`CM should take over tribal welfare dept.'

PALAKKAD APRIL 15. Tribal organisations and experts in tribal affairs feel that to effectively implement various tribal welfare schemes, the Tribal Welfare Department should be brought directly under the Chief Minister, A. K. Antony.

They said since tribal development involved the coordination of various departments and decisions were to be taken at the highest level, it was better that the department was directly run by the Chief Minister. Earlier, the department was under the Chief Ministers and it had helped the tribals to a great extent.

Experts in the tribal affairs, T. K. Raveendran and P. R. G. Mathur, chairman and secretary respectively of the Ananthakrishna Iyer Centre for Anthropological Studies said the Tribal Welfare Department be brought under the Chief Minister, who had taken some sincere steps for the development of tribals.

They said the failure of development schemes taken up during the last 50 years would strengthen this demand. Solving the tribal land issue was the most difficult problem that needed the direct intervention and action at the top-most level.

Though crores were spent during the last five decades for the development of tribals in the State, no funds have been earmarked in the plan for tackling the tribal land issue. Huge amounts were spent for the Tribal Sub Plan to take up various development schemes. This is the basic reason for the failure of tribal development programmes. But the schemes that failed are being repeatedly implemented without addressing the cardinal issue of land for the tribals in their ancestral habitat, they said. The general secretary of `Guruvu', a tribal organisation, Babu Raj said that the tribal land protection was done by law. But to implement the land legislation, no fund was allotted. So it was not being implemented. There was no political will to implement the Tribal Land Act of 1975 that protected the tribal land. This had resulted in the present turmoil on the tribal land issue. To tackle the tribal land issue, separate funds should be allotted in the annual Plan to provide land to the tribals and to protect their existing land, he said.

Unless the cardinal issue of land for the tribals in their traditional habitat was provided, all the development programmes for tribals would go waste. This situation had resulted in the Muthanga incident said the organising secretary of `Guruvu, K. P. Raveendran.

He said in Attappady, where maximum land alienation had taken place in the State, there were people willing to give back the alienated tribal land. Vast areas were alienated for small amounts and if fund was provided, such land could be taken back from the present occupant and give to the tribals. The district administration, the tribal development agencies and the local politicians should take initiative to call a meeting of all concerned to discuss the issue and find a way out to get back some of the alienated land.

They said local politicians and bureaucrats tried to misguide the authorities by painting the tribal organisations as militant groups and get the tribal employees transferred out of the tribal areas. This was done to stifle the voice of the tribals who fight for the right cause of hapless tribal community, they said.

Dr. Mathur and Dr. Raveendran said the planners had a stereotyped image of the tribes - as a monolithic and undifferentiated entity. Such a view did not permit a realistic appraisal of tribal problems in different ecological settings. Numerically, dominant tribes and small struggling tribal communities were lumped together and differences in economy and habitat were ignored. Accounts were not taken of the levels of techno-economic development of different tribal communities. Omnibus planning, with a generalised conception of tribal problems and needs, had led to the `misdirection' of efforts as the specific problems of particular tribes could not be given attention.''

They said a micro-level survey had to be conducted on the alienation of tribal land within a time frame so that the ground situation could be assessed. Since the Government was planning to give all the landless tribals land, they should be given fertile land near their traditional habitat. The Government should buy the best land near their traditional tribal habitat. There was no point in giving land far away from their traditional mooring. "Wherever and whenever the Government give land to tribals far away from their tribal settlements they do not occupy the land," they said.

The tribals strongly feel that they cannot leave their Gods and ancestors to go to a new place to settle. There are several rites and rituals connected with their forest Gods and ancestors. So the challenge before the Government now was to find fertile land near the tribals' traditional habitat to make the tribal welfare schemes a success, the experts and tribal organisation leaders said.

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