Almost a year after Saranda was wrested out of Maoist control by security forces, large numbers of tribal families living in the dense forests of the Jharkhand district have found themselves left out in the cold when it comes to government assistance.

“We discovered that just about 3,000 of the 7,000-odd forest dwelling tribal families in Saranda are on the BPL [below poverty line] list,” says Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh. Those not on the list are not eligible for the Central government’s welfare schemes. “The problem is that when the BPL census was taken in 2002, the forests of Saranda were simply not accessible.”

However, the problem is not restricted to a single district. Across the country, “a few lakh” tribal families could be affected, says the Minister.

Mr. Ramesh has written to all Chief Ministers to “correct the huge injustice that has been done to the forest-dwelling tribal families who should really be automatically included in any BPL list.” In the letter dated June 18, he asked the Chief Ministers to direct their Collectors to use the 2002 BPL census questionnaire and criteria to determine the socio-economic status of such families. “All efforts should be made to make these tribal families eligible for the Indira Awaas Yojana and the National Social Assistance Programme at the very earliest,” says the letter. “We should complete all administrative formalities in the next 90 days in a campaign mode.”

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