We the indigenous People of Odisha have gathered in Bhubaneswar for the celebration of the Indigenous Peoples Day 2013. This is the first time that we, the indigenous people are celebrating the indigenous people’s day in Odisha. We would like to express our gratitude to the Department of SC& ST , Government of Odisha for extending their support to such celebration. We also request the Government of Odisha to celebrate this momentous day at the State level state and in each district every year.
First of all, we feel profoundly proud and immensely grateful to the founding fathers of the Constitution of India for their great concern for the cause of Schedule Tribes including the ‘Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups’ as is evident from a good number of beneficent provisions including the two elaborate Schedules (5th and 6th ) dedicated to our well-being and development, which are now inseparable part of the Constitution.
We are quite grateful to the Parliament of India for having enacted two historic legislations such as Provisions for Panchayts (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 popularly called PESA and Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 popularly called FRA which provide inter alia for self –governance and for ownership and management by the community over natural resources along with control over dispute resolution processes and schemes and functionaries in social sector.
Moreover we feel greatly honored by the wise and salutary act of Government of India for having signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples 2007.
However, we feel highly discomfited in spirit to state before you a painful fact that we at ground level are still deprived of the enabling conditions to access and exercise the very many rights guaranteed under the above mentioned instrumentalities in favour of the indigenous peoples or for that matter the Scheduled Tribes as they are so called in India’s constitutional parlance.
Under the circumstances, we would like on this outstanding occasion of international and national significance to highlight only the most significant of our multiple concerns for your kind perusal and judicious intervention
- As per Para 2 of 5th Schedule to the Constitution, the State Government or for that matter the Governor, as the head of the State directly holds the executive power over the Schedule Areas situated in the concerned State. So a Special Cell dealing with the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes be put in place in the office of the Governor as a single window mechanism for dealing with the concerned issues.
- As per Para 3 of the 5th Schedule to the Constitution the Governor is required to dispatch an Annual Report and also a report to the President of India as and when required by the latter concerning the administration of the Schedule Areas. But it’s a matter of great regret that neither the STs nor the public at large are in the know of such reports if any being sent to the President of India ever since the proclamation of the Constitution. It’s therefore earnestly urged that the Governor should himself ensure timely preparation and dispatch of such constitutionally mandatory reports dealing with all aspects of administration in Scheduled Areas and also for their wide scale circulation in official language of the State among the STs in particular and public in general.
- The existing state laws related to land reforms like Land Reforms Act 1960, Orissa Government Land Settlement Act 1962, Orissa Survey and Settlement Act 1958, Orissa Prevention of Land Encroachment Act 1972 and even Orissa Sscheduled Areas (Transfer of Immovable Property) Regulation 1956 along with the Schemes like Mo Jami Mo Diha and Vasundhara are in bad need of a drastic and comprehensive amendment in conformity to the Item-2 in 11th Schedule to the Constitution and PESA Act 1996.
- All matters relating to land acquisition and R and R must be administered with the informed consent of the people at Gram Sabha and Panchayat levels in tune with the letter and spirit of PESA Act 1996, Samatha Judgement by Supreme Court 1997, FRA 2006, and recent Supreme Court Judgement on Niyamagiri 2013.
- For proper implementation of FRA2006 the SDLC, to start with, should have discharged its statutory duty to provide the maps of forest land, voter lists and awareness materials to each Gram Sabha / Forest Rights Committees as per the Rule (6) of Forest Rights Rules 2007, for which allthe ITDAs / DRDAs have also been sanctioned with huge amounts of money from Consolidated Fund of India under the Article 275(1) of Constitution commencing from the year 2008-09, but no SDLC anywhere in the state has even attempted to fulfill this constitutional obligation during all these years. A high level enquiry should be held as to the misutilization of the above funds, all the concerned officials be punished as per Section 7 of FRA 2006 and all the SDLCs should be instructed forthwith to comply with their statutory obligation, neglected so far, for providing the above essentials to each Gram Sabha and Forest Rights Committee across the State.
- Countless numbers of Pattas (RoRs) in Forms-2 and 3 under FR Rules 2007 issued in favor of ST households in the Scheduled districts of Odisha have been found utterly defective and useless as these documents contain such unwarranted conditionalities as ‘you cann’t fell any tree on the allotted land’ and ‘this forest right is subject to the final verdict of the Odisha High Court’ which are ultra virus the Section 4 (7) of FRA 2006 that says that the concerned forest land to be allotted should be ‘free from all encumbrances and procedural requirements’. It is therefore urgently required that the above mentioned Pattas issued illegally by the DLCs be replaced by the legally valid Pattas as per the prescribed Forms 2, 3 and 4 under FRA Rules 2007 amended 2012.
- Numerous Pattas under FR Rules 2007 have been issued across the state without the sketch map of the forest land attached thereto, which is ultra virus the Forms 2 & 3 prescribed under FR Rules 2007 in respect of the individual and community titles.
- The existing Odisha Gram Panchayat (Minor Forest Produce Administration ) Rules 2002 is ultra virus the FRA 2006 since the former gives the ultimate power of price fixation to the District Collector and power of penalising to the DFO whereas the Gram Sabha is the ultimate authority of the right over minor forest produce as per Section 6 of Forest Rights Act 2006. This calls for a drastic amendment of existing Orissa MFP Rules in tune with the FRA 2006, which also covers all items including Kendu Leaf, Bamboo and Sal Seeds under the definition of MFP.
- In view of the firm provision made in FRA 2006 that the Gram Sabha and Forest Right Committee are to act as the competent authorities in the matter of all the forest rights, the so called Joint forest Management Resolution 2011 announced arbitrarily by the Forest and Environment Department that entrusts substantial powers of control to the Forest officials over the holders of forest rights is against the letter and spirit of FRA 2006, and therefore deserves to be abolished forthwith. The Government of Odisha ought to stop its skewed and prejudicial implementation of FRA which is evident from the utter neglect by the SDLC, DLC and SLMC towards the community rights over forest land and forest resources and also recognition of forest rights of the Other Traditional Forest Dwellers.
- In view of the transfer of power in respect of issue of certificate in respect of caste, marriage, birth and death from the Gram Panchayat to different governmental authorities, the common people are getting harassed a lot. Going by the Section 4 (d) of PESA Act 1996, the Gram Sabha in Schdueled Areas in Odisha should be authorized to issue certificates of caste , marriage , birth and death and residence of its inhabitants.
- A drastic revision of the extent and boundaries of the Schedules Areas in Odisha is required as per Paras 6 and 7 of 5th Schedule to the Constitution so as to incorporate the areas of preponderant ST population that remain left out as of now.
- All the developmental activities under the Tribal Sub- Plan should be planned and administered by the Panchayat bodies in the Scheduled areas as per the Section 4(m-vii) of PESA Act 1996.
- Provision of entitlement and services in regard to indigenous people should be in conformity with the culture and practice of the indeginous communities as envisaged in the section 4 (d)of PESA act 1996 and 5th Schedule of the constitution.
- The Government should take the move for updating the lists of the Schedule Tribes as required under the Article 342 of the Constitution. Besides the State Tribes Advisory Council and Governor should recommend to the President of India for covering certain tribes as Jhodia and Kanda Dora in the lists of the STs as per the above Article of the constitution .
- In view of the fact that the Right To Education Act 2009 recognizes the right of every child to elementary education in his / her mother tongue which is so far denied to the children in the Scheduled Areas, the Government of Odisha should immediately ensure its implementation.
- None of the three principal Panachayt laws ( Gram Panchayat Act, Panchayat Samiti Act and Zilla Parishad Act ) in Odisaha are compliant to the 73rd rd Constitution Amendment Act 1992 ( now Part IX of the Constitution) or to the PESA Act 1996, because such Panchayat laws have bestowed substantial powers of control and domination over the Gram Sabha and Panchayats in all areas scheduled or not across the State t. It is the crying need of the hour that Odisha should replace these three laws by a single consolidated Panachayat law like other states and in conformity to the letter and spirit of the Part IX of the Constitution and PESA Act 1996.
- An exhaustive inventory of the tribal languages and dialects need to be built up and the entire gamut of oral traditions of every tribe be given a written form in the scripts of different Indian languages.
- Rampant alcoholism being a great menace to the whole society shouldn’t be allowed to spread through Odisha State Beverages Corporation. The issue of prohibition should be brought under the effective control of Gram Sabha in the Scheduled Areas as per the Section 4(m-i) of PESA Act 1996.
Last but not the least, the existing Zilla Parishads in Odisha should be endowed with extensive administrative and legislative powers like the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in 6th Scheduled Areas as required under Section 4(o) of PESA Act 1996. Then, the said District Councils should be empowered to set up Panchayat courts at different levels, as is the case in the 6th Schedule Areas.
Once again we thank you very much for your kind patient hearing.
Nicholas Barla and Theophil Gamango
On behalf of Indigenous People’s Forum, Odisha