Ameliorative initiatives

  • 30/10/2006

With the upsurge of Naxal activity, there has been a rethink on development and land reform programmes. Some efforts are being made, especially by the centre, to push the programmes in tribal belts. The perception that Maoist violence is not just a law and order issue is gaining ground.

In 2001, the centre created a separate department for land resources under the rural development ministry to look into land alienation issues. The department has distributed 2.21 million ha to almost 5.56 million beneficiaries of whom around 2 million are Scheduled Castes and 823,000 Scheduled Tribes. The department lists 375,000 cases of tribal land alienation, over 346,000 ha of land. Of this, 162,000 cases have been disposed in favour of tribal people covering nearly 180,900 ha and 154,000 cases, dealing with almost 147,000 ha, have been rejected by courts. But the department notes that "although good results have been forthcoming in prevention of alienation and restoration of alienated tribal lands ... the task remains to be completed'.

In Chhattisgarh, for instance, the last land regularisation effort took place in 2003 in Kawardha district (now Kabirdham) where the state passed an order to give land deeds ranging from 1.5 to 5 acres, to 6,100 Baidya tribal families. However, only 40 to 45 per cent of these families have been given land deeds and fewer actual possession. In 2004, the government said it would form a land dispute board to resolve matters, but there's no sign of it yet. Again, in March 2005, the chief minister promised to constitute a committee to review rehabilitation. That is yet to happen.

Meanwhile, on July 21, the centre released the revised draft of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2006, which aims to regularise tribal rights on land they occupy, including forestland, and also secure access to forest produce. The draft bill hasn't been tabled in parliament yet, but is seen as a step in the right direction for tribal people. The draft notes that "exclusion and alienation' has led to increasing support for Naxalism. "Such violent manifestations should not be viewed as merely a law and order problem to be tackled through policing or by arming the tribals to fight these events as is being done in certain areas,' the draft says.

There has also been talk in the states of development initiatives to combat Maoism. The centre has provided Rs 2,475 crore for 55 Naxal-affected districts in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Under this scheme, an amount of Rs 15 crore per year has been given to the districts for three years to fill critical gaps for development.

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