Tribals Victims of ‘Systemic Exploitation’, Must Get Stake in Development: PM

Observing that tribal communities are victims of “systemic exploitation”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that the involvement of tribal communities in development process was “highly important”, urging state governments to give a “healing touch” to them.

“The states should endeavour to give a healing touch to the tribal communities. Their integration in the development processes is highly important. But this should not become a means of exploitation or be at the cost of their unique identity and their culture,” Manmohan Singh said.

He gave the statements while inaugurating two-day conference of Chief Ministers, State Ministers of Tribal Affairs, Social Welfare and Forest Departments on Implementation of the Forest Right Act 2006 and tribal development and welfare programmes in New Delhi.

Singh urged the Chief Ministers and their colleagues to leave no stone unturned to ensure effective implementation of the Act and expeditious distribution of title deeds well within the given timeframe.

The prime minister said that the distribution of titles is but an important and necessary first step and that the Act recognises the symbiotic relationship between the forest and the forest dweller.

The Act attempts to deal holistically with the issue in terms not only of the recognition of rights but of livelihood opportunities and environmental protection and conservation. If implemented in its true spirit, this Act will provide significant multipliers in the processes of economic development in some of our critical habitats, he said.

“Those whose lives are dependent on the forests should be made essential partners in the processes of natural resource planning, conservation and protection. It is in this context, I would like to emphasise the importance of implementing in letter and in spirit the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas known as PESA Act.”

Singh said that there had been a systemic failure in giving the tribals a stake in the modern economic processes that inexorably intrude into their living spaces.

“The alienation built over decades is now taking a dangerous turn in some parts of our country. The systematic exploitation and social and economic abuse of our tribal communities can no longer be tolerated. But the fact is that no sustained activity is possible under the shadow of the gun. Nor have those who claim to speak for the tribals offered an alternate economic or social path that is viable. The cult of violence will only bring greater misery to the common people. We have to counter this threat with determination. While violence cannot be tolerated, the tribals must be the primary beneficiaries of the development process. We have to win the battle for their hearts and their mouths,” the Prime Minister said.

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