By Shishir Gamang: There is an interesting dialogue between me and Mr. RL Jamuda, Odisha’s Chief Food Commissioner going on in facebook on the issues related to Nagada Juang Malnutrition Deaths. Mr. Jamuda who is a tribal himself was sensitive and pro-poor IAS Officer and I have deep respect for him. However, we have many different views, particularly on Tribal Development.
We all know that Nagada, though not a village in the Scheduled Areas, has opened up many issues including Tribal Development Policies. Since last 30 years or so, the Government has diluted the policies and programmes that would impact the development of the tribals and the areas they inhabit. A time has come to analyse the policies and critically analyse them.
Lets us look at the concept and practice of the Tribal Sub-Plan defined by the Constitution which underscores that the budget on tribal development would be earmarked as per the percentage of the tribal population. This means that in Odisha, 23% of the Budget would be placed for tribal development. Has it been done?
Many studies have indicated that there has been gross misuse, diversion and misutilisation of funds. The Fly-overs and Jails have been constructed out of Tribal Sub-plan Funds. In the ITDAs, many infra-structures have been constructed in pen and paper. The Government should come forward with a ‘White Paper’ to indicate how Tribal Sub-plan Funds have been used or misused.
Now the next issue is of ‘Good Governance’. In Odisha, there was a tradition of deploying most committed officers in the ITDAs. For example, current Chief Secretary Mr. AP Padhy and Development Commissioner Mr. R Balakrishnan were once most capable and committed Project Administrators of ITDAs in undivided Koraput Dist.
The Hon’ble Governor as the Custodian of the Tribals is supposed to visit the tribal districts and give report to the President and Parliament on the Status of ‘peace and good governance’ . There are hardly any reports or if there is any it was prepared by the ST Development Department and signed on dotted lines!
Which Governor has tried sincerely to reach out to the Tribals(?) One ex-Governor was arguing with me saying the he had no role in the development of the Tribals even though I had shown him what is written in the Constitution.
The Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister is a toothless body. One non-official member in the pay roll of the Government and Corporate has known how to say yes when changing landmark legislations like OSATIP has been attempted. This member has not said a word about Nagada Deaths as she has been a beneficiary of the Corporate. Why the TAC Members are not demanding an emergency meeting?
The greatest tragedy for the Tribals (STs) in Odisha is the dilution of PESA which is landmark legislation for tribal self-governance. Our tribal MLAs, I was told, were absent in the Assembly the day Central Act ratified in Odisha. Basically, it was diluted to disempower Gram Sabhas and 3-tier structures of the Panchayati Raj System. Bureaucracy has full controlled on it. Once a Zilla Parishad Chairman was telling me that he had the less power than the peon of a Collector’s Office.
The Tribal Education is in shambles as one looks at the literacy particularly female literacy rates of the tribals. One asks why? The Government has no clear-cut policy about the schooling system, language and methodology, teacher deployment, mainstreaming etc. The provisions of RTE have been grossly violated.
The Agenda is promotion of Private Schools. Approach is to take the children away from their environment and put them in places like cattle sheds and parade them to market forces and motivate them not to go back to their communities.
The Government and Corporate love this approach as the young generation which is called ‘the lost generation’ will be lost and will not be able to resist the hidden agenda of Displacement, Diseases and Depopulation in Tribal Areas.
There are many burning issues like what is happening to the issues of Tribal land and Livelihood? What is the response of the Government towards Left Wing Extremism? Create permanent scar like Gumudumaha? What are the responses of the Tribal Communities to their own Identity and Culture?
They want to be DIKUs (as oppressed has the tendency to be an oppressor) or fight such forces knocking at their door? The tribals have to answer these questions by themselves unlike persons like me who is not a tribal and who does not suffer the exploitation, oppression, discrimination and many kinds of insecurities.
(Shishir Gamang is a Politician. Presently, he is the Secretary of Odisha state BJP unit)