Virginius Xaxa Committee: Revealing the Socio-Economic status of Tribals in India
Considering the special status accorded to Scheduled Tribes (ST) in the Constitution of India, the Union Government has affirmed its commitment to ameliorating their socioeconomic status and has taken initiatives that embrace legislative, programmatic and policy interventions. With a view to creating conditions that are conducive for the development of tribal communities, The Government of India 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 an effective outcome oriented measures as well as policy initiatives to better public indicators and strengthen public service delivery to STs and other tribal populations.
The High level Committee has the following composition:
- Prof. Virginius Xaxa (Chairman)
- Dr. Usha Ramnathan
- Dr. Joseph Bara
- Dr. K.K Mishra
- Dr. Abhay Bang
- Ms. Sunila Basant
- Secretary, M/o Tribal Affairs ( Member Secretary)
The terms of reference of the High Level Committee (HLC) are as follows:
More specifically, the HCL will:
Acquire relevant information from agencies/departments of the Central as well as State Governments and also conduct an intensive survey of the literature to identify articles, published data and research on health, relative social, educational and economic status of Scheduled tribes in India at regional, state and district levels to address inter alia the following questions:
- Do the tribal communities have sufficient access to health services and education, bank credit, municipal infrastructure and other services provided by Government /Public sector entities? What is the level of social infrastructure (Health centres, schools, ICDS centres etc.) located in areas of tribal concentration in comparison to the general level of such infrastructures in various states? What are the causes of disparity, if any?
- What is their income levels and asset base as compared to other groups across various States and Regions? Have there been changes in the patterns of productivity and ownership of immovable assets of STs? What role does the legal framework and policy play in facilitating/inhibiting such changes?
- What is the level of their socio-economic development in terms of relative indicators such as MMR, IMR, literacy rate, dropout rate etc.?
- What is their relative share of public and private sector employment? Does it differ 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?
- In which Regions, States, Districts and Blocks do tribal population of India mostly live? What changes have been visible in the wake of enforced migration and involuntary displacement?
- What is the geographical pattern of their economic activity, i.e. what do they mostly do for a living in various states, districts and regions?
- Are the adequate systems and structures for implementation of protective legislations such as Food Security Ordinance, Prevention of Atrocities Act , Forests Rights Act , Panchayats ( Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act? What steps are required for effective implementation of these legislations?
The HCL will be covered within the definition and explanation of High Level Committees as given in cabinet Secretariat O.M.No.1/16/1/2000-Cab dated 15.4.2002 and will be located under the aegis of Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
Key Recommendations of the Committee:
- Incapacity and apathy of the state to implement the Inter-State Migrant workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, resulted in exploitation of tribal migrants’ families. In particular, tribal women and children suffer greatly.
- Inclusion of folklore, local culture and history in the curriculum can assist in building confidence of tribal children and increase the prominence of education in their lives. Music and dance are central part of tribal life. Hence painting, theatre, music, storytelling and dance performances should be promoted. Likewise, sports such as archery, football and other popular local sports are extremely beneficial and therapeutic for children and should be promoted.
- State Government should rehabilitate tribal people of Chhattisgarh and the North-east, who have been displaced due to conflicts. They should also be provided facilities of health and education, housing, skill development, safe drinking water, irrigation facilities, electricity supply and other inputs.
- In view of large-scale dissatisfaction among displaced tribal people regarding poor R&R, a High-Level fact finding Enquiry Committee / Committee should be instituted to inquire the quality of R&R in all medium and and major development projects undertaken in the last fifty years.
- Involvement of women in FRA processes needs to be increased, given the close relationship between forests, forest produce and women’s lives.
- The implementation of the community forest rights ( under the Forest Rights Act) hardly took place. It needs to have a clear mechanism and plan for recognition of various community forest right and rights of vulnerable communities.
- Large numbers of tribals, men and women have been put in jail due to what is termed ‘naxal offences’. A judicial committee needs to be instituted to investigate cases filed against tribals and their supporters.
- 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 obtained cannot be allowed to proceed.
- The amendments proposed to the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled areas) Act has a prominent component of prior informed consent. This is a necessary condition for the effective implementation of PESA.