Janjatis are the lifeline of Bharatiya Sanskriti. But unfortunately they are the deprived sections of the society, majority of whom are not even able to reside in revenue villages. They lack basic facilities. They are targets of the Naxalites. ?But enough is enough; we would now revolt for the rights of Janjatis,? said Jual Oram, former Union Minister for Tribal Affairs while talking to Organiser corespondent Deepak Kumar Rath. Excerpts.
What are the major problems of Janjatis?
There are 600 Janjati groups and each group has its own language. Janjatis are facing a major problem of land, as there is no land record in their name and which they are tilling since decades. There are a number of villages named vanagram, but there are only few revenue villages where elected representatives can start development schemes of the government. In Janjati dominated areas Naxallites are also creating unrest. Economic problem is the biggest obstacle for Janjatis for the development of health and education. You know, half of the people Below Poverty Line (BPL) category are Janjatis. Since about 60 per cent Janjatis are living in non-revenue villages, how can they avail of BPL facilities? In Janjati areas there is no road, drinking water, electricity and infrastructures. They are not getting proper price for their produce, as there is no market for them, and financial constraints. There are maximum dropouts in Janjati schools. Forced conversions by the missionaries in Janjati areas are making them lose their cultural diversity day-by-day.
How can the Naxalite activities be tackled in the Janjati belts?
I don'tsupport the Naxalite activities. See, if they want to serve the society, I invite them to contest the elections, follow the democratic process. But they are not doing this. They are behaving like mafias. Instead of involving with any constructive activity, they are collecting haptas from the officers who are engaged in developmental projects. To avoid Naxalism the government has to concentrate on people-centric programmes in Janjati areas instead of its (governments) own projects. The local people should be given priority on developmental activities.
As a former Minister for Tribal Affairs, what were your initiatives to solve the Janjati problems?
We had created Tribal Finance Commission and had also earmarked separate budget provision for the Janjatis. But the money sanctioned was not utilised by the states and all the projects of the Ministry were not implemented by many states. We had given a circular to regularise the land records of the Janjatis up to December 1993. But unfortunately some people went to in the Supreme Court and it is now under stay. We also created infrastructure for hospitals and schools in Janjati areas. We rigorously monitored social welfare schemes for Janjatis. I visited a number of Janjati pockets all over the country where no Central Ministers had ever visited. In Mizoram, I was astonished to see the condition of the Janjatis.
Through TRIFED we marketed lots of tribal products. But I am very sorry to say that in the present UPA government, all the welfare projects are now out of track.