Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ignorance and indifference rule the roost, but rule by fear is terror

Veteran journalist B G Verghese speaks his mind

  • Many talk of ‘root causes’ such as prolonged neglect and disregard of land and forest rights. This is not untrue; but emphasis on socio-economic development in an insecure environment without a clear framework of governance will not work. As in many insurgency-bound situations, peace and development cannot be sequenced but must go hand in hand.
  • We do not have to invent a new framework. It is there in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, reinforced by the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, (PESA) and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. These represent a constitution within the constitution for tribal India and a solemn social contract that the Indian state has blatantly flouted over 60 years.
  • The Fifth Schedule makes the governor the overseer of tribal rights and interests. Aided by a tribal advisory council, he is enjoined to make an annual report to the president with recommendations regarding development, tranquillity and governance in these areas. The president is required to place this report before Parliament and to issue such directions as may be necessary to the states concerned regarding future action. Governors lack any independent machinery for this task, of which most seem unaware, and send delayed reports routinely prepared by the local tribal affairs department which are then ignored by the Union government and Parliament year after year. Possibly no single directive has gone out to any state in 60 years. Even today, in all the angry, emotional and largely empty debate that goes on, the Fifth Schedule has never once been mentioned. Ignorance and indifference rule the roost.
  • ………..with erstwhile Indian Frontier Administrative Service officers having domain knowledge, language skills and empathy has ever been contemplated for these areas. Ad hoc, band aid solutions will not do.

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