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13 September 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

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.
13 September 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Relevance and use of the article in UPSC prelims and mains examination:

Dear aspirants this article help you to conclude about Data openness and the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill According to the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, the acquisition or use of any geospatial information will require permission from a government authority. In this article highlight the importance of reliable geospatial information for development work. In their view, instead of restricting the production and use of such information, the government should regulate its quality and promote learning around it to ensure responsible and ethical use. Please read it carefully.

Definition :

“Geospatial Information” means geospatial imagery or data acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles including value addition; or graphical or digital data depicting natural or man-made physical features, phenomenon or boundaries of the earth or any information related thereto including surveys, charts, maps, terrestrial photos referenced to a coordinate system and having attributes;

About Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016:

  • The recently proposed Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, places strict restrictions on the acquisition and use of geospatial information in India. Specifically, this means any information that is geo-located is subject to vetting and approval by a special authority appointed by the government.
  • This could include a map you create and share of your daily run using an app such as Runkeeper, a photo of your latest trek with location coordinates, or a web map you create to decide where you can open your next business venture.
  • Spurred by the ‘wrongful’ depiction of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir border, the rationale for introducing this bill is to safeguard “sovereignty, security and integrity of India”.
  • However, the Indian government’s existing policies related to geospatial information already address this national security objective.

It shall extend to the whole of India and it applies also to-

  • citizens of India outside India;
  • persons in the service of the Government, wherever they may be; and
  • persons on ships and aircrafts, registered in India, wherever they may be.
  • Every person shall be liable to punishment under this Act for every act or omission contrary to the provisions thereof, of which he is held guilty in India.
  • Any person, who commits an offence beyond India, which is punishable under this Act, shall be dealt with according to the provisions of this Act in the same manner as if such act had been committed in India.
  • It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification, appoint and different dates may be appointed for different provisions of this Act and any reference in any such provision to the commencement of this Act shall be construed as a reference to the commencement of that provision.

Should this bill become legislation:

  • it would negate the principles of openness and transparency that the government’s e-governance initiative is intended to promote. It also hinder important on-ground work to address the information asymmetry that ails the social landscape in India, and hinder inclusive development.
  • While the Census Bureau of India generates numerous official statistics such as population distribution by educational attainment, mortality indicators and employment, at the national, state, village and ward levels, there is an inadequacy of nuanced information at more disaggregated levels such as neighborhood or cluster.
  • Collecting geospatial information in a participatory way, at the neighborhood or cluster level, allows us to address this information asymmetry, by according visibility to spaces and consequently the people within them who are often missing from the public discourse (such as the people who aren’t able to benefit from MNREGA because they might be in a geographically inaccessible area).
  • It also allows integration of information across the social, economic and cultural sectors, and informs decision-making, and because anyone can contribute this information, it ensures representativeness.

The importance of reliable geospatial information for inclusive development

  • we depend on geospatial information, to fulfil our mission of achieving social impact through data. Using Volunteered Geographic Information, which is essentially location-based information volunteered by the public (and which the geospatial bill makes punishable to collect without approval), we build Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in a participatory manner.
  • Collecting geospatial data through Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) allows us to quickly and efficiently generate high-quality maps which, once integrated with the survey/interview data we collect in the field, facilitate an understanding of existing assets and needs, evaluation of interventions and analysis of the drivers of inequalities. Most importantly, our participatory approach democratises the data we generate and makes communities active stakeholders in the process of positive social change.
  • In one of our post-implementation assessments of water and sanitation facilities carried out in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, for instance, we evaluated the efficacy of a WASH programme undertaken at the community and institutional level in rural areas of the aforementioned states. To do this, the information collected from community caretakers on the functionality of water points being installed, restored, rehabilitated or improved by the organisation was made available online and plotted on a map.
  • To understand nuances such as barriers to access owing to factors like caste, power dynamics, gender violence or privatisation of water points over a period of time, the resulting geospatial information enabled us to democratise this data for the community and help identify and address issues specific to a water point in real time.

A viable alternative: Regulating information quality and promoting learning.

  • Whether the government likes it or not, geospatial information is here to grow. From improving service provision, and monitoring disease outbreaks, to mitigating disaster responses and bettering governance, geospatial information, especially is highly relevant in today’s world.
  • By penalising people for contributing information which the government deems unsuitable, such a bill would disrupt participatory research processes, which are central to ensuring democratic participation of communities in advocating for an inclusive and egalitarian development process.
  • Considered a public good and paid for by the taxpayer, data is a democratic right. Instead of restricting the production of and access to geospatial information, we strongly advocate openness in its creation, collection and dissemination.
  • we must remember that it is the decentralisation of power which forms the cornerstone of participatory democracy and that stands at risk with absolute decrees such as this proposed bill.


  • Geospatial information refers to any data that is referenced to a place, represented by a set of geographic coordinates, which is essentially collected and made available in real time.
  • The e-governance initiative refers to the usage of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to monitor and track progress of development programmes - status of queries, processing employees’ payrolls, generation of reports, and so on.

Question for prelims:

Assertion (A):In Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, the acquisition or use of any geospatial information will require permission from a government authority.

Reason(R):we depend on geospatial information, to fulfil our mission of achieving social impact through data.

Choose the correct answer using following code:

  • A and R both are true and R is the correct explanation of A.
  • A and R both are true but R is not the correct explanation of A.
  • A is true R is false.
  • A is false R is true.

Question for mains:

Keeping in mind the indian internal security scenario.Place your views for recntly concluded Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016.(200 words)

Suggested points:

  • Define Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 and its provisions.
  • Discuss its pros and cons
  • Define its concern regarding internal security.
  • conclusion.


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