People’s Democracy | December 22, 2002
The charter of demands for a better life for the tribal peoples should consist of the following:
- Stop alienation of land belonging to the tribal people; plug loopholes in existing laws and take steps to restore land transferred from adivasis. Register land records for tribal lands. In scheduled areas under Fifth Schedule, adhere to the Samata judgement of Supreme Court regarding use of land for industrial and commercial purposes.
- Takeover surplus lands above ceiling and distribute them to landless adivasis along with other landless families. Provide irrigation facilities in remote tribal areas. Allot degraded forest land to tribal people.
- Amend the Forest Act in such a manner as to recognise the rights of adivasi forest dwellers to access and use of forests. People’s participation in forests through community management should be introduced.
- Forest produce must be accessible to forest dwellers and neighbourhood adivasi communities. The tyranny of forest guards must end. For marketing forest produce, cooperative efforts which are not bureaucratically managed but of the adivasis as producers of forest goods should be set up.
- No project, industrial or developmental, can be undertaken where displacement occurs without a comprehensive and sustainable rehabilitation package. Such a scheme must be put in place before any displacement or work on the project begins. Provide employment and rehabilitation to already displaced persons.
- Women should have equal rights in land and other communal resources. Campaign to end practices degrading women’s status must be carried out. The practice of dowry infiltrating tribal society must be countered. Practices such as witchcraft must be combated.
- Provision of drinking water in remote hamlets must be a priority for ending hardships to tribal women in this regard. Sexual harassment of adivasi women who go to the forests for gathering produce and firewood must be strictly punished. Tribal developmental schemes should pay adequate attention for employment for adivasi women. Protection for women at work sites from sexual exploitation.
- Enforce protection against money-lending/usury which exploits adivasis. Bonded labour and exploitation of adivasi men and women by contravening all labour laws must be effectively checked. Strict implementation of atrocities on adivasis under the Prevention of Atrocities on SC & ST Act.
- The public distribution system should be revamped so that all tribal areas are covered with fair price shops and cooperatives. All tribal areas scheduled and non-scheduled must be covered by a universal system where all tribal families get foodgrains and other essential commodities at a subsidised rate. Expand antodaya schemes.
- Special composite educational programmes for tribal students should be promoted by the Central Government and all the state governments. Special schemes for education of tribal girls. Arrangements for setting up of schools in the tribal dominated areas with provision of vocational training and hostel facilities for the tribal youth should be undertaken.
- Implementation of reservation of ST quotas in all categories of employment and education. Curb issuance of false ST certificates to non-tribals. Special allocation for public health facilities and setting up of primary health centres in the remote tribal areas.
- All tribal languages should be recognised. Include major tribal languages such as Santhali and Bodo in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. Oppose moves to eliminate indigenous cultural traditions, which foster collective consciousness and egalitarianism. Campaign against social evils, which are intensifying among the youth by penetration of bourgeois values and commercialisation. Foster cultural expression and creative folk arts based on the rich cultural forms of tribal communities.
- Strictly enforce constitutional safeguards for the scheduled tribes. Provision of autonomy under the Sixth Schedule should be strengthened by amending the Schedule. Extend provisions of Autonomous District Council to other states where compact, majority tribal areas exist. Constitute elected autonomous councils replacing nominated advisory councils in Fifth Schedule areas.