The Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) released its annual report this week highlighting its achievements but that may not cut ice with the community.
Highlighting its achievements in the year, the ministry said in a press release on December 29 that 70% of its budget has already been released. The Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP), of which 28 central ministries and departments have a component, will now be monitored by the MoTA as per a decision taken by the PMO in November, the ministry said. An online monitoring system is being developed for this.
The Ministry claimed that state governments had distributed about 16.78 lakh individual land titles and 48,192 community land titles until October 2016 under the Forest Rights Act. The Annual Report 2015-2016 also gives state-wise breakup of titles distributed until December 2015. “Odisha has the distinction of issuing highest number of titles which is 3,54,404 (3,49,400 individual titles and 5,004 community titles). Madhya Pradesh has the distinction of having highest forest area over which titles have been issued under this Act,” the report says.
However, Lingaraj Azad, a tribal rights activist from Odisha (the state has the third highest rural tribal population in the country) told YKA that there are multiple exceptions to such claims. “The forest and land rights that we are being given, while giving those rights, they don’t write the caste, they don’t write the title or what the population is. In some cases, it is there and in some cases, it is not. They don’t write whether the land is barren, mountainous, or arable. They don’t inform about all these. So how will we know whether our rights are being given?,” he told YKA.
Azad also told YKA that the focus is more on individual rights than community rights. He said that
Adivasis should be allowed to collect forest produce and given access to grazing land. “In mining areas, they don’t give rights at all. They give away the barren land near those mines. And wherever a mine is envisaged or where there is even a possibility of mining, if anybody is living there, they don’t get their rights,” Azad told YKA.
As on March 31, 2015, there was also a nationwide shortfall of health infrastructure in tribal areas, according to MoTA’s annual report. There was a shortfall of 6,796 sub health centres, of 1,267 primary health centres (PHC), and 309 community health centres (CHC).
Similarly, there was a shortfall of 2,407 female health workers; 3,526 nursing staff at PHCs and CHCs; and 706 doctors at PHCs in tribal areas until March 2015. The shortfall is calculated by estimating the number of workers and doctors required for the population.
Azad, however, said it is wrong to provide health infrastructure on the basis of population alone as people live in small communities in forests. “In Niyamgiri, according to me, there should be four primary health centres all over and there could be 10 to 12 sub-health centres. We have already done this estimate. But there is no one to see, listen, or act on this,” Azad told YKA.
“But today only road construction seems to be the model of development. So they are giving priority to building roads. And secondly, they don’t focus much on employment, health, and education. (The focus is limited) only to the extent of building roads and providing electricity. They don’t take even providing water seriously,” he added.