Aap promises PESA Act for tribal areas in Gujarat
- A Political Party has declared a six-point “guarantee” for tribals in Gujarat’s Chhota Udepur district, including the “strict implementation” of The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA Act).
What is PESA Act?
- Enacted in 1996 to provide for the extension of the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the Panchayats to the Scheduled Areas.
- Other than Panchayats, Part IX, comprising Articles 243-243ZT of the Constitution, contains provisions relating to Municipalities and Cooperative Societies.
- Under the PESA Act, Scheduled Areas are those referred to in Article 244(1), which says that the provisions of the Fifth Schedule shall apply to the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in states other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
- The Fifth Schedule provides for a range of special provisions for these areas.
How is the PESA Act, 1996 supposed to work?
- The PESA Act was enacted to ensure self-governance through Gram Sabhas (village assemblies) for people living in the Scheduled Areas.
- It recognises the right of tribal communities to govern themselves through their own systems of self-government, and also acknowledges their traditional rights over natural resources.
- In pursuance of this objective, the Act empowers Gram Sabhas to play a key role in approving development plans and controlling all social sectors.
Special powers accorded by PESA Act includes the:
- Processes and personnel who implement policies
- Exercising control over minor (non-timber) forest resources
- Minor water bodies and minor minerals
- Managing local markets
- Preventing land alienation and
- Regulating intoxicants among other things
States and PESA Act
- State governments are expected to amend their respective Panchayati Raj Acts without making any law that would be inconsistent with the mandate of PESA.
- Ten states — Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Telangana — have notified Fifth Schedule areas that cover partially or fully several districts in each of these states.
- After the PESA Act was enacted, the central Ministry of Panchayati Raj circulated model PESA Rules.
- So far, six states have notified these Rules, including Gujarat.
What is the issue in Gujarat?
- Gujarat notified the State PESA Rules in January 2017, and made them applicable in 4,503 gram sabhas under 2,584 village panchayats in 50 tribal talukas in eight districts of the state.
- The provisions of the law deem the Gram Sabhas as “most competent”.
- However, the Act has not been enforced in letter and spirit.
- The Act lays down that the state must conduct elections in such a way that the tribal representation is to be dominant in the Gram Sabha Committees.
- Yet again, there has been no attempt to proportionally increase the representation.