MAC: Mines and Communities

India: What is tribal affairs minister up to?

Published by MAC on 2013-04-15
Source: DNA India, TNN

An apparent u-turn in just a week

"The main threat today is the mining in Schedule V areas which has shaken the confidence and faith of the people in the region in our democratic system."

This was the essence of a letter, fired off by India's tribal affairs minister to governors of nine states on 4 April, alleging numerous violations of tribal and other forest peoples' rights.

Yet, just eight days later, the minister not only confirmed an earlier position he'd adopted, concurring with the dilution of tribal peoples' rights to halt certain types of industrial project.

He now appears to support the Indian prime minister's position that "tribal rights under the Forest Rights Act be watered down in most cases, where forestland [is] required by industry".

For earlier MAC article, see: India Tribal affairs minister against diluting Forest Peoples' Rights

Shut all mines in tribal areas

Iftikhar Gilani

DNA India

9 April 2013

Tribal minister shoots letter to 9 guvs seeking cancellation of leases.

New Delhi - Union tribal affairs minister V Kishore Chandra Deo has asked governors of nine states to invoke their special powers to revoke lease agreements and MoUs signed between state governments and corporates to extract mineral wealth in tribal areas.

Pointing out that power lobbies were disregarding land regulations, he castigated the Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh government. The union minister, who is also from Andhra Pradesh, said the higher echelons of power in the state were themselves trying to brazenly distort not only the law but also constitutional safeguards against the interests of tribal and other forest-dwellers.

In an identical letter written on April 4 to the governors of Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, the minister even linked indiscriminate mining activities to national security by propelling the Left Wing extremism.

He even went to the extent castigating his own government saying the insensitivity to the plight and problems of this entire population is the greatest challenge the nation is facing at present.

"The main threat today is the mining in Schedule V areas which has shaken the confidence and faith of the people in the region in our democratic system."

He has reminded governors that Article 244 of the Constitution vests not only independent legislative authority on them but also allows them to restrict any law of parliament or state legislature from its implementation to a scheduled area in their states to protect rights of tribes and marginalised sections.

"The governor may repeal or amend any Act of parliament or of the legislature or any existing law which is for the time being applicable to the area in question, when good governance or peace is distributed due to issues related either with land or money lending," writes the minister.

He further told governors that they are not bound by the aid and advice by the council of ministers under these circumstances.

The minister further urged the governors to use their executive powers and revoke lease agreements which are proving a threat to peace and good governance in these areas.

"I would like to emphasise the fact that the leases and MoUs are mere arrangement s/agreements between two parties and are not enactments of either assembly of parliament," he said.

Deo takes U-turn, backs dilution of tribals' rights

Nitin Sethi


12 April 2013

NEW DELHI: In a dramatic U-turn from his publicly stated position, tribal affairs minister Kishore Chandra Deo has now backed the PMO [Prime Minister's Office] report recommending dilution of tribal rights over forests hindering industrial ventures.

His ministry has written to the environment ministry asking it to overhaul its existing norms and enforce the 'entire recommendations' of the panel, which was headed by principal
secretary to Prime Minister.

The PMO report of December 2012 had recommended that tribal rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) be watered down in most cases, where forestland was required by industry.

The committee, driven by the PMO, had the environment and tribal affairs' secretary on board and recommended that where rights had been settled already and the project threatened to have serious impact on tribals -" a vague, undefined term " - it should
carry a recommendation (and not consent) from the affected gram sabha.

Initially, both environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan and Deo had opposed the report.

But, Deo later changed his stance to advocate that tribals' consent should not be sought in using forestland for what was termed as linear projects like roads, power lines etc that cut  through several tribal habitations.

With infrastructure ministry and the PMO pushing hard, Natarajan, too, agreed and the green ministry's existing regulations were diluted to permit linear projects in forest areas without the consent of gram sabhas in light of Deo's changed stance.

Now, the tribal affairs ministry has written to the environment ministry asking that a fresh comprehensive circular be put out superseding the existing one (that requires gram sabha consent for all but linear projects) following the PMO committee's recommendations in their entirety.

The tribal affairs ministry's letter notes that Deo has already agreed to the PMO recommendations, and only asked for provisions of Schedule V to be applied in all cases.

The letter comes in parallel to a discussion in the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI), where too Deo had raised the issue of change in regulations. This had led the PM to set up a group of ministers, including himself, Natarajan and finance minister P Chidambaram, to resolve any differences.

Two months after the group was set up, it is yet to meet even once.


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