Now, a high-level committee to map status of tribals

Eminent sociologist Virginius Xaxa will be chairman of committee

Updated - November 16, 2021 09:07 pm IST

Published - August 18, 2013 01:27 am IST - New Delhi:

If UPA-I constituted the Sachar Committee to map the condition of Muslims in the country, on Saturday, UPA-II set up a high level committee on Saturday to prepare a position paper on the current socio-economic, health and educational status of tribals that will also “suggest policy initiatives as well as effective outcome-oriented measures to improve development indicators and strengthen public service delivery to STs.” The committee is expected to submit its findings and recommendations in nine months, ahead of next year’s general elections.

This announcement comes two days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his Independence Day speech, said that a high level committee was being constituted “to collect accurate information about the socio-economic, educational and health status of our tribal population... [to] help us in designing better schemes for their benefit.” In that speech, he also mentioned the recent introduction of MSP for minor forest produce to “enable our tribal brothers and sisters to get remunerative prices for the minor forest produce they collect.”

The country’s tribal population of 8.6 per cent is concentrated in the north-east, particularly in Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, and in those parts of the country now over run by Maoists — Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and parts of Bihar and Maharashtra. If the tribals have been traditionally voting the Congress, in recent years, the BJP has made inroads among them, especially in central India.

Chairing the committee will be tribal expert and eminent sociologist Virginius Xaxa, who was recently appointed a member of Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council. Dr Xaxa, currently teaching at Delhi University, is the author of State, Society and Tribes: Issues in Post-Colonial India (2008) and the seminal article “Tribes as Indigenous People of India,” considered essential reading for an understanding of India’s tribal communities.

The others are Usha Ramanathan, Joseph Bara, K.K. Misra, Abhay Bang and Sunila Basant, all of whom are familiar with the problems of tribals, coming as they do from diverse backgrounds — law, history, anthropology, medicine and administration.

The committee is expected to focus on how tribal communities have been affected by involuntary displacement and enforced migration; whether rapid urbanisation has shrunk their original habitats, and which new avenues of employment and livelihood are available to them. It is also expected to map their asset base and income levels, changes in the patterns of ownership and productivity of their immovable assets, the role public policy and the legal framework in facilitating/inhibiting such changes, the level of their socio-economic development, their relative share of public and private sector employment, and what steps have been taken by States/UTs for capacity building and improving their employability.

Access to education, health services

It will examine whether tribal people have adequate access to education and health services, municipal infrastructure, bank credit, and other services provided by the government/public sector entities; and the level of social infrastructure (schools, health centres, ICDS centres etc.) located in areas of tribal concentration in comparison to the general level of such infrastructure in various States. Finally, the committee will look at whether protective legislation such as the Prevention of Atrocities Act, Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, the Forest Rights Act and the Food Security Ordinance, etc are being implemented effectively.

The NAC, that has also been working extensively on the subject of tribal rights, recently proposed changes to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

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