CUTTACK -7 May 2013 The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the State Government to take strong action against its officials who are found to have failed to act against the tour operators offering ‘Human Safaris’ in the districts inhabited by primitive tribes.
“Rules and orders are already in place to check the nefarious activities of the greedy tour operators. What is needed is their strict implementation. Any district official found guilty in this regard should be dealt with promptly and adequately. It is the duty of the State Government to see that all the laws and rules protecting the dignity of the tribals are used to their fullest extent,” the Rights panel ordered while disposing of the petition against ‘Human Safaris’ in the hills inhabited by Bonda tribes allegedly offered by tour operators.
The issue had fuelled widespread outrage in January last year when it was revealed that some foreign and Indian tour operators were luring tourists to Odisha by offering ‘Human Safaris’ that provided a close look at the Bonda tribals. The operators had even used pictures of semi-clad Bonda women on their websites and referred to the tribe as naked people. A petition was filed before the NHRC by managing trustee of Pipili-based organisation India Media Centre, Akhand, alleging that such depiction of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) not only amounted to violation of their human rights but also endangered their existence.
The rights panel had earlier pulled up the State Government for not responding to its notices on the alleged exploitation of the Bonda tribals. After it warned to direct personal appearance of the Secretary, Tourism and Culture Department, a report was submitted wherein the Government stated that clear guidelines were set restricting entry of foreign tourists inhabited by PVTGs including Bonda Tribe of undivided Koraput district since 1987. All the Collectors and SPs have been asked to implement the guidelines strictly.
However, an enquiry report submitted by the then additional secretary, Panchayati Raj Department, Usha Padhee, following the allegations of Human Safari, revealed that the practice is still in vogue. The district officials had done nothing to stop the menace except issuing office orders, the Commission noted.
Taking the recommendations of Padhee on the need to formulate strategies for fast track development in the tribal regions into consideration, the Commission hoped that the State Government shall take proper steps to stem the rot while devising and implementing developmental programmes for the PVTGs.