Virginius Xaxa Committee on Tribal Affairs

In keeping with the special status accorded to Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the Constitution of India, the Union Government has affirmed its commitment to improving their socioeconomic status and has taken initiatives that encompass policy, programmatic and legislative interventions.

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The Government of India, in furtherance of its commitment and with a view to creating conditions that are conducive for the development of tribal communities, has decided to constitute a High Level Committee (HLC) to prepare a position paper on the present socioeconomic, health and educational status of STs and suggest a way forward.

The HLC shall suggest policy initiatives as well as effective outcome-oriented measures to improve development indicators and strengthen public service delivery to STs and other tribal populations.

The High Level Committee has the following composition:

1. Prof. Virginius Xaxa – Chairman 2. Dr. Usha Ramanathan – Member 3. Dr. Joseph Bara – Member 4. Dr. K.K. Misra – Member 5. Dr. Abhay Bang – Member 6. Ms. Sunila Basant – Member 7. Secretary, M/o Tribal Affairs – Member Secretary

The Terms of reference of the High Level Committee (HLC) are as follows :

The HLC will prepare a report on the overall socioeconomic, health and educational status of the tribal communities of India. The HLC will finalise and present its report within nine months from the date of this notification.

More specifically, the HLC will:

a) Obtain relevant information from departments/agencies of the Central and State Governments and also conduct an intensive survey of the literature to identify published data, articles and research on relative social, economic, health and educational status of Scheduled Tribes in India at the State, regional and district levels, to address, inter alia, the following questions:-

(i) In which States, Regions, Districts and Blocks do tribal communities of India mostly live? What changes have been visible in the wake of involuntary displacement and enforced migration?

(ii) What is the geographical pattern of their economic activity, i.e. what do they mostly do for a living in various States, Regions and Districts? In view of rapid urbanization of the country and consequent shrinking of their original habitats, what are the newer avenues of employment and livelihood available to them?

(iii) What is their asset base and income levels relative to other groups across various States and Regions? Have there been changes in the patterns of ownership and productivity of immovable assets of STs? What role does public policy and the legal framework play in facilitating/inhibiting such changes?

(iv) What is the level of their socio-economic development in terms of relevant indicators such as literacy rate, dropout rate, MMR, IMR etc.? How does this compare with other communities in various States and the causes of disparity, if any?

(v) What is their relative share of public and private sector employment? Does it vary across States and what is the pattern of such variation? Is the share in employment in proportion to their population in various States? If not, what are the reasons for their under-representation? What are the steps taken by States/UTs for capacity building and improving employability of Scheduled Tribes? Does this take into account their cultural diversity?

(vi) Do the tribal communities have adequate access to education and health services, municipal infrastructure, bank credit, and other services provided by Government/ public sector entities? How does this compare to access enjoyed by other communities in various States? What is the level of social infrastructure (schools, health centers, ICDS centres etc.) located in areas of tribal concentration in comparison to the general level of such infrastructure in various States? What are the causes of disparity, if any?

(vii) Are there adequate systems and structures for implementation of protective legislations such as the Prevention of Atrocities Act, Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, Forest Rights Act and Food Security Ordinance, etc. ? What steps are needed for more effective implementation of these legislations?

(b) Consolidate, collate and analyze the above information/literature to identify areas of intervention by Government to address relevant issues relating to the socioeconomic, health and educational status of the tribal communities.

The above HLC will be provided all possible assistance by all Ministries/ Departments and other bodies under the Government to ensure timely collection of data and information to facilitate their task. All pertinent reports available with the Government on tribal and related issues including the reports of Bhuria Committee, Mungekar Committee and of the National Commission of Scheduled Tribes will be made available to HLC. All existing data (including RGI and NSSO data) and data collected by above mentioned Committees will also be made available to HLC.

The HLC will be located under the aegis of Ministry of Tribal Affairs and will be covered within the definition and explanation of High Level Committees as given in Cabinet Secretariat O.M. No.l/16/1/2000-Cab, dated 15.4.2002.

Key Recommendations of the Committee:

1. Tribal people who have been displaced by conflict in Chhattisgarh and the North-east should be rehabilitated by the State Government in their villages and provided facilities of housing, safe drinking water, health and education, skill development, electricity supply, irrigation facilities, and agricultural inputs.

2. Large numbers of tribals, men and women, are in jails for what are termed ‘naxal offences’. A Judicial Commission needs to be appointed to investigate cases filed against tribals and their supporters. Increased investment is required to be made by State Governments to provide legal aid to tribal petitioners so that they are in a position to hire competent lawyers to fight cases.

3. In view of the large-scale discontent among displaced tribal people regarding poor R&R, a High-Level Fact-finding Committee/Enquiry Committee should be set up to investigate the quality of R&R in all medium and major development projects undertaken in the last fifty years.

4. There have been recorded cases of Gram Sabha consent being fraudulently obtained or forged; such conduct must face penalties, and projects that proceed on the basis of consent so obtained cannot be allowed to proceed.

5. The amendments proposed to the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act has an important component of prior informed consent. This is a necessary condition for the effective implementation of PESA.

6. Effective participation of women in FRA processes has to be increased, given the close relationship between forests, forest produce and women’s lives.

7. The implementation of the community forest rights (under the Forest Rights Act) has hardly taken off. It needs to have a clear mechanism and plan for recognition of various community forest rights and rights of vulnerable communities.

8. Apathy and incapacity of the State to implement the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, has led to exploitation of tribal migrant families. In particular, tribal women and children suffer greatly. There is a growing demand for enactment of a comprehensive Migrants Rights Legislation, which deserves serious consideration.

9. Inclusion of local culture, folklore and history in the curriculum can help in building confidence of tribal children and enhance the relevance of education in their lives. Music and dance are a central part of tribal life. Therefore, storytelling, theatre, painting, music and dance performances should be promoted. Similarly, sports such as football, archery and other popular local sports are extremely beneficial and therapeutic for children, and should be promoted.

10. Tribal communities need a specially designed health plan. Such a ‘Tribal Health Plan’ will have three features: one, a process framework about ‘how’ to prepare the local plan, which will be in the form of guidelines on mechanisms; second, a series of locally developed need-based contents of the plan and third, a design or structure of the health care system to deliver such services in all Scheduled Areas. This ‘Tribal Health Plan’ should become an essential feature of the National Health Mission and of the Tribal Sub Plan.