“My permission is not required nor my opinion is sought in matters relating to tribals. My voice goes unheard,” tribal affairs minister V Kishore Chandra Deo told HT, referring to what he called limited powers of his ministry in tribal welfare.
The tribal affairs ministry was set up in 1999 for an integrated socio-economic development of the tribals, who account for 10.4 crore of the population.
In an embarrassment for the government that swears by the dalits and tribals in its social agenda, Deo has opined that his ministry lacks a definitive role to empower tribals.
The comments of the union cabinet minister also in-charge of panchayati raj – the governance system at village level - come at a time when the UPA government has launched a media blitzkrieg of its achievements, including the Forest Rights Act.
“While we empower the forest dwellers through the act, it is the environment and forests ministry that gives clearances to industrial projects in forest areas. We should have a say here,” Deo said referring to a recent controversy over allowing linear projects in forest areas without consent of the Gram Sabhas.
Deo also reminded that his ministry is involved in the Vedanta mining project case only after the direction of the Supreme Court.
In a startling revelation, Deo, said he is clueless on the utilization of funds mandated under the Tribal Sub Plan. For 2012-13, over R21, 000 crore had to be allocated by various departments towards tribal welfare schemes.
“I have no idea how this money is spent. I have no role in the process,” Deo said adding that letters to the ministries on use of these funds went unreturned.