CSR Workshop & Panel Discussion

Govt to Seek Partnerships With NGOs To Deliver Development to Maoist Hit Areas

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By Suresh Kr Pramar

The Government is veering around the views expressed by a number of civil society organizations that tribal extremist activities are more an economic issue than a  fight for independence and sovereignty.

Sections in the government feel that the growing extremist menace should be fought with more intense economic programmes that with police or military might.

The first step in this direction is the government’s willingness to seek the support of Non government organizations to reach the benefits of economic development to tribals living in the remote interiors of the tribal belt. The government has announced that it will work with state governments, non government organizations and public spirited people to take development programmes to the extremist hit tribal areas. These joint efforts are to be carried out in over nine states.

The Centre proposes to create the Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation in partnership with NGOs to leverage resources under various rural development schemes. The BRLF will work for the socio-economic upliftment of tribals by building local institutions like Panchyats and allow tribals to ‘assert their rights and entitlements’.

A concept note prepared by the Rural Development Ministry the Central India highlights the fact that the “tribal belt has witnessed an unprecedented upsurge in Maoist militancy in recent years”. The note points out that these areas have suffered from development and governance deficits. ” Without such an initiative, massive resources will not translate into enduring outcomes on the ground.”

The fact that NGOs have  been able to gain the trust of the people in the tribals areas of Chhattisgarh has spurred the government to seek NGO support. The NGOs have managed to undertake a number of schemes for the welfare of the tribals to create awareness and improve livelihoods. Their efforts have however created only a few oases of excellence.

Tribals are a sizeable percent of India’s total population. Of the 86 million tribals who make up 8.4 percent of the country’s population, 80 percent live in the Central India tribal belt comprising of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Northern Maharashtra and Southern Gujarat.

Tribal lands are rich in hydrologic, mineral, oil, gas, forest, and other resources, and this easily makes them the most attractive sites to locate development projects of various kinds. Many development projects in India are located in areas that are densely inhabited by tribal people. For multinational companies looking for investment opportunities, these areas are fast becoming the most favored destinations More than one lakh hectares of forestland (almost 11 percent  of the total forest area diverted in the entire country since 1980) has been diverted for non-forest use in the three mineral rich states of Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

This explains the story of eviction and marginalization of the tribal population who bear the brunt of predatory industrialization and mining, resulting from the widespread eviction since the decades when the first Tata Steel Company was established in the 1930s The 2008 Experts’ Group report to the Planning Commission, ‘Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas’ had suggested that the problem of violence and terrorism should be understood in the proper development perspective and handled politically and administratively rather than by using brute police force.

The report said that the “methods chosen by the government to deal with the Maoist has increased the people’s distrust of the police and consequent unrest. Protest against police harassment is itself a major instance of unrest frequently leading to further violence by the police in the areas under Maoist influence. The rights and entitlements of the people which give rise to the Maoist movement find expression in the Constitution, the laws enacted by various governments and the policy declarations. The administration should not have waited for the Maoist movement to remind it of its obligations towards the people in these matters.”

Some tribes of Central India, claim that their fight is for the control over their economy and administration since their struggle is by and large for the protection of their land and forests. It is now increasingly realized among government and civil organizations that the main cause of tribal extremism is economic rather than political. Tribal extremists are fighting to retain their hold on the natural resources available in their habitat  rather than attain political sovereignity
Over the years, since the beginning of extremist violence, the government’s writ in the tribal areas has been gradually reduced to almost nil.

The government’s move is sequel to the inability of government agencies to reach development schemes to the extremist affected areas. Peaceful resistance movements of tribal communities against their forced displacement and the corporate grab of their resources is sought to be violently crushed by the use of police and security forces and State- and corporate-funded and armed militias Tribals, caught between the police and the tribal extremists are forced to suffer increased deprivation. Because of the increased level of extremist activities and the use of the state police might benefits of the various development schemes cannot be reached to the people.

Because of their suspicion and opposition towards state agencies Maoists do not allow development officials to enter the areas under the control. Over the past few years resources available under various development schemes have been denied to the alienated tribals because of increasing tribal extremism. According to reports resources available under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Indira Vikas Yojana, the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and the Backward Regions Grant Fund have been largely unutilized in these areas.

The new economic policies of liberalization, privatization and globalization, have led, in recent years, to a huge drive by the state to transfer resources, particularly land and forests, which are critical for the livelihood and the survival of the tribal people, to corporations for exploitation of mineral resources, SEZs and other industries, most of which have been enormously destructive to the environment Over the years since independence the country has been witnessing gross violation of the rights of the poor, particularly tribal rights.

This has reached unprecedented levels since the new economic policies of the 1990s. The various legal protections provided for the tribals like The 5th Schedule Rights of the Tribals, in particular the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act and the Forest Rights Act have been grossly violated. These violations have now gone to the extent that villages inhabited solely by tribal people have been declared to be non-tribal. The entire executive and judicial administration appear to have been totally apathetic to their plight.

The Developmental policies followed in democratic India has drastically altered the relationship of tribes with natural environment and resources. It has changed the pattern and methods of ownership and usage. Land and forest most exploited, fundamentally altering the tribal way of life. Land made a saleable private property. Unscrupulous methods used. Modern communication and transport technologies hastened the process causing high migrations and uprooting.

The dissatisfied tribals embrace Naxalism because of the present model of development has pushed them further into poverty. Extremists gain popularity by focusing on attainment of tribal self determination and control over local resources. They have attacked both private companies and government institutions.

The government acts in a stubborn manner seeing it as only a ‘internal security threat’. Maoist (Naxal) violence, which originated in a single police station area in a single district in West Bengal, has spread to over 2,000 police stations in 223 districts across 20 states.

The government response has so far been to use its police and military might to curb the extremists. And the police budgets of Union and state governments to fight extremists have reportedly gone up over a thousand-fold from 1967 to 2007.

The present policy of economic liberation has caused, what the 28th report of the Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Tribes to the President of India in 1986  referred to, as the “backlash of modernization” in the tribal areas. The outcome of the developmental measures undertaken, plus the adverse forces already at work was a negative one. It has marked a “slide back” in the fortunes of the dalits and adivasis notwithstanding some achievements in the sphere of
reservations in government jobs.

According to a former member, Planning Commission, between 1951 and 1990, 40 million people were displaced as a result of development projects. Of these, 40 percent were tribal people. Only 25 percent of the displaced have so far been ‘rehabilitated’. It is not surprising that the Maoist movement has found support among those sections of scheduled tribes who became victims rather than beneficiaries of development.

The non-recognition of the rights of the local community over resources has resulted in “disorganisation, displacement and destitution” of the adivasis. Many civil society organization have warned that there can be no peace in the Scheduled Areas so long as the confrontation between the people and the state continued on the issue of self-governance, particularly with regard to the question of the command over resources.

The history of broken promises, predatory administration, co-option through faulty development programmes and unconcern at the top has led to massive displacement and multiplication of revolts.

The ‘Developmental terrorism’ practised by the state under the guise of industrialising and modernising the economy with the sole purpose of enriching big business has alienated several groups of tribals across the country.

Maoist violence in India is the consequence of non-performance on basic issues related to tribal development in the letter and spirit of the Constitution of India. It is a response to the enormous state violence against adivasis.

The history of broken promises, predatory administration, co-option through faulty development programmes and unconcern at the top has led to massive displacement and multiplication of revolts.

A  study has found that as a group, states affected by Naxalite violence (Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal) lost on average 12.48 percent of their per capita NSDP3 per year over the period 1980 to 2000.

The average pcNSDP of these states was Rs.10,200 per year during this period, and the average loss of pc NSDP due to Naxalite violence was of the order of Rs.1,273 per year.

(Suresh Kr Pramar, Trainer, Writer,  CSR Consultant and the Executive Director, Centre for Training & Research in Responsible Business is a veteran journalist presently actively involved in promoting CSR through his publication CRBiz and by conducting workshop on Corporate Social Responsibility. He is regular contributor to INDIA CSR (www.indiacsr.in), largest CSR Network in India. He can be reached at suresh.pramar@gmail.com. His Mobile No: 09213133042/9899305950)

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