Underdevelopment often creates the conditions for insurgency and spread of extremist ideologies among the people. While it has been the policy of governments around the world to emphasise on “inclusive development”, there are always groups in every state who feel alienated because they perceive that they are left out of the developmental efforts. Such perceptions coupled with inefficient and corrupt governance create an ideal condition for extremism. Hence, it is the perception of injustice, mis-governance and inability of the system to engage the disaffected lot rather than the lack of development that lead people to violence and extremism.
The term “development” encompasses the need and the means by which to provide better lives for people in poor countries. It includes not only economic growth, although that is crucial, but also human development—providing for health, nutrition, education, and a clean environment. The purpose of development is the improvement of the quality of life of the population, and the creation or expansion of local regional income and employment opportunities, without damaging the resources of the environment. In simple words, development can be defined as bringing about social change that allows people to achieve their human potential.
Various professionals and researchers have developed a number of definitions for the term “development.” Amartya Sen developed the “capability approach” which defined development as a tool enabling people to reach the highest level of their ability, through granting freedom of action, i.e., freedom of economic, social and family actions, etc. Martha Nussbaum developed the “capabilities approach” in the field of gender and emphasized the empowerment of women as a development tool.
Factors Responsible for Spread of Extremism
- Tribal rebellions are not a new phenomenon. The Mauryan state had employed tribal levies for enhancing the strength of their standing or regular armies in times of war. Kautilya did not trust the tribal levies and primarily used them for looting and pillaging the enemy countryside.
- The tribal areas remained outside the land management system for a long time because of their inaccessibility. They developed their own traditional system of land management. The land ownership among the tribals broadly fell under three categories namely, (i) community land, (ii) land belonging to clans and (iii) individual holdings. Some of the tribal areas were also covered by the British system of land revenues and some of them were parts of Indian princely states. These states had no uniform land tenure system. Thus, due to the absence of a regular land settlement system or up to date record of land rights, the tribals were at the mercy of the petty revenue officers, Forest Departments and the landlords. In recent history, there have been a number of large scale tribal rebellions:
|Pre-Independence Tribal Revolt||Year|
|Post-Independence Tribal Revolt||Year|
|Jharkhand Agitation, Maharashtrian – Bhoomi Sena||1970s|
|Kasht Kari Sangathana, Protest against Koel Kano project in Bihar||1980s|
|Narmada Bachao Andolan, Orissa Tribal lands taken away for mines.||1990s|
The tribal societies inhabit India’s poorest and least developed jungle regions. Paradoxically, these are richest in mineral deposits: 85 percent of India’s coal reserves are in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Orissa. These areas also have huge deposits of iron ore and bauxite. Industrialisation, therefore, has brought about a violent clash of these two civilisations. A large number of mega hydro-electric projects, smaller dams, mines and now the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have led to the large scale displacement of tribal populations. Tribal societies constitute some 40 percent of displaced population caused due to various projects. So far, only 18-20 percent of some 20-24 million these displaces people have been rehabilitated.
Jal Jangal Zameen
Traditionally in tribal areas, ownership of land was by the community and economic activity mainly agrarian, including shifting cultivation. This fostered egalitarian values which influenced their power relations and organizational system. Forest and hills were the main source of tribal identity . It is in this context that the devastation of lives of tribal people caused by loss of access to forest and involuntary displacement from their land has to be understood. Dispossession takes place both directly by depriving tribal communities of their land, habitat, livelihood, political system, culture, values and identity and indirectly through denials of benefits of development and of their rights.
Alienation of land of tribal communities, loss of rights to Common Property Resources, mainly forests, large scale displacement and enforced migration takes place in following ways:
- Development-induced displacement by acquisition of land by the State based on principle of ‘eminent domain’ for ‘public purpose’ without a ‘land for land’ provision for rehabilitation. Acquisition by the State for development projects also leads to alienation of land and displacement due to environmental pollution and damage to land in the area near projects but tribal people so displaced are not entitled to any compensation.
- Illegal land alienation takes place due to participation of revenue functionaries and officials, incorrect interpretation of laws, manipulation of records and permission accorded to alienate land. State Laws are amended to include provisions that facilitate land alienation of tribal communities.
- Community land of tribal communities is recorded as Government land in survey and settlement operations and most State tenancy laws recognize only individually owned registered land. Such lands have not been fully surveyed and there is no record of user practices, which would be shown as Government land.
- State action of acquiring tribal lands for settling refugees has resulted in land alienation and displacement. There is also encroachment of tribal land by immigrants.
- Creation of National Parks have resulted in alienation of rights and consequent displacement and forced migration of tribal people.
- Conflicts in the Northeast have resulted in tribal people losing everything and being displaced from their home ground.
Forced Evictions from Land
Through the process of forced evictions, many tribals have left their villages and even State and migrated into neighbouring States. This involuntary displacement and migration has caused further distress among the tribals and created administrative problems for the host State . In the State of Bihar, through social oppression , many Dalits had to move from their traditional habitat and moved elsewhere. They were victims of upper caste atrocities. Through the process of forced evictions and migration large mineral areas got vacated where the mining corporate lessees started operation. Often the displaced persons look hopeless and sometimes they seek support of the naxalite groups. Such situations create space for naxalite interventions.
Internal displacement caused by irrigation/mining/industrial projects, resulting in landlessness and hunger, is a major cause of distress among the poor, especially the Adivasis. It is well known that 40% of all the people displaced due to various projects in the last sixty years are forest-dwelling Adivasis. Other forms of distress have added to this unconscionable figure. The law and administration provides no succour to displaced people, and in fact often treats them with hostility since such internally displaced forest-dwellers tend to settle down again in some forest region, which is prohibited by the law. The Naxalite movement has come to the aid of such victims of enforced migration in the teeth of the law.
Failure to Implement Protective Regulations in Scheduled Areas
The Mungekar Committee (2009) has observed that “The most sensitive aspect of tribal life is self-governance. Even the British were forced to recognise and reconcile themselves to this fact. Later, the British succeeded in penetrating these areas also surreptitiously by entering into some agreements with them and extending the British-made laws to these areas . These areas were then called the ‘Partially excluded areas’.
In 1950, with the adoption of the Constitution, all laws of the Centre and concerned States got extended to the ‘Scheduled Areas’ (Partially Excluded Areas) in routine. This was a qualitative change in the legal regime in the tribal areas which happened after India attained Independence from British yolk. There was no place in the new Indian legal regime for the tribal community and the system of self -governance according its customs and traditions.
It was forgotten by the administrators and law makers that the tribal people had a strong functioning system of self-governance. This was so notwithstanding its nonrecognition under the formal system. This omission has had adverse and disastrous consequences in some cases. The community was greatly handicapped in facing the new situation that had resulted in serious unrest throughout tribal India”. These reasons have created disenchantment in the tribal population.
Absence of Credit Mechanism
Although a large section of Tribal households has accounts in banks, but these accounts are largely (almost 50%) opened for receiving payments under MGNREGA. Almost 50% of tribal population is facing the problem of indebtedness and have to rely on informal credit. Formal banking institutions are reluctant to offer short-term credit as it affects their credit operations, probably resulting in high operational costs and consequently low profit levels.
Dependence on Money Tenders and Consequent Loss of Land
The problem of indebtedness leading to dependence on money lenders amongst tribals is not only an indication of their poverty but also reflects the wider economic malaise, i.e., lack of education, low purchasing/ bargaining power and lack of resources for engaging in gainful activity and meeting emergent expenditure.
Therefore, the problem continues to persist with increasing menace as the indebtedness pushes the tribals further into extreme conditions of poverty and forces them to dispense with their meagre resources, including the small bits and pieces of land to pay off the loans at exorbitant rates of interest.
Tribal people suffer predominantly from the phenomenon of poverty-induced migration, also known as forced migration. An analysis of the Census data shows that there has been an occupational change and the number of tribal cultivators has reduced while the number of tribal marginal workers has increased. Micro studies indicate the increase in seasonal/circulatory migration of tribal workers, which may help them to avoid starvation, but is not enough to improve their standard of living.
The unemployment rate among scheduled tribes has increased in urban and rural areas between 2004-
05 and 2011-12, according to figures in the NSSO’s report on Employment and Unemployment among Social Groups in 2011-12. Unemployment is the root of many problems and it has made our youths Extremists. Educated youths are deprived of all deserving comforts and their growing discontentment has given scope for the speedy growth of Left wing extremism.
Continued political marginalisation of the Scheduled Tribes (STs) has not allowed them to develop a stake in the democratic system. Compared to the STs, the Scheduled Castes (SCs) have fared much better in terms of political mobilisation. This lack of political empowerment is reflected in the clear development differential that is fast emerging between the SCs and the STs themselves:
Development Indices of STs/SCs
|Below Poverty Line||49.5%||41.5%|
|School Dropouts (Before matriculation)||62.5%||49.4%|
|No Access to Doctors||28.9%||15.6%|
Lack of financial resources is a crippling factor in exercising their right to contest elections. This is even more so when the candidates are not backed by any political party. At the Panchayat level, the ST chiefs of Panchayat, even in tribal concentration areas, may be manipulated by non-tribals of the constituencies to spend development funds suited to their needs and to get contracts for government schemes. Political marginalization is not confined to the elected positions in the legislature or Panchayats. It extends to executive positions as well. These communities get a ‘token’ representation in the Cabinet rather than in terms of their numerical strength. The token representation given to them is largely guided by constitutional compulsions . It is the political marginalisation of the ST that has forced them to resort to violence and let the left wing extremists champion their cause.
Absence of Self-Governance
Emphasizing the distinctiveness of tribal councils the Bhuria Committee observed that “It is to be recognized that many tribal communities are face to face communities and they have been regulating their politico-social legal affairs on the basis of principles, procedures, practices, norms, conventions, traditions, precedents etc., as a result of indigenous growth over decades and as such they find the modern formal systems difficult for understanding and operation”. Altough significant progress was made through provisions made under Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA Act) to provide powers to gram sabhas. While PESA does acknowledge the centrality of the traditional system in the form of Gram Sabha, it makes no provision for or even reference about the place and role of any of the existing traditional institutions.
The various kinds of restrictions imposed on the forest dwellers since colonial times virtually put them at the mercy of the forest department, especially lower-level functionaries. Illiteracy and poor economic conditions make them even more vulnerable. The past experience shows that the forest policy seeks to protect forest wealth from forest dwellers, not from the unscrupulous contractors. This has led to disaffection among the tribals and they are easily swayed by extremists.
Preparation and use of inebriants has been a part of all tribal social customs from time immemorial. The British entered this social arena and commercialised the same with disastrous consequences for the tribal people. The policy continued even after independence. States ignored the advice about community control over intoxicants. Surreptitious brewing, open sale in markets and unbridled consumption became the order of the day. This has caused lot of disaffection in the tribal population.
Land Related Issues
According to the Land Committee in 2004, as much as half the land held by the tribals had been alienated to the non-tribal population and “if it is not checked with strong executive action, very soon the tribals may not have lands at all”. Although government has enacted Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 which, ‘recognises the customary rights of forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other and other traditional forestdwellers to land and other resources’, its implementation has been a problem. Thus, tribals still feel alienated in their own land.
The tribals have been subjected to multifaceted forms of exploitation such as:
- Increase in population among some tribes, lower availability of food and alienation from natural habitats, made the tribes dependent on urban markets. As a result, the already vulnerable tribes were exposed to all kinds of exploitation and marginalization in the new, unfamiliar urban space.
- The tribal residential schools and hostels remain often in the news for corruption, bad maintenance of facilities and sexual exploitation of resident girls.
- Due to poverty and lack of employment opportunities, tribal families send unmarried daughters to cities in search of work. Single women and tribal girls are, however, prone to exploitation not only by employers, but also by anti-social elements.
- Migrating tribal families have less land, lower level of literacy and on migrating, suffer from exploitation and harassment and low wages.
Tribals have distinct cultural identity represented in their unique customs, traditions, language etc. and can be identified easily from the non-tribals. They are often perceived as “uncivilised” by the urban population. When tribals go to cities and town in search of employment, they are often humiliated by others. This causes resentment in tribals and they are further alienated.
Development Challenges in Extremism Affected Areas
According to Planning Commission, in 2004-05, the proportion of SCs below the poverty line was as high as 53.5 per cent in rural and 40.6% in urban areas. This was much higher than the corresponding poverty ratio for the population as a whole – 41.8% in rural and 25.7% in urban areas. Similarly, the proportion of STs below the poverty line was 62.3% in rural and 35.5% in urban areas, which was again much higher than the poverty ratio for the population as a whole.
Dalits had been excluded from the education system for centuries. In the post-independence period educational opportunities have slowly opened up for them, but education levels continue to be very low among Dalits and the gap between Dalits and non-Dalits remains very wide.
Limited Employment Opportunities
As mentioned earlier most Dalits live in rural areas. The incidence of landlessness is higher among the SCs than among the others. Ten per cent of SC households are landless and another 77 per cent are near-landless, whereas the corresponding percentages are 4.8 and 63 for the non-SC/STs. Nearly half (45.6 per cent) of SCs are agricultural labourers. The level of urbanisation and diversification of work in favour of non-farm activities is lower among SCs than non-SC/STs. These facts indicate that the persistently high poverty of SC households is closely associated with low levels of ownership of capital assets like land, low levels of education and considerably lower diversification of avenues of employment.
The Right to Vote is an important political right which has added to the empowerment of the dalits as well as added to their status. However, dalits have often had to struggle in order to assert this right and struggle again to demand accountability from the elected representatives. The reins of power have remained with the dominant sections of society, whether it be the upper castes or in recent years the middle castes.
Dalits continue to face many kinds of social discrimination related to instances of residence, food, clothing, marriage and employment. Even untouchability, the most blatant form of social discrimination against Dalits, persists in many forms. A recent study of untouchability in 565 villages in 11 states identified no less than 63 types of untouchability practiced in many villages of the country.
Human Rights Violations
Large-scale human rights violations, crimes and atrocities have been perpetuated against the SCs in the rural areas. These pertain to civil rights (right to vote, right of access to public places, etc.), social rights (freedom of movement, access to education, etc.), economic rights (ownership of property, change in employment, operating businesses, joining labour unions, etc.) and political rights (participation in democratic governance).
Apart from poverty and deprivation in general, there are many causes of the tribal movements. The most important among them are absence of self governance, forest policy, excise policy, land related issues, multifaceted forms of exploitation, cultural humiliation and political marginalisation. Land alienation, forced evictions from land, and displacement also added to unrest. Failure to implement protective regulations in Scheduled Areas, absence of credit mechanism lead to dependence on money lenders and consequent loss of land and often even violence by the State functionaries has added to the problem.
The commercial and industrial over-exploitation of forest produce including timber and minerals create hazards for ecological balance. Adivasis are traditionally aware of the ecological interest of preserving forest cover, and the protection of biodiversity including wildlife conservation for their community life.
The subjugation of women is another important aspect of the deeper maladies that afflict rural India and contribute to popular unrest. In spite of formal equality with men under the law, Indian women continue to face wide-ranging disadvantages, whether it is in terms of property rights, workforce participation, educational opportunities, access to health care or political representation. India has some of the worst indicators of gender inequality in the world, including a very low female-male ratio, a major gender bias in literacy rates, and a low share of women in the labour force. Gender related development indicators such as maternal mortality rates and sex-selective abortion also shed a sobering light on the predicament of Indian women.
Role of Economic Development in Fueling Extremism
Lack of Access to Basic Resources
Much of the unrest in society, especially that which has given rise to militant movements such as the Naxalite movement, is linked to lack of access to basic resources to sustain livelihood.
- Forests: The conflict pertaining to forest dwellers’ rights to land and forest produce is a major source of unrest in large parts of the country. Large areas that were traditionally the habitat of forest dwelling communities, which means principally Adivasis, were declared reserve forests without any recognition, let alone accommodation of the rights of those communities. The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 made this position irreversible by declaring that no forest land shall be diverted to non-forest use without the permission of the Union government. The punitive provisions of the Act meant that eviction of Adivasi occupants of forest land took place on a regular basis, resulting in considerable deprivation and suffering.
- Land: Even those who know very little about the Naxalite movement know that its central slogan has been ‘land to the tiller’ and that attempts to put the poor in possession of land have defined much of their activity.
- Since insecurity and exploitation of tenants is a widespread phenomenon, tenancy reforms of various kinds have been attempted right from the time of independence. While some States have banned tenancy altogether, some have provided statutory security against eviction, including preferential right of the tenant to purchase the land if the landlord wants to sell it. But instead of improving the lot of tenants, these reforms have only driven tenancy underground.
- The laws which prohibit land alienation also provide for means of restoration of the alienated land to the tribals. However, with economic reforms there is pressure to dilute the laws prohibiting tribal land alienation and permit leasing of mineral-bearing land in the Fifth Schedule areas to private companies.
Protest due to Special Economic Zones (SEZ)
Land acquisition for Special Economic Zones (SEZ) has given rise to widespread protests in various parts of the country. Large tracts of land are being acquired across the country for this purpose. Already, questions have been raised on two counts. One is the loss of revenue in the form of taxes and the other is the effect on agricultural production.
Shrinkage of Common Property Resources
Since colonial times, the area of CPRs has been shrinking considerably on account of a number of factors, such as State appropriation for revenue generation, industrialization, privatization and development projects. Privatisation is carried out through extension of field boundaries of private farms, forcible grabbing, and distributive policies of the government. State policies focusing on increasing productivity of CPR lands exposed them to influence of the market. It has resulted in raising products from it which catered to commercial demand rather than the needs of the local community.
- State intervention in respect of management of CPRs emerged from the introduction of Panchayati Raj institutions and led to the disappearance of the traditional management systems. The latter had involved use regulation, adherence to user obligations, and investments of efforts and resources for conservation and development, which the institution of elected Panchayat, even though legally empowered, were unable to enforce.
- This led to loss of local initiatives and dependence on funds from the government for upkeep, and on officials for enforcement of regulations. Besides the above interventions, the overall strategy of land management pursued by the government never took into account the relevance and importance of CPRs in the rural economy. The factors which reduced the availability and access of the CPRs for the rural poor apply even more to SCs/STs.
Issues related to Labour, Unemployment, and Wages
Minimum wages for agricultural work are not implemented except where the labour market is itself favourable to the workers, such as in double or triple cropped areas. Moreover, among workers in the rural sector the majority are self-employed (including small farmers) and not wage workers. For the self-employed the Minimum Wages Act has no application and their standard of living is determined by the slow growth of productivity in the rural sector.
Displacement and Rehabilitation
An official database of persons displaced/affected by projects is not available. However, some unofficial studies, particularly by Dr. Walter Fernandes, peg this figure at around 60 million for the period from 1947 to 2004, involving 25 million ha. Which includes 7 million ha. of forest and 6 million ha. of other Common Property Resources (CPR). Whereas the tribals constitute 8.08% of country’s population, they are 40% of the total displaced/ affected persons by the projects. Similarly at least 20% of the displaced/affected are Dalits and another 20% are OBCs (Planning Commission Report, 2008).
As tribal areas are also rich in mineral resources, the mining projects proposed such as in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh threaten the very existence of tribal people. Protest action becomes an inevitable consequence of displacement, such as in Kalinganagar and in Kashipur people’s movement against Utkal Alumina Rayagada district, Orissa.
Environmental degradation can be caused both by nature and by human action. In the case of the tribal heartland, the centre of the Naxalite movement, it is overwhelmingly the latter which contributes to it.
- Environmental degradation resulting from industrial, mining and other development activities has created serious health problems for the local population. Dust from mines and polluted air from industrial units cause a large number of occupational disease. Uranium mining and processing near the Subarnarekha river has even caused radioactive pollution.
- In addition to the damage caused to the environment and its consequential effects, illegal mining and illegal practices in legal mining compound people’s misery. The activities for exploitation of water resources directly create conflict with the local population. Large dams by changing the course of nature cause severe damage to the natural environment and rich biodiversity as they are located in ecologically sensitive regions.
- The exploitation of biodiversity is done through massive expansion of tourism which is seemingly projected as a people-friendly development activity with considerable distributive benefits. This too has adverse implications both for ecology and local communities, which are not even recognized.
Political Marginalisation of SCs and STs
Dalits are exposed continuously to the domination of other castes hostile to them. They are also socially and economically dependent upon these very castes in their day to day life. They have, therefore, little autonomy to act on their own in any matter.
- The political equality in respect of Dalits is compromised in various ways. The exercise of the right to vote without fear or favour is hindered by both untouchability practices and exertion of dominance by ‘higher’ caste groups.
- Threatening Dalit aspirants not to contest the election, forcing them to withdraw their candidature if they file their nomination, and assaulting them and their supporters if they persist in their political assertion, are quite common.
- Political marginalization is not confined to the elected positions in the legislature or Panchayats. It extends to executive positions as well. These communities get a ‘token’ representation in the Cabinet rather than in terms of their numerical strength. The token representation given to them is largely guided by constitutional compulsions.
Indebtedness is the chief cause of land alienation and forced labour. Indebtedness among STs is particularly widespread on account of food insecurity, unavailable production and consumption credit through public institutions and corruption in the public lending agencies. But it is not confined to STs. Laws to check indebtedness and regulate credit through private sources do not get implemented. And public lending institutions are withdrawing from their obligation to the poor and to rural people whose livelihood is governed by vagaries of the weather, by adopting commercial norms of lending for all categories of borrowers.
The development paradigm pursued since independence has aggravated the prevailing discontent among marginalised sections of society. This is because the development paradigm as conceived by the policy makers has always been imposed on these communities. Thus, it has remained insensitive to their needs and concerns, causing irreparable damage to these sections. The benefits of this paradigm of development have been disproportionately cornered by the dominant sections at the expense of the poor, who have borne most of the costs. Development which is insensitive to the needs of these communities has invariably caused displacement and reduced them to a sub-human existence. In the case of tribes in particular it has ended up in destroying their social organisation, cultural identity, resource base and generated multiple conflicts, undermining their communal solidarity, which cumulatively makes them increasingly vulnerable to exploitation.
It is critical for the Government to recognize that dissent or expression of dissatisfaction is a positive feature of democracy, that unrest is often the only thing that actually puts pressure on the government to make things work and for the government to live up to its own promises. However the right to protest, even peacefully, is often not recognized by the authorities and even non-violent agitations are met with severe repression. Greater scope and space for democratic activity will bring down the scale of unrest, as it would create confidence in governance and open channels for expression of popular discontent. What is surprising is not the fact of unrest, but the failure of the State to draw right conclusions from it. While the official policy documents recognize that there is a direct correlation between what is termed as extremism and poverty, or take note of the fact that the implementation of all development schemes is ineffective, or point to the deep relationship between tribals and forests, or that the tribals suffer unduly from displacement, the governments have in practice treated unrest merely as a law and order problem. It is necessary to change this mindset and bring about congruence between policy and implementation. There will be peace, harmony and social progress only if there is equity, justice and dignity for everyone.
Suggestions to Improve the Situation
Legislation Related Measure
The State’s response to continued unrest and social dissension in areas predominated by scheduled castes and tribes was to formulate protective laws and take policy decisions. These Acts are the Provisions of the Panchayats Extension of the Schedule Areas Act 1996, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the National Rehabilitation & Resettlement Policy, 2007.
- It is necessary to build up an impregnable protective shield of the State, against multi-faceted exploitation of these communities. This should be done by effective implementation of the existing constitutional provisions, protection of civil rights and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act laws and programmes in place for this purpose.
- The revival and restructuring of the Large Area Multi-purpose Cooperative Societies (LAMPS) and Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies (PACS), with the specific targets of meeting all credit needs of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and weaker sections, should receive highest priority.
- Similarly, the cooperative banking structure which is the most accessible financial institution to the poorer sections should be urgently revamped and revitalised in the light of multitude of recommendations made in this regard. Furthermore, there is need for central legislation to enable member-controlled and member-dominated cooperative societies.
- Forest produce should be provided a protective market by fixing minimum support price for various commodities, upgradation of traditional haats, and provision of modern storage facilities to avoid post-harvest losses. At the same time, the public distribution system should be specially designed for the specific requirements of the forest dwellers.
- The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is a very significant step in recognizing and vesting the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling, scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forest for generations but whose rights could not be recorded. This Act needs to be strictly operationalised in letter and spirit.
- With the implementation of economic policy reforms labour had been at the receiving end. The social security recommendations for workers in the unorganized sectors recommended by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, should be implemented urgently by Central and State Governments with high priority in disturbed areas.
Land related Measures
Efforts at implementation of ceiling laws have stopped about two to three decades ago, as if there is no possibility of identifying ceiling surplus land hereafter. This is not a fact. A serious effort must be made to continuously implement the land ceiling laws, so that the ceiling surplus land thereby obtained is made available for distribution amongst the most vulnerable sections of the landless poor.
- In view of the increased land productivity under the impact of the new technology and improved agronomic practices, the ceiling limit should be refixed and implemented with retrospective effect.
- Land Tribunals or Fast Track Courts under Article 323-B of the Constitution be set up for expeditious disposal of the ceiling cases. Old cases should be unearthed and fresh inquiries be conducted.
- The definition of ‘personal cultivation’ in the state tenancy law should be modified to eliminate absentee landlordism as some states loosely define ‘personal cultivation’ as cultivation through servants or labourers.
- Correct and updated land records are crucial for the security of land rights. Failure to maintain proper records and ensuring land rights has led to proliferation of disputes and deprivation of legitimate rights of landholders resulting in discontent.
Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement
Acquisition of land has emerged as the single largest cause of involuntary displacement of tribals and turning them landless. Indiscriminate land acquisition should be stopped and land acquisition for public purpose should be confined to public welfare activities and matters of national security.
- Panchayats have to be empowered for effective management of Common Property Resources (CPRs) with requisite autonomy, legal backing, adequate resources, provision of expertise and capacity building.
- A model legislation may be drafted incorporating above and other relevant aspects of CPR management which can be suitably adapted by states for their purpose. Incorporate within the law a provision for summary eviction of ineligible encroachers of CPRs.
Resource depleted areas with high incidence of involuntary migration and malnutrition should be identified for saturation under NREGA as the first priority. There is also need to ensure that the norms for manual work for different items are worked out to ensure that the workers, especially women are entitled to the minimum wage for seven hours of reasonable effort.
- The government should saturate the entire rain-fed and dry farming area with Participatory Watershed Development Projects for conservation of soil and water and development of natural resources with suitable changes in cropping pattern under the common guidelines issued by Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development for National Watershed Development Projects for Rainfed areas.
- Outside of agriculture, there is need to intensify state investment in skill development of educated unemployed youth without employable skills for promoting regular employment or self employment among them.
Universalisation of Basic Social Services
The area affected by extremists movement in central India has concentration of tribal population, hilly topography and undulating terrain. The area has much less density of population than the plains. The failure to provide infrastructure and services as per national norms is one of the many discriminatory manifestations of Governance here. Universalisation of basic services to quality standards among the people in this area should be given top priority to remove this disparity.
- Disparities in availability of physical, developmental and social infrastructure should be removed by speedy creation of infrastructure in Naxal-affected districts as per national norms.
- Fully functional services on par with the developed areas with personnel, equipment, facilities and funds for contingent expenditure should be created and provided for.
- The elementary education infrastructure would need strengthening, by providing fully qualified and trained teachers in every school as per suitable norms of pupil-teacher ratio.
- There is need for a universal public health and nutrition system that is functional at the primary level of care.
- Rural electrification has to mean households actually receive electricity, not merely an electric pole with a line going to BPL households.
Extremism cannot be tackled by negotiations alone. While the political and other non-police methods of handling the situation are necessary, it is clear that ‘dialogue’ and ‘accommodation’ are easier to find acceptance when the good intentions of the State and its will to restore order are concurrently visible.
- Security forces have a supportive but essential role in handling the situation. This would require suitable legal and motivational support to and effective deployment of the security forces.
- It goes without saying that even in the most difficult and trying situations, the operation of security forces must be strictly within the framework of the law. To enhance the capacity of the security forces to act effectively and firmly but within constitutional bounds, it is necessary that standard operational procedures and protocols are laid down in specific terms and detail.
- Training and reorientation including sensitising police and paramilitary personnel to the root causes of the disturbances that they are seeking to curb are requirements that need no further elaboration.
- Formation of specially trained special task forces on the pattern of the Greyhounds in Andhra Pradesh also form an important element of the strategy to build capacity in the police machinery for tackling left extremism .
- Local police forces have a huge advantage in intelligence gathering capacity because of their constant interaction with local populations.
Cutting Financial Sources
The nexus between illegal mining/forest contractors and transporters and extremists which provides the financial support for the extremist movement needs to be broken. To achieve this , special anti-extortion and anti-money laundering cell should be established by the State police/State Government.
For implementing large infrastructure projects, particularly road network that are strongly opposed by the extremists or are used to extort funds from local contractors, the use of specialised Government agencies like the Border Roads Organisation in place of contractors may be considered as a temporary measure.
An essential measure that has been long overdue is a time bound possession survey of all land under cultivation of SCs/STs culminating in (i) grant of title to those who do not have title, (ii) identification of land alienated illegally, and (iii) restoration of alienated land so identified. The power granted by PESA to the Gram Sabhas to prevent alienation of land should be extended suitably to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, beyond the Scheduled areas, as recommended by various Commissions and as is prevalent in parts in some States.
Role of Economic Development in Containing Extremism
The contribution of socio-economic development in containing and eliminating extremism cannot be overstated. Socio-economic development creates conditions that inhibit the support for extremism among the sections of the society. It can lead to decline in the number of recruits in extremist organisation. Disaffected communities, which believe in responding through violent means, have been favourite hunting ground for the extremist organisations. Members of the extremist organisation are offered financial incentives in lieu for the extremist activities undertaken by the members. Social and economic development policies can bring about decline in the number of potential recruits by reducing their grievances. The ability of development policies to contain extremism is contingent upon their effective implementation. The features of successful social and economic development policies could be: Formulated in consultation with community leaders; are based on needs and assessments; are supported by disbursement mechanisms that ensure prudent fiscal management. In addition to prudent socio-economic development policies, following building blocks would help in curbing extremism.
- Promoting a rule of law and human rights-based approach
- Enhancing participatory decision-making and increasing civic space at local levels
- Supporting credible internal intermediaries to promote dialogue with alienated groups and reintegration of former extremists
- Promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment
- Engaging youth in building social cohesion In India, the states of Tripura and Mizoram have successfully demonstrated that spread of extremism can be contained if multi-pronged, robust and holistic development is undertaken by the government.
Safeguards for SCs and STs
The founding fathers of our constitution desired to secure justice, social, economic and political for all citizens. They considered it necessary to provide specific safeguards in the Constitution for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who, due to tradition and a combination of circumstances, were the most deprived, weak and vulnerable amongst the various sections of the society. Apart from constitutional safeguards various legislations have been passed to provide necessary safeguards. Major safeguards could be enumerated in the table below:
- Article 17: Abolition of untouchability
- Article 23: Prohibits traffic in human beings and ‘begar
- Article 24: No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory/mine/other hazardous employment
- Article 25(2)(b): Hindu religious institutions shall be opened to all classes and sections of Hindus
- Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015: To tackle the problem of untouchability
- Article 46: Special care for the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people e.g. SCs and STs
- Article 23: Explained earlier
- Article 24: Explained earlier
- Article 244: Fifth schedule applicable to areas other than states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
- Fifth Schedule: Governor has been given the responsibility of screening the legislations which are unsuitable for extension to the Scheduled Areas
- Sixth Schedule: Provisions for the formation of autonomous districts and autonomous regions within the districts in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
- Article 275 (1): Development schemes to be funded by Consolidated fund of India for STs, if state in unable to bear
- Forest Conservation Act 1980: To arrest the fast depleting condition of the forests in the country
- PESA Act 1996: To give authority to the tribal people to govern themselves as well as their resources
- Forest Rights Act 2006: To recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers
- Restrictions on Money Lending in tribal areas: Various states have enacted such laws
Cultural and Educational Safeguards
- Article 15(4): To make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens and for SCs and STs.
- Article 29(1): Right to conserve distinct language, script or culture of its own
- Article 350 A: State to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups.
- Article 164(1): Minister of tribal welfare in states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, MP and Odisha
- Article 330: Reservation of SCs and STs in Lok Sabha
- Article 332: Reservation of SCs and STs in State Vidhan Sabhas
- Article 371 A to Article 371 H: Special provisions for Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Sikkim, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh respectively.
- Article 16(4): Reservation for backward class of citizens in appointments
- Article 335: Claims of the members of the SCs and STs seen in consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration.
- Article 320(4): Consultation with UPSC, not required for Art. 16(4)
The process of development has been set back by decades in many parts of the country under LWE influence. This needs to be recognised by the civil society and the media to build pressure on the Maoists to eschew violence, join the mainstream and recognise the fact that the socio-economic and political dynamics and aspirations of 21st Century India are far removed from the Maoist world-view. Further, an ideology based on violence and annihilation is doomed to fail in a democracy which offers legitimate forums of grievance redressal.