The Naveen Patnaik-led Odisha Government, which is supporting Droupadi Murmu’s candidature in the ensuing presidential poll underlining its empathy for tribal cause, has failed to convene a single meeting of Tribe Advisory Council during past four years.
In fact, the new TAC has not been formed in Odisha after State elections in 2019. Formation of the TAC is a constitutional provision which is part of Administration of Schedule Areas and Tribal Areas. The TAC meeting is required to be convened twice in a year.
As per TAC mandates, all issues related to tribes are put up in the meeting. This is the highest body that adopts resolution on any kind of new schemes and programmes those are going to be implemented in tribal areas.
“Not holding TAC for past four years is one of the biggest deviations which has been made behind in Odisha especially when it is home to third largest tribal population of India and has most diverse tribal population having 62 tribes including 13 particularly vulnerable tribal groups,” said Mohan Charan Majhi, Bharatiya Janata Party Chief Whip in State Assembly and a Tribal MLA.
The ST and SC Development, Minorities and Backward Classes Welfare Department has published proceedings of 17 TAC meetings since June 26, 2000. In the decade between 2000 and 2010, TAC sat for 12 times and in the next decade (2010-2020), the number came down to five. The last TAC meeting was held on June 28, 2018.
Mr. Majhi said this shows how serious Odisha government was for tribal cause. According to a senior government functionary, “the State government created Special Development Council (SDC) in nine most thickly tribal populated districts. The SDC creation was not placed for TAC’s approval, which is a also gross violation of any work and scheme required to be implemented in scheduled areas.”
There are 117 blocks in nine tribal dominated districts. Out of 117 blocks, 112 come under tribal sub plan blocks. Opposition party MLAs questioned as to how government has implemented different programmes in 112 TSP blocks without taking TAC into confidence.
“The major reason behind government not constituting TAC is that it does not want to face embarrassment. Although TAC is chaired by Chief Minister, tribal MLAs belonging to Opposition parties tend to ask uncomfortable questions in council meeting which punctures big claims of the government,” they said.
Baripada MLA Prakash Soren, “tribal population face problem in implementation of drinking water projects, irrigation and mother tongue based multilingual education. The government has failed to provide proper price to tribal for their minor forest produces.”
“The TAC is the appropriate forum where these tribe specific problems can be raised. After so many years of Independence when tribes have not learnt State’s official Odia language, whom they would approach to with their basic issues? In absence of such forum, the grievance could not be redressed. The government has ignored role of people’s representative,” said Mr. Soren.
Budhan Murmu, Saraskana MLA, said, “The provision of (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 came into force on December 24, 1996. The State government has not yet framed PESA Rules even after 25 years. TAC needs to discuss these issues.”
“Moreover, people belonging to tribes have been demanding flexibility in land sale and mortgaging rules. Tribes in urgent requirement of fund for education and medical expenses cannot sell their property. Even the mortgaging of land is not easy. This issue has been discussed in previous TAC meetings. But, no final decision has been taken in this regard. We need to deliberate on the issue on regular basis,” said Mr. Murmu.