violence has also encouraged formation of tribal squads to fight Naxalites, with a view to reducing the security force’s own task and risk. This has promoted a fratricidal war in which tribals face the brunt of mortality and injury. Those tribals who are unattached to either the Naxalites or those opposing them, become victims of violence by all agencies—Naxalites, squads formed to fight them and the security forces. This approach to the movement is devastating the local tribals and causing hopelessness and despair. A change in policy perspective and strategy to deal with the movement is essential to create a positive image of the Government in the local people, remove their sense of alienation and wean them away from its influence.

Encouragement of vigilante groups such as Salwa Judum and the herding of hapless tribals in make-shift camps with dismal living conditions, removed from their habitat and deprived of livelihood, as a strategy to counter the influence of the radical Left is not desirable. It delegitimises politics, dehumanises people, degenerates those engaged in their ‘security’, and above all represents abdication of the State itself. It should be undone immediately and be replaced by a strategy which positions an empowered task force of specially picked up responsive officials to execute all protection and development programmes for their benefit and redress people’s grievances.This is the best strategy to eliminate the influence of radical Left groups.

The authorities should encourage civil society groups, having knowledge of and sympathy with local tribals, in assisting this task force for wider participation of people in implementation of the strategy outlined above.

Take note of reports of civil society groups on the numerous human rights violations by authorities. The government should take cognisance of these reports and enquiries into these episodes should be constituted so as to inspire confidence in victims and faith of the public in the rule of law.

It is not desirable to insulate the area and people from civil society groups, media and political organisations and penalise those who seek to establish contact with affected people to gather information about the action of Naxalites and state agencies, and speak or write about their observations. Besides being undemocratic, it is counter-productive as well. Reverse this trend. Rather, seek cooperation of civil society organisations with good track record in providing credible information on the impact of the movement and of state action on the affected people, which may help in critical appraisal of the policy pursued by the state.

Mobilising the support of the people is also absolutely essential to weaken the support base of the Naxals. The political parties are not playing their role in this regard. The representatives of major political parties have virtually abdicated their responsibility.

A strategy of constructive management of conflict requires two key measures. At its present stage, priority should be accorded to search out creative policies that bridge gaps between state interests and those of tribal communities. Tribes are not opposed to development. All that they want is to control its pace and influence, its pattern and direction so that they are enabled to prevent its damaging effects and enjoy some of its benefits. The autonomy and control over natural resources which tribal communities seek is consistent with national development. It requires dedicated interlocutors to work out its parameters in consultation with communities. PESA (1995) has made a beginning in this direction and provided a broad frame work.

Ensuring a life of respect and dignity for the Dalits, adivasis, women, and the poor in general, is not a task that can be left to the working out of a few laws. A concerted effort through the education system and the cultural media needs to be taken up. The education system should not shy away from speaking of the undemocratic practices and abound in our society. And purposive cultural interventions are very much needed. But the first pre-requisite at the level of the administration is that the administrators should be sensitised to these realities and their unacceptability. Government personnel exhibiting an attitude of indifference towards this issue must be deemed to have committed misconduct and proceeded against accordingly.

Mere provision of reservations for the SCs, STs, OBCs and women in the local bodies does not amount to empowerment. Consequential steps need to be taken to ensure that they are actually able to exercise the responsibilities placed upon them, and that their powers are not appropriated by the dominant sections. In situations where the elected representatives from these communities are threatened or subjected to violence they should be ensured full and adequate protection by the administration. It should be the responsibility of the Panchayat Officer at the District level to ensure that the police do provide such protection. Cooperation of the administrative personnel in the exercise of the authority of such elected representatives should also be mandatorily ensured.

While condemning occasional bursts of wanton violence by the extremist groups, a Government constituted by law and mandated to maintain rule of law cannot commit any illegal act in countering rural extremism. The Government should strictly prohibit extra-judicial killings by its security forces. Such acts of illegality by the authorities tend to legitimise extremist violence in the eyes of millions of non-committed onlookers.

Security forces should undergo rigorous training not only on the humane tactics of controlling rural violence but also on the constitutional obligations of the state for the protection of the Fundamental Rights, including Human Rights, of Indian citizens and implications and implementation of progressive laws in favour of the poor. Excepting casualties suffered by both the sides in actual fire fights, there should be no killings, either by the security forces or any vigilante groups, covertly or overtly sponsored and supported by the Government. Every such killing should be followed by a judicial enquiry to reinforce the faith of the ordinary masses on the rule of law.

There is a distinct feeling both within Government institutions and outside that reports of National Commissions for SCs/STs do not carry any weight. Parliament finds no time to discuss them. The Government has shown little seriousness in making meaningful use of them and initiating corrective measures. The Commissions are also not being effectively used as instruments for grievance investigation and redressal mechanism where official agencies have failed or faulted. The Commissions are primarily used to provide symbolic representation to members of the SC communities to deflect political criticism about neglect of these groups. The Commissions have considerable potential in bringing to the notice of the Government the simmering discontent of the communities, and giving them a voice where bureaucratic and political structures have failed to respond. But they need to be restructured and strengthened to command attention from official agencies for discharging this responsibility. Appropriate measures may be worked out by the Government.

The law enforcement machinery in the affected areas would need to be strengthened. Some of the suggested measures could be: additional police stations/outposts in the affected areas; filling up the police vacancies and improving the police-people ratio; sophisticated weapons for the police; personnel to be given training in counter-insurgency including protection of fundamental rights and human rights; incentive allowance for the staff posted in the affected areas; and leadership of a high order for the forces deployed and ban on extrajudicial killing and ‘‘encounter’’ killing.

Both the Central and the State Governments should have an open mind about having peace talks with Naxalites without any prior conditionality.

VIII. Strengthening the Planning System

The original power of panchayats at each tier is in the preparation of plans for economic development and social justice (Article 243 G of the Constitution). Sub-clause vii of clause M of the legal provisions for democratic decentralised planning process. Unfortunately the District Planning Committees under Article 243 ZD have not been properly activated and not created in line with the provisions of PESA. As a result what we have as State Plans are nothing but aggregated departmental plans, with hardly any linkage with District Plans or the plans prepared under the PESA. All the Central and State schemes should build in enough flexibility to allow panchayat bodies to reshape them to suit their objective conditions. The State Plans should clearly reflect how much of the district plans have been incorporated in it. Preferably up to 40 per cent of the money allocated should go to district plans.

Panchayats at three tiers should have powers and authority to hold officials accountable for the subjects devolved to panchayats. Similarly, they should have powers to review the performance and working of all departments in their areas. It raises the main issue of the State’s unwillingness to part with power and functions and to share them with panchayats. The fact that writs of the State do not run in as many as 125 districts in the extremism-affected areas makes it clear that the State bureaucracy had abjectly failed in delivering good governance in these areas. Hence empowerment of the panchayats would be practically the only way out for effective governance of these areas. Therefore panchayats should have authority to hold officers of the State working there accountable for their acts of omission and commission. That apart, strong financial and social audit systems should be placed on the ground to prevent leakages of funds.

The National Commissions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Women, National Human Rights Commission should be provided with some powers and authority for generating greater accountability in official agencies operating in these areas. A massive awareness programme should be taken up (on the pattern of rural labour camps of the 1970s and 1980s) to build up pressure from affected communities for the improved performance of official agencies. Information kiosks should be set up, managed by SC/ST individuals and organisations at the panchayat level, for information, education and communication. Individuals and NGOs should be encouraged and supported to take up RTI as a campaign among SCs/STs for enhancing transparency of governance.

Mechanical monitoring on the basis of physical targets achieved or funds spent should be upgraded for impact assessment by independent research institutions, universities and other academic institutions. People at the ground should also feel that activities around them are being watched instantly by the political masters. This would mean demonstration of political will for the uplift of these communities and areas. Institutional arrangements should be made at State capitals as well as at the Centre to involve the Chief Ministers and the Prime Minister in this process.

IX. Governance Issues

The areas in Central India where unrest is prevailing covers several States (like Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and parts of Maharashtra) are minimally administered. State interventions both for development and for law and order had been fairly low. In fact there is a kind of vacuum of administration in these areas which is being exploited by the armed movement, giving some illusory protection and justice to the local population. The basic steps required in this direction include establishment of credibility and confidence of the government; keeping a continuous vigil for fulfilment of people’s vision; effective protection, peace and good governance; rejuvenating tribal economy including social services; sustainable development with equity in tribal areas; holistic planning from below in scheduled areas; and negotiating crisis by focussing on ending of confrontation.

The area affected by the extremist movement is the region of Central India with concentration of tribal population, hilly topography and undulating terrain. The area has much less density of population than the plains. The failure to provide infrastructure and services as per national norms is one of the many discriminatory manifestations of governance here. These disparities result in non-available/poorly provided services. The removal of these disparities should be among the top priorities to convince people living in these areas that they are equal citizens and that they matter in national life.

Reorganisation of the administrative arrangement should aim at supplanting the current non-accessible bureaucracy by the three-tier panchayats bodies, with level to level correspon-dence with the current administrative structure. Bureaucracy at each level should be directly accountable to the corresponding tier of elected panchayat bodies. The Gram Sabha will have the right to question the functioning of any officer or staff about their performance and activity. These panchayats bodies should have the power to clear schemes and projects up to a certain financial limit. The district panchayats will have no such limit in respect of schemes, projects and programmes earmarked for the districts.

Panchayats at each tier should be strengthened by the posting of appropriate level of general service and technical service officers. Regulatory functions like revenue, police, forest and labour should be directly accountable to the PRIs for their actions and performance.

One major deficiency of the existing administrative arrangements is the absence of a Justice Administration system in rural areas. The current system is expensive, dilatory and complicated. Barely 20 per cent of the population is able to access it. SCs/STs get involved in the system as accused and defendants rather than seekers of their rights and entitlements. Even in cases of atrocities where the State takes up their case, the experience has been depressing. The situation is no better in cases relating to social welfare, labour and land related laws. A system of justice and grievance redressal which is simple, inexpensive, responsive to their needs and within easy reach of these sections should be an integral part of governance, but it has never received the priority and attention it deserved. A beginning can be made in this direction by quickly enacting the Nyaya Panchayat Law by the Centre with enabling provisions for the States to adopt. A model of dispute settlement mechanism and justice administration consistent with PESA, 1996 in the Fifth Schedule areas should be worked out. In the scheduled areas Gram Sabhas should correct as Nyaya Panchayats where discharging the func-tions.

The procedures for receiving applications under the RTI Act from the members belonging to the weaker sections should be simplified and summary processes of disposal of applications and adjudication of appeals should be institu-tionalised.

A mechanism should be set up at the State level to periodically review cases in which SCs/STs are involved, recommend withdrawal of cases in petty offences, release of undertrials on bail where they are unable to find a bailer, arrange effective legal aid to defend them in other cases, and issue directions for speedy trial in cases pending for long.

The Government of India must start forthwith an annual review of the state of administration in the Scheduled Areas in terms of its responsibility under the first proviso to Article 275 (1), with a clear goal to raise it to the level obtaining in the rest of the State within a period of five years.
The issue of public resource management for equitable development in this context has two aspects. One concerns distribution of available public resources proportionate to the needs of the area and the communities. The other relates to the efficient utilisation of whatever resources are allocated. The existing financial arrangements have neglected them in both ways. SCs have the lowest human development status as per national norms; STs are worse than SCs in this regard. Not only this, the gap between them and the rest of the population is large and is, in fact, widening. Because of the modalities for monitoring expenditure outcomes as against expenditure performance should be devised to ensure that tangible benefits flow from regulatory and development programmes initiated for SCs/STs. The gap in socio-economic conditions of SCs/STs with the rest of the population should be bridged by the end of the 11th Plan. Special Component Plans for Scheduled Castes and Tribal Sub-Plans for Scheduled Tribes should be prepared with an outlay of not less than the population proportion of SCs/STs to overall Plan outlays, as an integral part of the State Plans. These resource allocations should be made non-divertible and non-lapsable. Intensive review and monitoring of these Plans should be provided for at the district level to ensure their effective implementation. Under- utilisation, diversion and misuse of resources under TSP and SCP should be avoided with provision for result based financial management. States fulfilling mandated tasks in the unrest affected areas and meeting entitlements of people located therein should get some financial incentive.

There are seven National Commissions for different segments of disadvantaged, marginalised sections of the community. Similarly, there are some sets of Commissions at the State level. There is no co-relation among them either at the Centre or at the State. Nor do they have any mandatory authority to enforce their recommendations. It is time that a Rights Commission with appropriate divisions should be set up at the Central level with legal power to enforce its decisions arrived at through due process. Anyone aggrieved would have the right to go to the Supreme Court. Similar Rights Commissions should be set up at the State level with the right of an aggrieved to approach the State High Court. Till it is done the Centre should devise an effective institutional mechanism for bringing about coordination among all these National Commissions and take administrative steps to give effect to their recommendations.

ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy|
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.