‘Government must ensure that those whose land has been taken away become shareholders in profits'

The Union Tribal Affairs Ministry “must become more than a post office: it must become a genuine nodal agency for issues concerning the welfare of the tribal communities,” National Advisory Council member and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Dayal Munda said on Wednesday.

He was speaking at the conclusion of a three-day conference of the All-India Adivasi Mahasabha at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium here.

Focussing attention on land alienation and the manner in which multinationals and other big companies were gravitating to the areas inhabited by tribals for the wealth that lay beneath, Dr. Munda said: “We must resolve that no land is taken without taking the local people into confidence. And when land is acquired, the government must ensure that those whose land has been taken away become shareholders in the profits made by the companies which come here.”

If all constitutional provisions, laws, and government schemes were faithfully implemented, it would go a long way in tackling Maoists who were now operating largely in tribal areas, he said.

With many of the laws being administered by Ministries other than the Tribal Affairs Ministry — such as the key Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, which is with the Panchayati Raj Ministry — Dr. Munda stressed that the Tribal Affairs Ministry needed to play a more pro-active role.

Tribal Affairs Minister Kantilal Bhuria, who came for the concluding ceremony, acknowledged the fact that so many tribal groups had made the journey to the national capital was indication of their determination to fight unitedly for their rights. He expressed the hope that the new Tribal Policy, to be unveiled soon, would help in improving the socio-economic conditions of the tribal communities across the country, while giving a direction to the various Central Ministries handling issues of tribal welfare as well as to the State governments.

Key issues flagged

A resolution passed by the Mahasabha flagged all key issues the tribal communities have been battling for — from those relating to land alienation to the need for effective implementation of the PESA and the Forest Rights Act, to promoting traditional tribal medicines and culture, and ensuring that Governors play their role in implementation of the Fifth Schedule.

The Mahasabha was preceded by a two-day National Consultation of Tribal Peoples' Movements organised at the Constitution Club here. The consultations focussed on the poor record of the State governments in implementing the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and the Tribal Sub-Plan.

Low conviction rate

On Saturday, while speaking at the consultations, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik expressed concern over the low conviction rate in cases of atrocities against the SCs and the STs.

It is less than 29 per cent against the average of 43 per cent for all cognisable offences under the Indian Penal Code. Mr. Wasnik also expressed disappointment that over 80 per cent of such cases remained pending with courts at the end of the year.

He asked the participants to suggest changes in the law which would enhance the conviction rate and reduce delays in dealing with cases of atrocities against the SCs and STs. The Centre, he said, asked the States to ensure registration of cases of atrocities.

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