Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said the cult of violence would only bring greater misery to the common people.

Inaugurating the Chief Ministers’ Conference on Implementation of the Forests Rights Act, 2006 here, he said that no sustained economic activity was possible in the tribal areas under the shadow of the gun. Nor have those who claim to speak for the tribal communities offered an alternative economic or social path that is viable.

“While violence cannot be tolerated, the tribals must be the primary beneficiaries of the development process.”

Alienation over decades

Pointing out that there had been a “systemic failure” in giving the tribals a stake in the modern economic processes that inexorably intrude into their living space, Dr. Singh said the alienation over decades was now taking a dangerous turn in some parts of the country.

“The systematic exploitation and social and economic abuse of our tribal communities can no longer be tolerated. But the fact is that no sustained activity is possible under the shadow of gun,” he said. “We have to win the battle for their hearts and their mouths.”

The Prime Minister said the problems faced by the tribal communities were complex and required sympathetic and systematic understanding. The National Tribal Policy should factor in the different nuances of tribal life as they exist in several parts of our great country. For this, he suggested that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs engage in wide public consultation and debate.

Stressing the need to reflect on how to improve the laws and mechanism through which compensation is provided to displaced tribal people, Dr. Singh said these people must benefit from the projects for which they have been displaced.

“But resettlement and rehabilitation raise serious issues not just of monetary compensation. We have to address issues relating to creating sustainable livelihoods, preserving traditional sense of community and helping the tribals cope with the trauma of dislocation and alienation.”

Calling upon the Chief Ministers — most of whom did not turn up — to spare no effort to ensure effective implementation of The Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006, the Prime Minister said: “We cannot have equitable growth without guaranteeing the legitimate rights of these eventually marginalised and isolated sections of society. The distribution of titles (under the Act) is but an important and necessary first step.” The Act attempts to deal holistically with the issue not only in terms of recognition of rights but of livelihood opportunities and environmental protection and conservation.

“Provide incentives”

Emphasising the importance of posting committed and competent officers in tribal areas, he asked the States to consider offering string incentives like hardship allowances, special housing and educational facilities or grants for officers who stay in tribal areas to strengthen and create administrative machinery in these areas.

He also suggested reviewing and withdrawing cases registered against the tribals under the forest laws, which had often become a source of harassment and exploitation.

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