Urgent need to stop exploitation of tribals in India

Government should create more and more infrastructure facilities like roads, bus depots, and other basic requisite markets in remote areas all of which would contribute effectively to improve the lot of the masses including tribal people.

There is an urgent need to prevent exploitation of tribal people throughout the country. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has rightly requested all the Chief Ministers present during a recent conference on ‘Implementation of the Forests Rights Act, 2006’ held in New Delhi, to ensure that problems faced by all the tribal people throughout the country are mitigated to a great extent. Chief highlights of the conference are as follows, along with a few of experts' opinion as to how best to tackle this issue:

Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh asserted, "The systematic exploitation and social and economic abuse of our tribal communities can no longer be tolerated. But the fact is that no sustained activity is possible under the shadow of gun.” “We have to win the battle for their hearts and their mouths,” he added.

The Prime Minister said the problems faced by the tribal communities were complex and required sympathetic and systematic understanding. The National Tribal Policy should factor in the different nuances of tribal life as they exist in several parts of our great country. For this, he suggested that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs engage in wide public consultation and debate.

Dr Singh stressed the need to reflect on how to improve the laws and mechanism through which compensation is provided to displaced tribal people, Dr Singh said these people must benefit from the projects for which they have been displaced. He further added, “But resettlement and rehabilitation raise serious issues not just of monetary compensation.

We have to address issues relating to creating sustainable livelihoods, preserving traditional sense of community and helping the tribals cope with the trauma of dislocation and alienation. ”Calling upon the chief ministers, most of whom didn’t turn up — to spare no effort to ensure effective implementation of The Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006, the Prime Minister said: “We can’t have equitable growth without guaranteeing the legitimate rights of these eventually marginalised and isolated sections of society. The distribution of titles (under the act) is but an important and necessary first step.” The act attempts to deal holistically with the issue not only in terms of recognition of rights but of livelihood opportunities and environmental protection and conservation.

Emphasising the importance of posting committed and competent officers in tribal areas, PM asked the states to consider offering string incentives like hardship allowances, special housing and educational facilities or grants for officers who stay in tribal areas. He also suggested reviewing and withdrawing cases registered against the tribals under the forest laws, which had often become a source of harassment and exploitation.

A few more opinions of experts' given below for debate / consideration:

Some experts opine that the common problems faced by the tribal groups are (a) they have no security whatsoever for living in a house, earning a regular income and accessing medical needs; though there are numerous schemes introduced by the government for their upliftment, no teacher is willing to go to a remote place to work in a school; no doctor is willing to go to a remote place to work in a hospital and no banks would like to invest in a remote place to cater to the financial needs. Though there are many laudable schemes introduced by the government, their proper implementation is absent in many places and also many of these schemes are just on paper with no awareness whatsoever amongst the target groups.

Government should create more and more infrastructure facilities like roads, bus depots, and other basic requisite markets in remote areas all of which would contribute effectively to improve the lot of the masses including tribal people. To a question as to who are the direct source of people connected with exploitation of tribal people, answers given were mostly the business class community especially those who had migrated from different states in search of better business opportunities are the ones who do not hesitate to exploit the tribal people to the hilt for self interests promotion.

Most of these business people do not have a good formal education and therefore resort to all sorts of tricks of the trade to further their business in the shortest possible time and here is where the loophole exists prompting the triabl people to easily fall prey to the whims and fancies of these business class people thereby causing distortions to the smooth progress of the society.

Experts opine government should ensure every paisa committed to the welfare of
the tribal people reach them though suggesting is easy because vested interest groups always try to thwart the benefits reaching these tribal people. It is also opined that big corporate giants have sincerely done something to uplift the tribal group populace, though selectively. Therefore, more and more big corporate giants should be encouraged to reach out to the different areas of the country, with novel schemes, for bettering the lot of the tribal people. Government should also offer tie ups with big groups for systematic improvement amongst the tribal community.

Furthermore, it also found that out of numerous NGOs operating in the country for the betterment of the tribal groups, many of them act like ‘fly by night operators’, only a handful of these NGOs are sincerely attempting to find out their genuine problems and trying to solve them. Therefore, government must tie up with big corporate groups and credit worthy NGOs for solving the numerous issues faced by tribal groups.

One opinion is to popularise the concept of condoms amongst the tribal populace so that growth in population is checked for better serving them. Experts need to device ways and means to make this a success. Any group or person succeeding in this solo effort richly deserves Bharat Ratna and much more.

Hoping the state governments do take the above issue seriously to come out with good doable and workable solutions for the betterment of the tribal populace.