Provision of community certificate, allotment of more funds in State budget among major demands
Though the campaign to the by-election for the Yercaud Assembly constituency ended on Monday, people in the hill areas feel that political parties failed to address their grievances including notification of tribal areas in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. As per the Census 2011, the population of Yercaud is 41,000 in which Scheduled Tribes constitute more than 85 per cent. The Fifth Schedule (Article 244(1)) calls for setting up of Tribal Advisors Councils, in which tribal people are its members, to look into issues pertaining to the welfare of the tribal people. Since the tribal people in the State were not included in the Schedule, the National Advisory Commission, on December 12, 2012, had asked the State to send recommendations for their inclusion wherever the tribal population is more than 50 per cent in a particular habitat. But the government failed to send any proposal till now, says M. Gunasekaran, State secretary of Federation of Tamil Nadu Adivasi Associations.
The Forest Right Act, 2006, paves the way for providing title deeds to tribal families living in hilly areas. As per High Court’s direction, the association had submitted 25,000 claims to the State government for issue of pattas, but no action has been taken so far, he says.
The Panchayat Extension of Scheduled Areas Act (PESA), 1966 also prohibits non-tribal people from purchasing land in hilly areas and also making it mandatory to get permission from grama sabhas to carry out mining activities. But the rules are flouted says A. Renganathan, Director of Village Reconstruction and Development Project, a non-governmental organisation.
Though the constituency is tribal in nature, not even a single demand was addressed by political parties during their by-election campaign here. “Our plight continues as people have started to migrate”, says Venkadesan of Manjakuttai.
The tribal people’s other demands include, issue of community certificates, allotment of more funds in the State budget for their development, restoration of assembly constituencies for ST’s to three and 1.03 per cent reservation for tribes in panchayat and local bodies.