11 August, 2022
8 Min Read
Gujarati political parties are attempting to win over tribal voters by promising to adhere closely to the 1996 Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act.
The State PESA Rules were made applicable to 4,503-Gram Sabhas under 2,584 village panchayats in 50 tribal talukas in eight districts of Gujarat by notification of the rules in January 2017.
The Act, however, has not been strictly adhered to.
The PESA law has been so far enacted in six states (Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra), and Chhattisgarh would become the seventh state if the rules were to be implemented.
The 1992 Indian Constitutional Amendments 73 and 74 extended the three-tier Panchayati Raj system of government to the nation's rural and urban areas.
To apply, with some changes, to the Scheduled Areas the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to Panchayats.
Under the PESA Act, the Gram Sabhas were given broad authority to: enforce prohibition; control or impose restrictions on the sale and use of any intoxicant.
Democratic decentralization: PESA gives Gram Sabhas significant authority over all social sectors and the ability to approve development plans. This involves control over:
Identity Preservation: The gram sabhas have authority over tribal affairs, the upkeep of cultural traditions and identity, and the management of natural resources in a village's vicinity.
Conflict Resolution: The PESA Act thus enables gram sabhas to maintain a safety net over their rights and surroundings against external or internal conflicts.
Public Watchdog: Within the boundaries of their villages, the gram sabha would have the authority to regulate and forbid the production, distribution, sale, and consumption of intoxicants.
Gandhian Philosophy: The Act is based on the Gandhian idea of Gram Swaraj, which is embodied in Article 40 of the Constitution (which organizes local panchayats) and only came to life with the passage of PESA.
Past injustice: Its provisions gave the impression that a saviour had emerged, erasing the historical injustice done to the tribal people and restoring their honour and self-government customs.
For state governments: The Center and states' lack of commitment to gram sabhas' strengthening is demonstrated by the Act's violations and the weakening of the Act.
Laws governing the land acquisition, excise, forest production, mining and minerals, Agri produce market, and money lending must be changed for state governments to comply with PESA.
Civil society: Since they are more familiar with the realities and problems that tribal people confront on the ground, it is important to include civil society and NGOs working well in the tribal community to facilitate better PESA implementation.
In theory, PESA is an excellent piece of legislation, but its effectiveness depends on how seriously and effectively it is put into practice.
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Source: The Indian Express
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