The Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch (AARM) has urged Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to ensure that the allocation for the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) in this year’s budget is increased to 8.4 per cent, in keeping with the strength of the tribals in the country. They stressed that the shortfall on this account was over Rs 27,000 crores in the last two years.

Members of the AARM, which works among tribal communities in 14 states, met Mr. Mukherjee last month, and presented him with a set of demands on behalf of the tribal community. Referring to the recent allocations made for the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for left wing extremist–affected districts, they asked him whether Maoist activity needed to be a pre-condition for making allocations for tribals, who were among the most deprived sections of society.

Those who called on Mr Mukherjee included CPI (M) MPs Brinda Karat and Bajuban Riyan (Chairman), Upen Kisku (Joint Convenor) Dr. Baburao (Joint Convenor),Prem Pargi and Vijoo Krishnan. In a memorandum they presented to Mr Mukherjee, they said, “Our general request is that the budget should have a vision to translate the basic constitutional guarantees for equality through adequate allocations to universalize the rights to food, health, education housing and work.”

Among the key demands the AARM made were to include the entire tribal community in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) list, even landowners as their landholdings were marginal and unproductive; widen the ambit of the debt waiver scheme to include debt from private moneylenders specifically for adivasis (and dalit) farmers in the forthcoming budget as a one-time waiver scheme; increase the allocations for minor irrigation and dryland agriculture in adivasi areas; design a special crop insurance scheme to cover plants and grains grown by tribals; set up a new mechanism such as a Central Monitoring Authority for Minor Forest Produce (MFP); and start development works with the benefits available under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme on the land that tribals have received under the Forest Rights Act.

On his part, Mr. Mukherjee sought details from the AARM on the demand raised for the special debt waiver scheme for adivasis and wanted to know whether it was because they did not have land titles.

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