Tribals from different districts on Tuesday staged a demonstration here demanding effective implementation of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) (PESA) Act 1996. This deprives indigenous people of the safeguards and protections set aside for them in Schedule V areas.
Tribals under the banner of Odisha State Pesa Gram Sabha Co-ordination Committee (OSPGSCC) have urged the State government to frame rules for implementation of the PESA Act. Seven out of 30 districts of Odisha are fully and partially recognized as Schedule V areas.
In Fifth Schedule areas, tribals enjoy special protection as the President of India and the Governor of a State can directly intervene on different administrative matters.
“We tribal people have our own traditional management system, customs, traditions, culture and customary mode of dispute resolution which we could not put into operation because the PESA Act has not been effectively implemented in the State,” said Budhua Jojo, President of OSPGSCC.
Mr. Jojo said, “the major threat to scheduled areas is the land grab by non-tribal people. Besides, the rapid growth of mining operations in tribal areas have made our life miserable. Government must ensure that the PESA Act helps protect tribals in scheduled areas.”
The Committee alleged that the Tribe Advisory Council (TAC) was not functioning properly according to the provisions of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
“Some members of TAC are advocating amendments to the Odisha Scheduled Areas Transfer of. Immovable Property (by Scheduled Tribes) Regulation, 1956 which would enable transfer of tribal land to non-tribals,” said Panduram Hembram, secretary of OSPGSCC.
Later, a delegation of OSPGSCC met Governor Ganeshi Lal and apprised him about the need for implementation of PESA Act 1996 in schedule areas.
“As the custodian of the Schedule Areas of the State, Governor assured the delegation that he will take up the issue of implementation of PESA Act 1996 in the State. He will also apprise the President of India and Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda od the issue,” said Sudarshan Chhotray, an activist who was part of the delegation.
Mr. Chhotray lamented that the State government for reasons best known to it was not taking the initiative to frame ruled 27 years after the Act was enacted.