Make them ‘co-stakeholders', says R. Balasubramaniam at the Regional Lok Adalat

Founder of the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement R. Balasubramaniam on Wednesday appealed to the Karnataka High Court Legal Services Committee, which is looking into various aspects related to the environment, to involve tribal people living in forests in the development process relating to flora and fauna.

Tribal people should be made “co-stakeholders” in the development process, Dr. Balasubramaniam said while making a presentation at the Regional Lok Adalat presided over by chairman of the committee D.V. Shylendra Kumar, judge of the Karnataka High Court.

A.N. Yellappa Reddy, member of the committee, said that it was unfortunate that tribal people were being looked upon as “enemies” of the environment. Taking exception to a Forest Department report which mentioned that tribal people were responsible for the recent forest fires in the Nagarahole National Park, he said that such an allegation could not be made emphatically without the charges being substantiated.

Dr. Balasubramaniam appealed to the committee to direct the authorities to take steps to grant rights to tribal people as per the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.

Mr. Reddy said that during his service as forest official he had learnt a great deal from tribal people on forests and animals. He said that their services should be availed of.

Dr. Balasubramaniam drew the attention of the committee to the tribal people's lack of access to amenities.

He advocated including tribal people in gram sabha meetings to deliberate on issues relating to tribal people and forests.

Mr. Shylendra Kumar directed the officials to come out with an action plan, in consultation with Dr. Balasubramaniam, to find ways to address the issue.

Keywords: Lok Adalat

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