MYSURU: A much-publicised visit by Social Welfare Minister H Anjaneya to a village of Soliga tribes may have done little to improve their lot.
Anjaneya stayed the night with the tribals of Gombegallu Haadi (hamlet) on New Year’s eve, and gave away several goodies to the villagers. But several people, including local tribal leaders, felt that the minister failed to resolve their key problems. The Soliga tribal settlement sits deep inside Biligiri Ranganathaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary in Chamarajanagar district.
The minister went into the tiger reserve with more than 80 vehicles, including that of politicians, media persons and party workers in violation of wildlife law, upsetting forest officials. Though he interacted with the residents and distributed goods like stoves, torches and blankets, nothing concrete came out of the visit. Tribal leaders felt that he failed to focus on core issues affecting them, such as unemployment, migration, education, health and implementation of the Forest Rights Act of 2006 in Karnataka.
Tribal leader Boomaiah said the minister should have taken on-the-spot decisions on giving community rights to tribals, and improving Ashram schools and health facilities. The government should provide employment as more than 60 per cent of the 32,000 tribal population in the district are barred from collecting minor forest produce in tiger reserves, he said.
The minister’s assurances on these issues did not seem to impress them as many of the programmes announced by former chief minister S M Krishna after a mini cabinet meeting are yet to take off.
They said the government had banned the sale of liquor within a 1-km radius of Haadis, but has failed to prevent the sale or flow of spurious liquor. It had also promised to provide land and other basic facilities for Ashram schools, but nothing has happened. The Ashram schools still function without qualified teachers, and their dropout rate remains high.
However, the tribals appreciated the construction of about 1,000 houses in Mysuru and Chamarajanagar districts, and welcomed the decision to sanction fair price depots and mobile ration depots to haadis.After the Forest Rights Act of 2006 framed during the UPA I regime and the subsequent guidelines drafted in 2008, deputy commissioners have not granted community rights to tribals. The officials have kept thousands of appeals filed by the tribals in cold storage for the past four years.
Nevertheless, the minister assured them that the government would provide roads, power and other facilities in hadis even though no such development work, including anganwadi centres, can be taken up inside reserve forests.
Srikanth, convenor of Development through Education (DEED), said Anjaneya and the government are silent on setting up Tribal Development and Education Development boards. He said they had demanded `1,300 crore in the budget for tribal development.
“It is high time that they (government) spell out how many of the demands put forward by the tribal parishats have been met,” he said.
Mallesh of Vivekananda Girijana Seva Kendra said the minister should have come with a handful of officials and interacted with tribals and visited various Haadis to get first hand information about the problems they face.