NEWDELHI: The UPA Government, in a move rife with political ramifications, is planning to bestow “special powers” on state Governors under the terms of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, for directly administering the tribal-dominated areas, even by-passing the state Governments.
The proposal envisages a direct monitoring of the Tribal and Scheduled Areas by Governors, who will also send relevant reports to the Centre. Also, the Raj Bhavans will have the powers to directly appoint the Tribal Advisory Council.
Most importantly, the Governor will also be able to regulate the application of the laws of the State and Acts of Parliament to the Scheduled Areas and can even make regulations for the “good governance” of any or all Scheduled Areas in a State.
He will also be able to prohibit or restrict the transfer of land by or among members of the Scheduled Tribe.
Union Tribal Affairs minister V Kishore Chandra Deo had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in this regard and has got the necessary sanction from them.
Now, Deo is writing to Governors intimating them about the move.
“Yes, we are thinking on those lines. Governors can have special powers in Scheduled Areas to play a much more active role in governance in those areas. This is as per the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, Governors,” said an official with the Panchayati Raj ministry.
It is learnt that the ministry is planning to start this with Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. “There have been reports of gross violation of tribal rights from these regions. The minister is already in touch with Andhra Pradesh Governor,” said the official.
The official added that the ministry was actively pursuing the matter relating to the constitution of a special cell in the Governor’s Office to handle the Constitutional responsibilities of the gubernatorial office relating to the rights of Scheduled Tribes in the Scheduled Areas.
According to him, this move will ultimately give greater rights to the gram sabhas. In case of any violations -- whether it be the Forest Rights Act or displacement due to mining activities -- they can directly get in touch with Governors and get redressal.
“We are not going to do anything extra ordinary. We are just trying to implement PESA in letter and spirit,” said an official, when asked about the political ramifications of the move.
PESA, conceived with an intention to hand over greater powers to tribal communities over the forest land and resources, is applicable in the tribal belts of 9 States including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. And there are total of 94 PESA districts in the country. The gram sabhas under PESA are meant to safe-guard and preserve the traditions of their people, community resources and customary mode of dispute resolution.
Accordingly, gram sabhas are to approve plans, select beneficiaries and give utilisation certificates to the gram panchayat. The gram panchayats further have the right to mandatory consultation in matters of land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and right to recommend prospecting licenses/mining leases for minor minerals, ownership of minor forest produce.