Mani Shankar Aiyar on "Extremist Affected Areas"

Mani Shankar Aiyer on "Extremist Affected Areas"

6th May, 2010, Rajya Sabha

SHRI MANI SHANKAR AIYAR (NOMINATED): Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir, first my apologies for not having been here, when you first called me. Sir, the gravamen of what I call the Rajiv Gandhi approach to the resolution of the development issues that have arisen in the Naxalite affected areas of the country, which we are told comprise nearly a third of the districts of the country, and constitute, according to the hon. Prime Minister, the single gravest challenge to the internal security of our country, lies, I believe, in paragraph 3 of Part A of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, where it says, and I quote, “The executive power of the Union shall extend to the giving of directions to the State as to the administration of the said areas, namely, the Fifth Schedule Areas.” I appeal to the Government of India to urgently take action to invoke this provision of the Constitution in view of the patent failure of the States concerned to meet the real development requirements of the tribal folks living in these Fifth Schedule Areas, namely, participative development as envisaged in Part IX and IX(A) of the Constitution dealing respectively with the Panchayats and the Municipalities, specifically, article 243M section 4, sub-section (b) which reads, “Parliament may by law extend the provisions of this Part to the Scheduled Areas and the Tribal Areas referred to in clause (1)”.

Sir, as long ago as in 1996, i.e., 13 long years and more ago, Parliament has, in fact, passed this law. It is the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, prepared on the basis of the recommendations of the Dilip Singh Bhuria Committee. The legislation was introduced by the Deve Gowda Government, of which the hon. Home Minister was the distinguished Finance Minister, and, is, therefore, completely familiar with the constitutional imperative which led to this enactment and the content of the PESA, the acronym by which the 1996 law is generally known. Moreover, all States concerned have enacted conformity State legislation. The trouble is that PESA has hitherto mainly been observed in the breach. If, therefore, the Union were to avail of its powers, as quoted above from paragraph 3 of the Fifth Schedule, it would be doing no more than enforcing legislation that is already on the statute books of all the State legislatures concerned.

Furthermore, Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir, I draw attention to the unanimous recommendations of the Union and State Ministers of Panchayati Raj, adopted at Jaipur on 19th December, 2004 after seven Round-Table meetings between July and December that year; the Memoranda of Understanding or Joint Statements signed with the Union Minister of Panchayati Raj in the period 2005-07 by the Chief Ministers of all LWE-affected States, except Jharkhand where the Supreme Court has only now decreed panchayat elections; and, above all, the unanimous recommendations of the Empowered Sub-Committee of the National Development Council chaired by the hon. Minister of Panchayati Raj, the final meeting of which was graced by the participation of the hon. Home Minister in his then capacity as Union Finance Minister, to urge that the accelerated implementation of PESA provisions, in letter and in spirit, in Left-Wing Extremist Affected Areas would amount to no more than the implementation of constitutional, legal and administrative obligations voluntarily accepted by the States concerned themselves.

Indeed, Sir, I would urge that a very, very quick meeting of the National Development Council be called where the sole item on the agenda should be the unanimous Report of the Empowered Sub-Committee which is lying unattended to in the Planning Commission for the last two years. Twenty-four months have passed and the National Development Council has not taken up the Empowered Sub-Committee Report.

SHRI MANI SHANKAR AIYAR (contd.): Although it is a unanimous report, if only that had been done and done in the PESA areas, I do not think we would be faced with the kind of crisis that we are today. Yes, the question does arise whether it would be feasible to implement PESA in such LWA districts. The answer to that conundrum is also to be found in statements made to Parliament by the predecessor to the current Minister of Home Affairs, who more than once informed the House that contrary to allegations being made at the time, there is not a red band extending from the Nepal border to Andhra Pradesh because while there was some police stations in these districts that were LWA affected, there were others that were not at all affected or least affected or less affected.

I described it at that time as a speckled band of naxalism, that is, patches of red with patches of white, a description, subject to the present Home Minister's confirmation, valid even today. That is, while governance in some pockets is impossible until naxalite control has been contained, there are numerous other pockets where governance is possible. My suggestion is that the Union and State Governments concerned adopt a joint approach to the accelerated and sincere implementation of the Constitutional and legal provisions for participative development in the unaffected, least affected and less affected police station areas of the 200 or more naxalite-Maoist-affected districts.

I have heard from Government circles the expression 'aggressive development'. I do not know what it means. But, if it means the kind of development pattern hitherto being followed in these highly disturbed V Schedule areas, I would urge a serious rethink. In this connection, I seek your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Chairman to quote a few lines from a brilliant interview given by a hon. Member of this House, Shri Keshava Rao, to the Business Standard on 2nd May, 2010. I quote, "A laudable growth has not trickled down. Rajiv Gandhi also said that Government has not reached the tribal areas. He did not use the word development. The nuance is this, it is the legitimacy and empowerment of Government that one is looking at which do not merely concern material benefits but social conditions and exploitation as well. That is social justice." I would also commend the deeply perceptive remarks of my fellow nominated Member, Prof. Bhalchandra Mungekar in his outstanding maiden speech on the Finance Bill where he vividly sketched the conditions in which the tribal people on the V Schedule areas eke out a living.

Sir, as a former Minister of Panchayati-raj who has studied State Legislation in this regard, I have no hesitation in saying that PESA is the best Panchayati-raj legislation in the country, specifying the powers of the Gram Sabhas vis-a-vis the Panchayati-raj, thus empowering the aam aadmi among the tribal folk to have a powerful voice in the governance of his or her community vis-a-vis not only State and Central Government officials but also elected Panchayat representatives.

These rights enshrined in the PESA---I am quoting from the PESA---"include the safeguarding of community resources, the approval of all plans, projects and programmes proposed by the Panchayats. The authorization of utilization certificates, that is, no babu can send a false utilization certificate, because the Gram Sabha has to authorize that the money has actually been spent for the purpose for which it is given and the right to statutory consultation---this is written into the law---on issues affecting forest produce prospecting and mining as well as any issue relating to the alienation of tribal land and the displacement of tribal persons living in V Schedule areas."

The Panchayat road map released on the occasion of National Panchayat Day, that is, 24th April, 2010 at Vigyan Bhavan, by the Prime Minister indicated that model rules have been circulated to all State Governments concerned for ensuring the implementation on the ground of the PESA provisions. I urge the Union Government to prioritise the implementation of these model rules in V Schedule areas under the authority vested in the Union Government by paragraph 3 of the V Schedule of the Constitution.

SHRI MANI SHANKAR AIYAR (CONTD): Combine this, Sir, with the sincere and effective implementation of the legislation relating to rights of forest dwellers and rights to resettlement and rehabilitation, and you have the most powerful legislative instruments at hand that will do more, as I said earlier, than AK-47s and unmanned drones to combat the alarming spread of Naxalism in these areas. Please also consider legislation to amend two pieces of colonial period legislations, namely, the Forest Act, 1927 and the Land Acquisition Act, which was passed in the last decade of the nineteenth century to give tribal communities proprieties right over their community lands. Just give them propriety rights over the community lands, exactly the same propriety rights that are sacred when it comes to individuals and corporations and which lie at the heart of your processes of liberalization and globalization. Can you imagine liberalization and globalization without individual and corporate propriety rights? Why can't our tribals who do not have individual propriety rights, but do have community rights, be assured those communities rights will be treated exactly as sacred as individual or corporate propriety rights? If you do so, Mr. Home Minister, then at one stroke you would bring on board the tribal people of our country.

For a detailed treatment of how all this best to be done, I urge upon the Government as a whole, through the Home Minister, who has been assigned the lead role in this regard, to revisit the recommendations of the Expert Committee on "Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas." The Expert Committee was constituted by the Planning Commission in 2006 and submitted its Report two years ago, in April 2008. It identified in paragraph the ten root causes, "underlying rural unrest and the emergence of Naxalism to a significant extent."

So, ten basic reasons have been given. It goes on to urge- this is a quote, Sir from Para that, "While the official policy documents recognize that there is a direct correlation between what is termed as extremism and poverty, or to take note of the fact that the implementation of all development schemes is ineffective, or point to the deep relationship between tribals and forests, or that the tribals suffer unduly from displacement, the Governments, that is, both the Union and the State Governments, have in practice treated unrest merely as a law and order problem. It is necessary.." said the Expert Committee "to change this mindset and bring about greater congruence between policy and implementation." It ended, please listen to me, Sir, with care," There will be peace, harmony and social progress only if there is equity, justice and dignity for every one."

To ensure equity, justice and dignity for every one, we have ready at hand the basic instruments of the Constitution and PESA which ensure the empowerment of tribal communities to look after themselves and protect and promote their own interests. It is the overarching responsibility and obligation of the Union Government, in terms of paragraph 3 of the Fifth Schedule, to which the Expert Committee has drawn pointed attention, to ensure that this happens, especially when all State action has proved recalcitrant, as has been the case in almost all LWE-affected areas, bar Congress-run Andhra Pradesh.

Sir, the hon. Home Minister would recall that after he assumed office in the wake of 26/11, a Workshop was held on 18-19 December, 2008 at which the Expert Group Report, I was referring to, was discussed in detail between the Home Ministry and sister Ministries concerned with spreading Naxalism such as the Ministries of Panchayati Raj, Tribal Affairs, Rural Development, Human Resource Development, Health and New and Renewable Energy.

SHRI MANI SHANKAR AIYAR (CONTD.): A detailed Action Plan was drawn up. The most important joint conclusion of this Workshop, endorsed inter alia by Home Ministry representative was and I quote: "An important cause of discontentment in these districts was the sense of injustice, and extremism was frequently the response to perceived exploitation. Lower level functionaries, particularly in the Departments of Police, Revenue Administration, and Forests were perceived as antagonistic to the common people, the poor and specially the tribal. Further, it was perceived that the judicial process did not solve the problems of the disadvantaged people and to the contrary in many cases was used to deprive the tribals of their rights."

Sir, it would be impossible to put it better. That is the nub of what my friends on the Opposition Benches have termed a half-Maoist answer to the Naxal threat. I request the hon. Home Minister to enlighten the House now, or in a future intervention, on what has been done to implement the recommendations of the Workshop held 18 months ago, on 18-19 December, 2008 where the Home Ministry representative had said and this is included in the Report of the Workshop. I quote from this Report "The problem is not as extensive as projected." Why then has the situation so seriously deteriorated in the last 18 months? The hon. Prime Minister says, 'It is the single most important internal security challenge to our country.' Is it because we have been less than successful in ensuring the implementation of the Workshop recommendations?

Sir, only yesterday in a written answer to a question written by Shri K V. Ramachandra Rao, it is reported by the Minister of State for Home Affairs to this House that it has been found that a meeting taken by the Cabinet Secretary on 15th April, 2010, that is, more than a week after the Dantewada massacre that financial progress in regard to these Naxal affected areas has been found to be satisfactory.

Therefore, I ask the question: is it because we have been less than successful in insuring the implementation of the workshop recommendations. Is it not because these tribal communities are still not empowered with the functions, finances and functionaries to themselves undertake the participative development activities relating to the 29 subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule to the Constitution, drafted personally, for I was present with him, by none other than the Prime Minister of the time, Shri Rajiv Gandhi? Sir, the Union Government Budget which we finally and formally passed sets aside approximately Rs. 1,30,000 crore for this year alone for anti-poverty and Bharat Nirman programmes. Besides, the Thirteenth Finance Commission, which the Finance Minister told us yesterday had been accepted in toto by the Government, provides for around Rs. 30,000 crore annually to be transferred to the elected local bodies for revenue expenditure and the maintenance of assets, i.e. non-Plan expenditure, making a total of about Rs.1,60,000 crore for planning and implementation by the Panchayats and municipalities as "institutions of local self-Government" as per article 243 G of the Constitution. As the Home Ministry estimate is that about a third of our districts are LWE-affected, it would mean these 200 or so districts are entitled to approximately Rs. 40,000 crore of this amount sanctioned by Parliament, besides a further Rs.10,000 crore of Thirteenth Finance Commission funds, making a total of Rs. 50,000 crores to be spent in these districts alone, besides the States' own contribution.

SHRI MANI SHANKAR AIYAR (CONTD.): If, therefore, in exercise of the authority vested in the Union Government by Paragraph 3 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution, the Union Government were to ensure that this humungous sum of money were to actually reach the bank or Treasury accounts of the local bodies in unaffected, least affected or, perhaps, even less affected areas of LWE-affected districts, the tribals would be faced with a clear choice between State-sponsored participative development in which the tribals themselves are the key decision makers on the one hand, and certain death at the hands of the Maoists, on the other. It is only then that the tribals will be able to make a real choice -- and I have no doubt, whatsoever, as to what that choice would be.

Sir, draining the swamp is the best way of ridding it of alligators. That is what I urge the Government to do in respect of LWE-affected areas -- drain the swamp by empowering the people, not empowering contractors, not empowering multinationals, but empowering the people; and, above all, not empowering the bureaucracy and technocracy in these areas which have only been oppressive of the tribal people for the last six decades.

The key lies in empowerment. I would hope that the hon. Leader of the Opposition to listen to this very, very carefully. I am not -- repeat not --advocating the abandonment of security measures. They have to be taken. But, I am urging, as former Prime Minister, Shri Rajiv Gandhi, and present Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, have urged, the implementation with all deliberate speed of a two-pronged strategy of security and development, not "aggressive development" that would bring hordes of greedy multinationals pouring into the Fifth Schedule areas -- for it is precisely such exploitative development that the tribal folk are protesting -- but participative development based on the slogan Rajivji gave in Parliament twenty years ago: "Maximum Democracy and Maximum Devolution: Power to the People."

Thank you, Sir.


sivaraman m.r said…
A brilliant speech. I am distressed as a former collector of a major tribal district with 86% tribal population that the governent and the bureaucrats in particular are insensitive to the tribal issues. They are drawn by the money power and the attractions of a future job with theIndustraial Houses if they give all the help to the plunderers of the tribal areas. When will this government wake up?
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