Land to Tribal: Government’s New Device to Deceive or is Real?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

“I am talking about millions of men whom they have knowingly instilled with fear and a complex of inferiority, whom they have infused with despair and trained to tremble, to kneel and behave like flunkeys”. ( A.Cesaire in ‘Discourse on Colonialism’ ).

When majority of our people is in such a pusillanimous state, tribals are distinctly different. Soft like children in heart, they are like lions in attitude. They constitute the majority amongst all segments of inhabitants in Orissa. They never hesitate to hit back on reaching the limit of endurance. Not only as Bhagavati Panigrahi had told of Ghinua in his famous story ‘Shikar’, but also as witnessed in present days, a tribal fearlessly reports to police with chopped off head of a person whose tortures he was no more able to endure. This disposition, the government knows, is conducive to spread of ultra left influence, as it also knows that Naxal activism has grown more discernibly in the tribal dominated areas of Orissa, which are worst hit by the anti-people alliance of political administration with private and foreign industries. As most correctly interpreted and established by Felix Padel (author of ‘The sacrifice of human being: British rule and the Konds of Orissa’) and Samarendra Das, this alliance has pushed the tribals of Orissa into a state of living death.

“…..seeing the sudden confiscation of the land where their ancestors lived and the collapse of their communities, no longer able to grow their own food and forced to eke a living through degrading, exhausting coolie work for the very projects which destroyed their homes, Orissa’s displaced Adivasis exist in a living death, witnessing the extermination of all they have valued” ( Anthropology of Genocide: Tribal Movements in Central India against Over-Industrialization, 2006).

Naturally, therefore, retaliation is what is logically expected of them. Howsoever the governments brand it as Maoism, the fact in reality is that tribal endurance reaching its limit, the sleeping lions in tribal hearts has started roaring. The Maoists, as per their agenda, are adding ideological strength to this roar.

Therefore the governments, both in the Center and the State, headed respectively by Manmohan Singh and Naveen Patnaik, whose priority on private industry and imperialism is more defined and discernible than on the people, are in nervousness and impatience. They have been using all possible tricks to suppress and silent the rising tribals.

When they have been using state-terror of the most heinous and monstrous type as witnessed in killing of tribals in Kalinganagar or Maikanch and seen in arrests of hundreds of them under false charges, because the industries want the treasure of ores that Mother Nature has stashed below the lands the tribals dwell, they are also assuring them with allocation of land in exchange of the land the rich men need. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is an instant of this mischief.

Originally moved as the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005 in the Parliament on 13 December 2005, it had to suffer the attacks from Indian Parliamentarians that, eager to oblige the industries for reasons best known to them, were in mentality against the tribes. Eventually, it metamorphosed to “The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006” and with President’s assent on 29 December 2006, came into force. But has it given the tribals the benefits it had pronounced? Has any tribal displaced by industries and their agents in power been allotted with the alternative land of his choice? How far it is implemented?

Council of Social Development (CSD), New Delhi, had taken a stock of its implementation in 2010. A synopsis of its findings makes it clear that “all of the key features of this legislation have been undermined by a combination of apathy and sabotage during the process of implementation. ……. The testimonies made it clear that this is not merely a result of bureaucratic failure; both the Central and the State governments have actively pursued policies that are in direct violation of the spirit and letter of the Act”.

So, the spirit of the Act was being killed by the administration in nexus with the mafia when the central government had been asserting to use helicopters to shoot at the tribals opposed to displacement, in the name and design of getting rid of Maoists, as to it, the rebels in the forests were Maoists.

Manmohan Singh’s meretricious tears for the tribals threadbare exposed by the social and official audit organizations such as CSD and CAG, and by the very fact that the Act of 2006 is more violated than implemented, special funds are being addressed to development of areas where tribal disposition is adding strength to ultra left bodies, so that people in the grassroots may stay away from rebellious agendas. To further the conspiracy against the people, Dr. Singh is actively for developmental investments from corporate companies so that they shall emerge as de facto government exactly as the East India Company had emerged as the government of India.

And, his Orissa supplementer Naveen Patnaik, who, as Chief Minister, did not bother to utter even a single word of sympathy to the family members of the tribals that were brutally exterminated by his police at Kalinganagar simply because of their opposition to hijacking of their habitat by Tata, has been working upon a scheme to allocate around an acre of lands to every tribal family living in 17,974 hamlets under 118 tribal dominated Blocks shrouded by ultra left influence. On Wednesday, minds were steered into this scheme in the highest level of administration.

The contemplated scheme is aimed at assuaging the piling up anger of tribal people of Orissa over their enforced displacement and continuous threat to their natural habitats and living environment as one after one eco-systems that they depend upon for their livelihood are being handed over to private industries, shattering their every dream to live peacefully in their soil.

But the scheme shall not work. It cannot give economic emancipation to the tribals. it cannot help their habitats substituted.

Firstly, the bureaucratic conduct witnessed in the Forest Rights Act will not be – and in a corrupt environment that has engulfed Orissa, can never be – congenial to implementation of this scheme in right earnest.

Secondly, the tribals, who from birth are habituated in their own traditional, yet, peculiar process of fetching their livelihood to their satisfaction from the forest land they belong to, will not be able to use the new land in their own method, if at all they are allotted with any.

Thirdly, the new allocations will give them dry lands away from the cooling trees and streams. One acre of such dry land will never be cultivable economically and hence will be of no use to the tribals except fetching a supposedly small sum of money by mortgaging the same to land grabbers, from whom the same would never be retrieved. The planners know it and the people too.

So the scheme to provide the tribals with around an acre of land per family to justify the official acquisition of tribal lands for industry, will push them further into penury with no scope of rescue.

This is going to happen to the majority portion of our countrymen, because the governments run by collaborators of industry and imperialism are determined to handover our hills to be mined by corporate companies, who, if the central government’s scheme to make them major players in area development works, will eventually turn people dependent on them, consequent upon which, the company that would be addressed to for development of the area, will emerge as the de facto government just as the East India Company had become the government.

If constitutional authorities like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik are not for such an undesirable scenario, it is incumbent upon them – as they run the governments – to desist from giving the corporate companies priority over the people and to frame and enforce laws for community cultivation of lands as only thereby fragmentations thereof under laws of inheritance can be stopped and scientific cultivation can commence. Instead of creating image of industries as providers of funds for development, they should frame and enforce laws for imposition of ceiling on accumulation of wealth in private hands and as Indira gandhi had done in respect to agricultural lands, should confiscate ceiling surplus wealth for use in mass development programs. Ceiling on personal wealth will also stop corruption.

To begin with, Orissa government must not proceed with allocation of a mere acre of land to each tribal family as is being contemplated. Instead, it should first earmark consolidated plots of land congenial to tribals and put that consolidate patch under their collective ownership in identified villages, to be managed by their commune democratically. As for example, if a village has 50 tribal families, a single patch of 50 acres of land, at the rate of one acre to each family as the government proposes, should be put under their collective ownership after they are educated and trained in collectively sharing the package of practices, the products and profit. This would stop future fragmentation of the one acre being proposed to be allotted and facilitate scientific management of the entire patch of land leading to higher productivity.

But for this, the government will have to be pro-people, not pro-industry. Otherwise, the new contemplated scheme would be viewed as a new device to deceive the tribals, not to serve them in reality.

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