Chhattisgarh to initiate development in tribal-dominated regions: CM

Raipur: Hit hard by the Maoist insurgency, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh plans to unleash massive development programmes to better the lot of tribals in the Bastar and Surguja regions.

Raman Singh, who leads a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government here since 2003, said his government had disposed of hundreds of thousands of cases of petty forest crimes involving tribals by paying fines on their behalf.

Stung by the shock defeat in an assembly by-election in the Vaishali Nagar constituency, Raman Singh outlined his plans for the tribals who comprise 32 percent of the 20 million plus population of the state, the majority in Surguja and Bastar regions.

"The tribals need care and development and I have plans to pump in massive money in the next four years in the state's Surguja and southern Bastar regions infested with Maoist militancy," Raman Singh told media in an interview.

Raman Singh claimed that the government had distributed vast areas of forest land to thousands of tribals in the past few months.

"In recent months, 140,000 tribals were given ownership rights of forest land on which they have been living for decades. Nearly 200,000 forest-related cases, several of them pending for two decades, were withdrawn," the 57-year-old politician said.

He said the cases were withdrawn after the government realised that the tribals were not in a position to pay even a few hundred rupees as fine to the authorities.

"I have formed powerful bodies like the Surguja Development Authority and the Bastar Development Authority. They are empowered to take decisions on how to build road infrastructure and improve health and education facilities, besides anything that can improve the quality of life of the tribals," said Raman Singh, an ayurvedic doctor by profession.

The chief minister admitted that in certain areas of the state human trafficking of tribals was flourishing, mainly by placement agencies who exploit the poor and uneducated tribals by promising a good career in metros and other cities.

Asked how a placement agency lured minor tribal girls into flesh trade by promising them jobs as domestic help in big cities, Raman Singh said: "District authorities have been asked to bust such rackets and act tough against the placement agencies." (IANS)