Report of the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission: Volume II, 2002-2004
On July 18, 2002, President K.R. Narayanan appointed the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission, with Dileep Singh Bhuria as the chairman. (Bhuria, who was from an Adivasi community, was a Lok Sabha member; he was initially with the Congress and later, with the Bharatiya Janata Party).
The Commission, also known as the Bhuria Commission, was tasked with investigating and reporting on the problems of the Scheduled Tribes (STs) in India, formulating a comprehensive tribal policy and outlining a vision for the future of STs. It submitted its report (in three volumes) in 2004. The first such Commission, the Dhebar Commission, had submitted its report in 1961.
Volume II of the Bhuria Commission Report contains detailed reports on 26 states and four union territories. These reports are based on the Commission’s field visits, interactions with tribal development authorities, the views of Adivasis and social, political and tribal organisations. The Commission’s field visits to each state or union territory assessed various facets of tribal development, including literacy, land, economy, infrastructure, the Tribal Sub-Plan (launched in 1974-78), and the implementation of constitutional safeguards for STs.
As per the Census, the literacy growth rate for the general population in Andhra Pradesh (AP) between 1951 and 1981 was almost four times the literacy growth rate for STs. The 1971, 1981 and 1991 censuses also show that the literacy rate for STs in AP was the lowest compared to other states.
The National Human Development Report 2001 by the Planning Commission (now NITI Aayog) says that Arunachal Pradesh had the ‘lowest human development index’ in the northeastern states – 0.242 in 1981 and 0.382 in 1991. The report attributes the state’s economic backwardness to inhospitable topography, climatic conditions, inadequate infrastructure facilities and isolation from the rest of nation.
According to a report by the Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development, the area under shifting cultivation in the northeastern states is 19.91 lakh hectares, which is 83.7 per cent of the total land under shifting cultivation in the country. This report also says that tribals in the North East prefer settled cultivation over shifting cultivation because they do not individually own agricultural land.
The Commission recommends the implementation of centrally-funded projects (such as the Integrated Jhumia Development Projects or the Mini Jhum Control Projects) in the northeastern states. These projects could help STs transition to more sustainable occupations in agriculture and allied sectors (livestock farming, handicrafts and handlooms, for instance), and they could help provide reliable sources of income.
62.25 per cent of Dadra and Nagar Haveli’s (DNH’s) population consists of STs (Census 2001), but rapid industrialisation in the union territory has led to an influx of migrants from Gujarat and Maharashtra. To safeguard the social and economic interests of STs, the Commission recommends that 80 per cent of the recruitment in industries should of STs from DNH.
The government of Gujarat’s New Economic Policy in 1991 provided incentives for industrial development, commercial agriculture and major irrigation projects in tribal areas. As a result, tribals have been losing ownership rights over their lands, which are being taken over by moneylenders and credit cooperative societies (to recover debt), the government for development projects, or rich tribals.
The Sardar Sarovar Project, a major irrigation project in Gujarat, affected a total of 10,434 families in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Of these, 8,965 were tribal families.
Under the Land Acquisition Act, 1984, the government of Rajasthan acquired land for development projects (dams, roads and canals), and public and private mining industries. The Mahi Bajaj Sagar Dam project displaced 6,979 families in the state, out of which 5,321 or 76.25 per cent were tribal families.
According to the 1991 Census, the combined population of STs in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka was 28 lakhs, and a vast majority of them lived in and around the Western Ghats. The Commission recommended that a sub-committee of the South Zone Council, Ministry of Home Affairs, be set up to look into tribal discontent and unrest as well as the socio-economic development of STs in this region.
The backward and remote areas of Maharashtra, adjoining Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, have a tribal population affected by Naxalite activities. The South Chandrapur Circle (spread over Chandrapur and Gadchiroli districts) is a vast tribal belt, which lacks proper transportation, communication, health centres, schools, electricity, roads and industrial activity, which has led to manifold problems.
Urban development authorities such as the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority have charted out development plans that are top-down in their approach. Under these plans, tribal lands (in Mumbai and parts of Raigad district that are under the city’s jurisdiction) have “lost their identity” and had to serve elite urban and industrial interests.
Tripura’s tribal population has come down to 30.45 per cent of the state’s total population in 2001 from 53.39 per cent in 1901. This is due to an influx of people into the state from Bangladesh.
Focus and Factoids by Sruti Penumetsa.
Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission
Government of India, New Delhi
16 Jul, 2004