NEW DELHI: The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) is all set to recommend to the Centre to come up with a special provision for the development of Scheduled Tribes (STs) through an Act.
No law has been enacted to regulate the timely implementation of welfare programmes for STs or for protecting them from external pressure to compromise with their lands and livelihood, according to the Commission.
Despite a tribal sub-plan (TSP), meant for their socio-economic development, funds seldom reach these tribal communities, the NCST said. It has discussed the need for Scheduled Tribes Development Funds and Safeguards Act in order to ensure holistic development of the STs.
“The unutilised or lapsed funds under the TSP should be designated as non-lapsable funds under this Act and the enactment will guarantee its implementation,” SK Ratho, joint secretary of the NCST, said.
“Traditionally, forests have been the home for STs. Currently, there are laws for the protection of forests. It is also important to come up with a comprehensive law for the protection of STs. This Act would roughly be a combination of the Compensatory Afforestation Act and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,” he added.
Under this proposed legislation, the Commission has proposed the creation of non-lapsable ST development fund. The NCST has also recommended non-diversion of funds meant for STs to generic or area-based schemes, except in specific cases where the ones entitled to these funds give the go-ahead.
“Under the current tribal sub-plan, the STs often don’t benefit from the utilisation of funds. An area-based approach to investing funds is for the general population, of which STs — who are deemed vulnerable — are a part. In order to put the development of STs on a par with other communities, there needs to be a targeted utilisation of funds specifically for their progress,” Ratho said.
The other recommendations include passing 5% of TSP funds to gram sabhas in scheduled areas to provide them the margin money for undertaking commercial activities in forests, welfare initiatives and resolving disputes involving STs in a time-bound manner. It would also recommend provisions for fines and punishments for dereliction of duty with regard to diversion, non-utilisation or lapse of funds meant for STs.
Under the proposed legislation
The Commission has proposed the creation of non-lapsable ST development fund. The NCST has also recommended non-diversion of funds meant for STs to generic or area-based schemes, except in specific cases where the ones entitled to these funds give the go-ahead