Development plans should not displace forest dwellers, says Prakash Amte

Updated - February 22, 2016 05:44 am IST

Published - February 22, 2016 12:00 am IST - Bidar:

Prakash Amte, Magsaysay Award winning doctor who works for the welfare of the tribal population in Maharashtra, feels that development plans should not displace forest dwellers.

“They have been living in jungles for hundreds of years. Who are we to say they have to move away from their native environment? Any development plan should involve and engage them. No such scheme should even think of relocating tribals and forest dwelling communities,” he told The Hindu .

He was reacting to the concerns expressed by some non-governmental organisations that forest development and mining policies by some State governments envisaged relocation of tribal population to make way for industries and other development initiatives. “Some development plans, mining policies and even afforestation schemes are built around the idea that tribals and jungle communities should be displaced. This is a wrong perception. Forests and communities have coexisted for generations and each has contributed to the survival of the other. That symbiosis should not be disturbed,” Mr. Amte said.

“Governments come up with such plans as they are all drafted in New Delhi or the State headquarters. Planning should not be imposed form the top. It should sprout in the ground and climb up,” he said.

“There are various political parties in the country and they have a lot of differences over policies and programmes. But they are all united on some points. For example, issues like environment protection or family planning or comprehensive health care, are not on their agenda. They have no clear stand on such issues. When it comes to environment, parties neither make their stand clear nor announce their policies. When in power, they approve plans and clear projects related to environment without studying the issues fully and without bothering about their implications,” Mr. Amte said.

“It is difficult to find doctors who are willing to work in rural areas or small towns. That is not a problem limited to Maharashtra or Karnataka. It is a problem across the country. The solution lies not in making it compulsory for doctors to serve in rural areas, but to convince them by motivating them about the need to do so,” he said.

Mr. Amte feels that Karnataka’s experiment of mandating rural service for MBBS graduates might not achieve success. “When they complete their medical degrees, most are young and unmarried. They can spend two years serving the poor rural folk, before returning to the city for further education or professional practice. They should be made to realise that they will be as benefited as the society they are serving, if they do so,” he said.

Mr. Amte also said that rural service could be incentivised for young doctors by offering them postgraduate seats in the subjects of their choice. He feels that the government should work towards making their stay in villages hassle free by providing proper infrastructure in hospitals, power supply, equipment for investments and diagnosis and residential quarters. “Some doctors feel that a large portion of work in a rural hospital is clerical. That should change. Doctors should be freed from such work and given more free time to treat patients,” the 68-year-old doctor who has served tribal communities for 42 years in Hemalkasa village in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, said.

Mr. Amte and his wife and fellow crusader Mandakini Amte are here to receive the Gurubasava Award .

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