Indigenous people and their communities have an historical relationship with their lands and are generally descendants of the original inhabitants of such lands. They have developed over many generations a holistic traditional knowledge of their lands, natural resources and environment. According to the Rio Declaration, they shall enjoy the full measure of human rights and fundamental freedoms without hindrance or discrimination. Their ability to participate fully in sustainable development practices on their lands have tended to be limited as a result of economic and educational limitations.
At the time of Independence, the Indian Government inherited a large tribal population. A number of plans were made to protect the rights of tribals and to integrate them into national developmental planning. For instance, the Minority Commission and the National Human Rights Commission were set up to prevent atrocities against tribals and to bring their plight to national attention. Above all, the Fifth Schedule explicitly recognizes the rights of the tribals and additional clauses permit positive discrimination in their favour.
The Fifth Schedule envisages sharing the responsibility between concerned states and the union. The executive power of a state extends to the Scheduled Areas in its territory just like any other area in that state and this has been explicitly codified under para 2 of the Fifth Schedule. The scope of para 5(2) of the Fifth Schedule extends to a total prohibition on the transfer of immovable property to any person other than a tribal. This ensures that the titles of concerned lands remains in the hands of the people who have worked and lived on the land since the time of their ancestors. Moreover, it is also envisaged under para 3 that the executive power of the union shall extend to the giving of directions to the state as to the administration of the area.
There is an abundance of natural resources like minerals, ores, forests and water in the central belt of the country straddling across West Bengal, Bihar Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat. This is also the area where 80% of the tribal population lives, therefore, creating an obvious conflict of interests. Industrialization has been taking place in this vast belt since the early fifties thereby ousting the tribal people without restraint or regret. These lands taken away in the name of economic advancement of the country lead to landlessness, impoverishment and long-term degradation of the environment on which the tribals totally depend. For almost two centuries now, tribal communities, like many other non-tribal peasants and forest dwellers, have been witnesses to the collapse of their multi-faceted relationship with the land.
Globalization in the Fifth Schedule Areas – K. Bhanumati, Samata.(in pdf format)
National Campaign Against the Fifth Schedule Amendment
This Fifth Schedule is under threat of being amended to permit the transfer of tribal lands to non-tribals and corporate bodies….more