Riyan Ramanath V,
BHUBANESWAR: When Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh interacted with representatives of Biswanathpur panchayat in Kalahandi district during his recent visit, he was surprised when the representatives failed to comprehend what Panchayat (Extension to Schedule Areas) PESA Act was all about, which Jairam advised them to follow to exert their rights.
Though PESA Act came into vogue in 1996, the state government is yet to make rules to implement it. Tribals are yet to derive any benefit from the act, which envisages giving liberty to tribals to follow their own customs, have their own resources and self rule.
“PESA is a crucial legislation to empower tribal people to have control over their governance and resources through traditional rights. Unfortunately this legislation has not been implemented in the state till date due to lack of state’s rule on PESA,” said a tribal activist of Bhunjia community Jayasingh Chinda.
Sources said the tribal community is also opposed to the state government’s recent steps to form a committee to formulate rules under PESA without involving any tribal and women leaders. “The state government on December 22 formed a committee under the chairmanship of director of ST/SC development department without taking any tribal or women in the committee. The decision is lopsided and it is not going to serve the purpose,” said Ghasiram Panda, an activist working on tribal rights.
In 1997 the state government had incorporated a few provisions of the act in the Panchayati Raj department, which was not fruitful, Panda said further. “The state government has distorted the grama sabha rules contained in the PESA Act. While a village should be taken as a unit for grama sabha, the state government is taking panchayat as a unit,” he pointed out. If a village is taken as a unit, it will be convenient for people and that’s what is mentioned in the original act. Villagers, who are eligible to vote, should get together to take decisions on several matters at the grama sabha as per the PESA rules, Panda said.