Helping displaced tribes to be focus of new govt policy under NGHM
The Centre has drafted a resettlement policy framework and a tribal development plan to help tribespeople displaced by green national highway corridors. The policy comes against the backdrop of concerns over possible loss of livelihoods and shelter for Scheduled Tribes living in selected stretches of the highways.
The aim of the policy is to avoid adverse impact on such area to the extent possible. Where it is unavoidable, project officials will consult the local gram sabha/panchayat for obtaining their broad support for initiating land acquisition.
“The objective is to design and implement projects in a way that fosters full respect for Indigenous People’s dignity, human rights, and cultural uniqueness and so that they: (a) receive culturally compatible, gender and inter-generationally inclusive social and economic benefits; and (b) avoid adverse effects during the development process, or if not feasible ensure that these are minimized, mitigated or compensated,” according to the policy, a copy of which has been seen by HT. The National Green Highways Mission (NGHM), under the transport ministry’s Green Highways Policy, was launched in September 2015 to expand the highway network and ensure plantations along the roads.
“The green corridors, relevant from both climate mitigation and adaptation perspective, are being seen as a solution to fulfil India’s commitment for voluntary reduction of carbon emissions,” according to the ministry.
So far, more than 5,000 km of avenue plantation works worth Rs 650 crore have been executed. Tribespeople have borne the brunt of development projects. Although scheduled tribes make up only 8.2% of the total population, they constitute 55% of the people displaced since independence due to the construction of dams, mines, industrial development projects and the creation of wildlife parks and sanctuaries, according to a study by the Centre for Policy Research on land rights.
“Poverty and landlessness is rampant among the STs. 51% of all STs are below the poverty line compared to 40.2% for the national average, and 65% of the STs are landless as per the 2011 Census...this group has disproportionately borne the burden of economic development,” it said.
Under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, unless otherwise provided, no member of a forest-dwelling ST or other forest-dwelling communities shall be evicted from the land under their occupation until the recognition and verification procedure is completed.
During the initial social impact assessment of four candidate roads in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, the transport ministry observed adverse social impact including loss of fertile agricultural land, “loss of structures used for residential, commercial and other purposes and associated loss of livelihood i.e., loss of livelihood due to impacts on sources of earning.”
A social impact assessment is undertaken on each road project to determine the magnitude of displacement and prospective losses, identify vulnerable groups, and prepare a resettlement and rehabilitation programme. Under the policy’s tribal redevelopment plan; the Centre has to provide resettlement entitlements, ensure that rehabilitation grants are used for productive purposes, provide training for the skill upgrading of tribespeople. It has to train the locals in better and more productive agricultural development and Involve NGOs in implementing successful income generation plans among others.
The policy also states that a micro plan shall be prepared for all the project-affected individuals. It will contain information on the extent of losses under various heads. The micro plan will be prepared by an NGO and submitted to the authority for approval. “The Authority with or without involvement of the District Collector Office as applicable will approve the micro plan for disbursement of assistance to entitled persons,” the policy states.