With Murmu occupying the top Constitutional office, all efforts should be made for socio-economic empowerment of tribals
In her maiden address to the nation, President Droupadi Murmu said that it is the power of Indian democracy that a daughter born in a remote tribal area could reach the highest Constitutional post of the country. Yes, it is true that Droupadi Murmu is the first member of a tribal community to hold the nation’s highest office. Her Excellency richly deserves congratulations from every Indian in general and every Tribal in particular, with an affectionate hope that she will do her best to elevate many more tribals on par with Her, so that they would reach not only such highest positions but also excel at the grassroot, district, state and central level, in all elected bodies.
Unfortunately, it took 75 long years, thanks to Congress and BJP-led governments at the center, to think of a tribal to make the first citizen of India. Nobody knows how many more years it would take to elect a tribal leader as Prime Minister, said to be the real executive according to the Indian Constitution! Nobody also knows when tribals in large numbers will be able to get elected to legislatures and parliament from a general constituency.
The untold stories and tribal issues in India are umpteen right from their day-to-day livelihood to their habitation, their land, health and medicine, facility for drinking water, education and so on. These were not properly addressed by the successive union governments. Few states like the newest and 29th state Telangana came out with several, role model schemes but at the national level much more has to be done. Prominent among them is the land issue which requires a concerted effort and now that a tribal has occupied the highest post, one can hope and be confident, that she will use all her good office to exert influence on her government at the center for a better deal to her community which suffered a lot in the blame game of Congress and BJP that were in power most of the time.
The Telangana government gives top priority for the welfare of tribals by implementing a number of schemes conceived by Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao for them, from time to time. They include among others; micro irrigation, residential schools and colleges, study circles, overseas scholarships, Kalyan Lakshmi, subsidies under economic support, Aasara pensions, ST special development fund through ST Sub Plan, making Thandas as Gram Panchayats, etc. Perhaps these could be studied by the Rashtrapathi Bhavan in the near future and forwarded to the union government to be replicated all over the country.
This apart, ensuring accelerated development of Scheduled Tribes with emphasis on achieving equality, focusing on economic, educational and human development along with ensuring the security and social dignity and promoting equity among the Scheduled Tribes has been successfully attempted by Telangana government. This is made possible by earmarking a portion, in proportion to population of Scheduled Tribes in the State, of the total PragathiPaddu (Development Fund) outlay of the State of Telangana as the outlay of the Scheduled Tribes Special Development Fund of the State.
Of all the issues the tribal in India continue to face is the land in the tribal area and its alienation to non-tribal in multiple ways either for exploitation for mining or otherwise. Several governments have come and gone, important judgments by apex courts were pronounced in this regard but the basic problem persists.
One of the assets of the tribal is the availability of minerals in their areas. Very large number of mineral deposits exist in the tribal tracts in India, of which much is known but remain under exploited or unexploited and thereby left unutilized. If these areas are properly investigated and exploited, there will be tremendous development of mining and mineral-based industries, resulting in industrial employment for the tribal. However, most of the tribal habitats are in forest areas and hence there may be some disturbance to terrestrial configuration. But there can be no mineral development without this disturbance.
And hence, vast mineral potential in tribal areas can be commercially exploited, perhaps involving tribal communities, and a number of downstream mineral industries can also be developed for value addition and exports. When this is achieved it would not be difficult to create any permanent arrangement to create a "Royalty Developmental Dividend Fund" for tribal development and much needed tribal empowerment
Tribal can also be uplifted by suitably granting a certain percentage of shares in mining business. The tribal can be made to form small cooperative societies so that they can be involved in several fields such as small business concerns and cooperative stores and for trading.
(The author is Chief Public Relations Officer to Chief Minister, Telangana.)