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Issues and Challenges in Empowerment of Displaced Tribal Communities (Fuzail Ahmad)

Industrialization is key driver to the economy of any country. We can better understand its importance while analyzing its share in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of most developed, underdeveloped and developing countries. The economies of developed countries are characterized with larger share of industries and lesser of agriculture sector. Thus, no government in the world can afford to ignore industries. Since Independence, in India too, the policy makers realized the importance of industries and began large scale industrialization drive. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, focusing on modernization and industrialization, at the inaugural function of Bhakra Nangal dam, termed the dam “Temple of the Modern India”.

In a country like ours, successive governments have chosen the path of large scale industrialization (mainly facilitated through 119 year old Land Acquisition Act 1894) in order to boost the burgeoning economy with simultaneous exploitation of tribal people and farmers. The impacts of such development have been fiercely debated with implicit and explicit shortcomings of this age-old British Law on the impacted communities. The cumulative effect of large scale protests, demonstration by impacted communities culminated into "The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013” brought by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government. It was touted and perceived as best possible solution to end woes and sufferings of impacted masses by incorporating their long pending demands and facilitating business houses to timely execute the projects without wasting much time and energy for completing land acquisition process. Now, in such backdrop, the critical question arises— Does the new Land Acquisition Act will help in empowering the impacted Tribal Communities?

What is a Tribal Community?

The word ‘tribe’ means a part of common organization, mainly among primitive people but existing in some present societies, consisting of a group of people claiming a common heritage, usually contributing a common way of life, and originally living together under a chief or head-man (Tiwari and Sharma, 1989).

Fr. John Felix S.J (1990) has stated in his article The Impact of Globalization on Tribal Culture and Economy, “tribal way of life is very much dictated by the forest, right from birth to death”. He says in his article, “it is ironical that the poorest people of India are living in the area of richest natural resources. Historically, tribal have been pushed to a corner owing to economic interest of various dominant groups”.

Tribal Community and current issues responsible for their marginalization:

- Their primitive lifestyle, unique way of living in isolation from the main stream society
- Tribal Culture of self contentment, complete dependence on Jungle, no dependency to the external world.
- Alien attitude towards education and awareness arising out of complete isolation and prosaic living.
- Displaced from their natural forest habitats, their economic, social and psychological poverty is steadily increasing.
- Albeit only to the limited extent, tribal community have started acknowledging the impact of modernization and the demands of time, but they are not coming forward to bring reforms in their educational status and in their economic standards.
- Due to complete lack of education and awareness, they even failed to grab the golden opportunities if sometimes arises in some cases of land acquisition and special provisions in different welfare schemes.
- Free Distribution of Ration under various Governmental Schemes has further promoting a culture of making people idle.

Land Acquisition:

It is tool and process by which government can acquire the land for the use of common goods like roads, canals, infrastructure projects like factories, mining, power plants, airports etc. This was previously being done through “The Land Acquisition Act 1894”

Major Shortcomings of “The Land Acquisition Act 1894”:

The Land Acquisition Act-1894 suffers from various shortcomings as follows, which must be suitably and timely dealt upon in order to meet the current requirements and pacify the grievances of those impacted.

Forced acquisitions: Law stipulated that complete and one sided authority, as acquiring authority, can carry out the acquisition in pretext of urgent need (urgency clause), regardless of how the person whose land is to be acquired is affected or even providing token satisfaction of the processes listed under the Act.

No safeguards: Absence of real appeal mechanism to stop the process of the acquisition. Though a hearing (under section 5A) was prescribed but this was not a discussion or negotiation. The views expressed were not required to be taken on board by the officer conducting the hearing.

Silent on Resettlement and Rehabilitation of those displaced: No provisions for the resettlement and rehabilitation for those displaced by the acquisition.

Low rates of compensation: The rates paid for the land acquired were the prevailing circle rates in the area which were notorious for being outdated and hence not even remotely indicative of the actual rates prevailing in the area.

Path breaking Supreme Court Judgments paved the path of new Land Acquisition Act:

Some of the recent Supreme Court observations that came in the wake of repated voilation observed that the law seems to have been drafted with “scant regard for the welfare of the common man”.

Another bench echoed this sentiment “The provisions contained in the Act, of late, have been felt by all concerned, do not adequately protect the interest of the land owners/persons interested in the land. The Act does not provide for rehabilitation of persons displaced from their land although by such compulsory acquisition, their livelihood gets affected …To say the least, the Act has become outdated and needs to be replaced at the earliest by fair, reasonable and rational enactment in tune with the constitutional provisions, particularly, Article 300A of the Constitution.

Specific Issues and Challenges of Tribal Community impacted by Land Acquisitions and Rehabilitation Process: Learnings through Experiences.

Tribal Meena Community-Impacted by Hindustan Zinc Limited (HZL) Udaipur Rajasthan: A Case Study of missing golden opportunity of mainstreaming due to lack of education and awareness

This is poignant story of the Meena Tribal community in nearby area Udaipur, who claims they were actual intended beneficiary of tribal reservation (for education, jobs and political reservation) due to their primitive lifestyle and culture than the comparatively wealthy Meena Community of Karauli, Dausa and Sawai Madhavpur of Rajasthan who have greatly enjoyed the benefit of such STs reservation.

At the time of land acquisitions and R&R (around 40 Yrs back) for mining and smelting units of Hindustan Zinc [erstwhile Public Sector Undertaking (PSU)] company management exercised lot of efforts many times, for providing employment at mining and other works of company, but due to their ignorance and lack of education, by and large entire community was reluctant and turned down the employment offers of company, few of them if engaged after lot of motivation and persuasion, left the job after working for weeks and months. Now the developmental landscape of once backward region have completely changed, with those upper cast and OBC families who joined the company services are reaping the benefits of development, where as those displaced Bhil and Meena community living in abject poverty, whereas their neighbour thriving and are way ahead in all development parameters and now their new generations are being found seeking daily wage employment in local contractors and petty contractors working in HZL.

Tribal Baiga/Pando Community of Singrauli District MP- Impacted by Northern Coal Fields Limited (NCL) subsidiary of Coal India Limited

Like the Meena-Bhil Community of Udaipur region of Rajasthan, these tribes are considered aborigines and protected tribal, living in the coal rich jungles and hills near NCL operational units. They were being lured, motivated and encouraged many a time for joining the company as part of Resettlement and rehabilitation benefits, but most of them turn down and preferred to live in dangerous labyrinths of Over Burden Dump of Coal preferring their tribal Life Styles. Most of them now repenting on their past decisions of not joining the employment of company, but some still ignorant of what went wrong for them.

Dongaria Kondh Tribals hostility for bauxite mining at Niyamagiri Hills by Orissa Mining Corporattion and Vedanta Aluminum Limited

The Niyamgiri is a hill range situated in the districts of Kalahandi and Rayagada in Odisha. These hills are home to Dongria Kondh indigenous people.The hills have one of India's most pristine forests in the interiors. The Dongria Kondh have worked to maintain their ancestral domain free from development aggression, leading to a 2014 Supreme Court ruling against plans to develop a bauxite mine in the Niyamgiri. This has become world wise case study of Tribal opposition and hostility for mineral extraction in their backyard with the cumulative influence of environmental groups, media, academician and rights based activists allegedly working on considerable foreign funding and possible supports of other detractors and competitor of mining giant.

This shows how easily tribal may be coerced for opposing the developmental projects, which has the great potential for their mainstreaming through making them the partner of development, if the project was to be implemented in right spirit of tribal emancipation as claimed by company.

New Land Acquisition Act 2013:

In the above backdrop, the new Land Acquisition Act namely "The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act- 2013” has enacted as a much awaited relief to the aggrieved parties focusing on the humane face like issues of resettlement and rehabilitation of those displaced by acquisition of land. The new law stipulates mandatory consent of at least 70 per cent for acquiring land for public-private-partnership (PPP) projects and 80 per cent for acquiring land for private companies.

Salient Feature of New Land Acquisition Act 2013:

Compensation: up to four times the market value in rural areas and two times the market value in urban areas.

Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R): This is the very first law that links land acquisition and the accompanying obligations for resettlement and rehabilitation. Over five chapters and two entire Schedules, the Second Schedule in particular, outlines the benefits (such as land for land, housing, employment and annuities) that shall accrue in addition to the one-time cash payments.

Retrospective Operation: To address historical injustice, the Act applies retrospectively to cases where no land acquisition award has been made. Also in cases where the land was acquired five years ago but no compensation has been paid or no possession has taken place then the land acquisition process will be started afresh in accordance with the provisions of this act.

Multiple Checks and Balances: A comprehensive, participative and meaningful process (involving the participation of local Panchayati Raj Institutions) has been put in place prior to the start of any acquisition proceedings.

Special Safeguards for Tribal Communities and other disadvantaged groups: No land can be acquired in Scheduled Areas without the consent of the Gram Sabhas. The Law also ensures that all rights guaranteed under such legislations as the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 and the Forest Rights Act 2006 are taken care of.

Safeguards against displacement: The law provides that no one shall be dispossessed until and unless all payments are made and alternative sites for the resettlement and rehabilitation have been prepared.

Consent: In cases where PPP projects are involved or acquisition is taking place for private companies, the Act requires the consent of no less than 70% and 80% respectively (in both cases) of those whose land is sought to be acquired. This ensures that no forcible acquisition can take place.

Caps on Acquisition of Multi-Crop and Agricultural Land: To safeguard food security and to prevent arbitrary acquisition, it directs States to impose limits on the area under agricultural cultivation that can be acquired.

Return of Unutilized Land: In case land remains un-utilised after acquisition, the new Bill empowers state to return the land either to the owner or to the State Land Bank.

Exemption from Income Tax and Stamp Duty: No income tax shall be levied and no stamp duty shall be charged on any amount that accrues to an individual as a result of the provisions of the new law.

Major Provisions for safeguarding the interest of Tribal Community in New Land Acquisition Act 2013

Separate chapter: A separate chapter has been carved out to protect interests of Tribals and those belonging to the Scheduled Castes.

Approval: As far as possible no acquisition shall take place in the Scheduled Areas. And where such acquisition does take place it has to be done with the approval/ consent of the local institutions of self-governance (including the autonomous councils where they exist).

Development plan: A Development Plan has to be prepared laying down the details of procedure for settling land rights due but not settled and restoring titles of tribal on alienated land by undertaking a special drive together with land acquisition.

One-third Compensation to be paid up-front: In case of land being acquired from members of the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes, at least one-third of the compensation amount due shall be paid to the affected families at the outset as first instalment and the rest shall precede the taking over of the possession of the land.

Resettlement in the same scheduled area: The Scheduled Tribes affected families shall be resettled preferable in the same Scheduled Area in a compact block so that they can retain their ethnic, linguistic and cultural identity.

Alienation of tribal lands to be void: Any alienation of tribal lands or lands belonging to members of the Scheduled Castes in disregard of the laws and regulations for the time being in force shall be treated as null and void; and in the case of acquisition of such lands, the rehabilitation and resettlement benefits shall be available to the original tribal land owners or land owners belonging to the Scheduled Castes.

Fishing rights: The affected Scheduled Tribes, other traditional forest dwellers and the Scheduled Castes families having fishing rights in a river or pond or dam in the affected area shall be given fishing rights in the reservoir area of the irrigation or hydel projects.

If resettled outside scheduled area then additional benefits: Where the affected families belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes are relocated outside of the district then they shall be paid an additional twenty-five per cent rehabilitation and resettlement benefits to which they are entitled in monetary terms along with a one-time entitlement of fifty thousand rupees.

Additional amounts: In addition to a subsistence amount of rupees 3000 per month for a year (which all affected families get), the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes displaced from Scheduled Areas shall receive an amount equivalent to rupees 50,000.

Post Displacement Mainstreaming of Tribal: Way Forward

On the basis of learnings and experiences in the field of CSR and R&R and close association with

Tribal, this author puts following points as a remedy for post-displacement measures.

1. Given the cultural burden and socio-economic conditions of tribal, mere having right based provisions for education, health & Livelihood and extra amount of compensation in the new Land Acquisition Act, only cannot solve the existing problems of tribal as they are socio-educationally not in a position to take benefits of such provisions.

There are end number of cases where the compensation they got, were being siphoned off by so called local insurance agents and workers of anonymous banks in the name of insurance and fixed deposits providing exorbitantly higher returns that in-fact never came and now they are being seeing doing the rounds to those agents and cursing their fate. The same case also happens with other provisions like health, education, livelihood and other tribal development initiatives. Thus, until we build an educated and aware tribal society through concerted and empathized efforts of providing quality education and systematic process of awareness in the tribal pockets, the self realization of their own backwardness and marginalization would never came nor we will be able to mainstream them.

2. The present primary education system and approach where focus is shifted on enrollment and Mid-Day Meal distribution up to Primary-Middle level schooling and free ration under Public Distribution System (PDS)/ Right to food, is only going to push them into deep marginalization and increasing level of their parasitic tendency on the forest and such schemes. As very few children (only to those motivated tribal) are being seen going school at the time of Mid-Day Meal distribution, but with nothing educational improvement. Thus relying on present Government Schools for tribal education we would end of nothing as it has been noticed that most of the tribal hamlets have produced nothing since last 64 yrs, of independence even after so much talk and efforts of Tribal Education through Government Education Department but only more than 95% drop out rate after primary-middle education.

3. Those who any how complete the Primary-Middle education are being seen dropping out at Middle level, due to non-appreciation to education. Thus increased and concerted efforts are required at the level of those involved in the real tribal emancipation for creating 2-3 role model tribal youths in each tribal hamlet who after education got employment in Govt and Public Sectors and enjoying the quality of life. This approach has readily and effectively worked in cases of Kol, Gond and other tribals where increased number of youth’s presence started in different Govt departments like Education, Police, Revenue and Panchayati Raj. This has dramatically improved the overall view of community towards education and appreciation for education.

4. We need to build a system of Tribal Education, preferably through institutions providing quality education facilitated by committed activist and gross root level NGOs, CSR wing of corporate with round the clock presence in their locality for the cause of tribal education and empowerment till we produce 2-3 role models within that tribal community. Once this is achieved, it will start self regeneration process for more number of role models thus creating a culture of appreciation for education and mainstreaming within the tribal society.

5. For their Health & livelihood, we may engage Organizations/NGOs who have developed proven methods and excellent track records of engagement with tribal with time bound delivery of desired results and impact. Here too, we need committed, dedicated team who has passion for working with tribal.

6. Together with these initiatives and confidence building among tribal and development of their self realization, we may be able to reach the tribal emancipation.

7. At the time of India poised to take decisive leap in the world’s most developing economy, we cannot afford to leave them in the same condition as they have lived for ages, which has shown extreme results in the form of growing extremism and naxal orientation among tribal youths in the deep forest, but to find out ways and means to give them ideas about modern life and their benefits, thus taking to the course of their self realization of existing culture and socio-economic status and whether they can further affords to keep continuing on the same path or need to adopt with the changing times and part of mainstream society.

Author is an alumnus of Aligarh Muslim University. He is Corporate Social Responsibility Practitioner, currently working with an Indian MNC. He can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/fuzailalig
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