GoM resolves issues on Tribal Rights Bill

Special Correspondent

Legislation to be placed before Cabinet

New draft includes compensation package for displaced"Land for land" recommended by Ministry

NEW DELHI: The Group of Ministers (GoM) on the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill has resolved all contentious issues and the proposed legislation will now be placed before the Cabinet for approval before it is taken up for consideration in Parliament in the winter session.

"The GoM has resolved the issues to the satisfaction of all and we think that it has come to an agreement," Union Tribal Affairs Secretary Meena Gupta said here on Wednesday. If there were any pending issues, they would be looked into.

The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2005 and referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), which recommended major amendments to the Bill, particularly on the issue of cut-off date, inclusion of all forest dwellers under its purview, ceiling on land occupation and the empowering of Gram Sabhas.

The Government subsequently set up a GoM, headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, due to a difference of opinion between the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry and the JPC.

The new draft includes a compensation package for the displaced and consultation before rehabilitation for those likely to be shifted out of the forest areas. The Tribal Affairs Ministry has recommended "land for land" for the displaced, as suggested by it in the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy. "We also feel there should be a threshold level wherein if 50,000 people are displaced, the process of scrutiny should be more rigorous," Ms. Gupta said.

The Ministry is also working on schemes to provide education and health facilities to tribal children, particularly to girls. It has identified 54 low female literacy districts across the country, where the percentage of tribal population is more than 25 per cent and the female literacy rate less than 35 per cent.

Since these districts need special intervention, the Ministry proposes to set up hostels for girls up to block levels and give monetary incentives to parents for sending their children to school. The students will also be provided incentives. Another proposal is to provide insurance cover to children from four years to until they pass class 10 or XII.

According to Ms. Gupta, while the enrolment rate in the tribal districts is as high as 98 per cent, the dropout rate is equally high at 56 per cent. Primarily, there is little motivation from home to receive education. The Ministry is working on a plan to track down the dropouts and take them back to school.

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