At a time when government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and NAC under UPA chief Sonia Gandhi are stressing need of taking PESA into people for on ground information and impact, a committee under Ministry of Defence dropped the theme from the Republic Day tableau of Ministry of Panchayati Raj.
According to Panchayati Raj officials, the expert committee for selection of tableaus thought the subject - Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act - ‘was complicated to explain.’
“When we presented our proposal of Gram Sabha and PESA six months back, the committee said it is complicated to explain, following which we reworked to present theme of ‘active Gram Sabha,” a disappointed ministry official said. Gram Sabha was the theme of PR ministry for one year -October 2009 to October 2010.
PESA, officials said would have added meaning and relevance to the much-used theme of Gram Sabha. A PESA themed colorful tableau, with voice over, could have been viewed and understood by crores of Indians – even remotest rural, tribals watching the live-telecast of parade on January 26th on national broadcaster Doordarshan – free of cost.
The Ministry that also runs programme like Backward Regions Grant Fund has a meagre under Rs eight crore budget for publicity.
“I would not remember as what transpired as there were series of meetings,” a committee member said.
The Ministry managed to make appearance in the parade – a national pride -after four years, ‘after much reluctance from the authorities’. “Yes, we had to convince them a lot. The idea of PESA is wonderful, not at all complicated to explain. May be we should have stressed on PESA,” A N P Sinha, secretary, MoPR told HT admitting the Ministry woke up to the point a bit too late.
The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act is a law enacted in 1996 to empower gram sabhas (village general bodies) safeguard rights of locals (predominantly tribal) over land and other forest resources apart from giving them say over governance matters –identifying beneficiaries for government schemes or approval of land acquisition for mining or industry.
PESA, though completing 15 years is a laggard in implementation on ground, largely attributed to reluctance of State governments and lack of information of act in public.
Of 94 PESA districts, 32 are identified as Extremist Affected and of 34 districts most affected of extremism 19 fall under PESA – highlighting importance of the act in stemming alienation.