Newly-appointed tribal affairs minister Jual Oram on Thursday said he would ensure his ministry has a greater say in deciding approvals to industrial and infrastructure projects in tribal areas.
Oram’s statement assumes importance in the backdrop of his predecessor V Kishor Chand Deo’s recurring grouse that the tribal ministry did not have any say in such approvals.
“Deo was right when he said the tribal ministry did not have much power in many matters. We will ensure it changes,” he told HT. While the tribal affairs ministry runs several programmes aimed at welfare of tribals, approvals for any industrial project in tribal-dominated land lies with the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The tribal affairs ministry’s role in such projects kicks in only when there is a case of violation of Forest Rights Act (FRA). The ministry is the implementing authority for FRA which grants tribals and forest dwellers the ownership over the land they have been living on for years.
Oram said he would find a way to empower the ministry through inter-ministerial discussions. “In keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ten priorities which includes putting in a place a system for sorting out inter-ministerial issues, I will discuss the vexing issue with the environment ministry,” he said.
The minister also said that the tribals had, over the years, lost faith in the government machinery and that he would endeavour to win back their confidence.
“The way tribals are denied their basic rights, it is only obvious they will lose faith in government. FIRs are not registered, ownership of forest land they have been living on for years are denied,” he said.
These factors he said had contributed to the rise of Maoists in tribal areas. On whether he would oppose large-scale operations on the lines of operation Greenhunt carried out by the UPA government, he said, “That’s something the home ministry will decide not us. While the MHA will treat as a security problem we will treat it as social problem,” he said.