Tribal panchayats eye MP-MLA funds for farmers’ widows, orphans

Yavatmal (Maharashtra), (IANS): More than 160 tribal panchayats from different districts in the state passed resolutions demanding that MPs and MLAs look after the welfare of families of tribal farmers who commit suicide, an official said here on Monday.

The resolution is considered significant as the children and widows of farmers who ended their lives due to the agrarian crises face a bleak future with no help from any quarter.

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Now, the local legislators and parliamentarians shall be approached to provide for the survivors of the farmers who commit suicide in their constituencies and release money from their annual MP-MLA funds, tribal leaders said.

The tribal panchayats – under the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, 1996, are sore that the constitutional rights granted to them under various laws have not been properly implemented by the government in the past three years, said their leader Tulsiram Kumare.

“Under these Acts, the importance of Gram Sabhas in decision-making needs to be restored. They must be given a say in matters of mining activity, infrastructure projects, education and public health facilities,” Kumare said.

The tribal panchayats have also resolved to enforce complete prohibition in all tribal villages under PESA, food security for all tribal families, digital links, electrification and road and drinking water connections to all these villages.

They also demanded a ban on all types of forest cutting which poses environmental hazards and affects the life of the tribals.

They demanded full rights on all local water bodies restored to the tribals; land ownership to landless tribal farmers; compulsory education in local tribal lingo to tribal students in PESA schools and returning land taken over by non-tribals in the PESA areas.

“All the resolutions passed are being forwarded to President (Ram Nath Kovind) and Maharashtra Governor (C.V. Rao) under whose ambit the implementation of the PESA falls,” said Vasantrao Naik Swavalambi Shetkari Mission chairman Kishore Tiwari.

Another tribal leader, Santosh Naitam said there have been discrepancies in the survey of forest lands in the possession of the tribals and the government must order a fresh time-bound survey by specialised teams for the rights of the forest people.

At a workshop for tribals held on Saturday, the participants were informed that under PESA the law gives powers to tribal panchayats to impose prohibition and take other public and welfare measures deemed fit for the tribals.

Tiwari said the law also gives direct ownership of non-mineral and forest resources to the local tribals, providing them with gainful employment opportunities within the village economy.