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Politics of the policy for tribals

Critics feel that the draft of the National Policy for Scheduled Tribes is only a publicity stunt to promote the 'feel-good' factor among the tribals ahead of polls.
PTI | By Joseph Marianus Kujur
UPDATED ON APR 14, 2004 12:10 PM IST

Despite the electorates being gripped by the Lok Sabha election fever, various tribal organisations are engrossed these days in debating the draft of the National Policy for Scheduled Tribes.

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs claims that after Independence this is the first time that a policy for the empowerment of the tribals is going to be formulated. The Ministry envisages giving a coordinated direction to tribal development and, before finalising the policy, wants feedback on the draft from the tribal leaders, the States concerned, individuals, organisations in the public and private sectors, and NGOs.

The proposed policy covers areas such as formal education, traditional wisdom, health, displacement and resettlement, forest villages, shifting cultivation, land alienation, intellectual property rights, tribal languages, primitive tribal groups, scheduled tribes and scheduled areas, tribal administration, research, participation, and assimilation.

The Ministry claims that the new policy on the tribals is the best answer available to the nagging problems of tribal development in the country.

Tribal intelligentsia and the commoners, however, are far from enamoured with the draft policy. They point out that there are already Constitutional provisions for the protection and development of the Scheduled Tribes. Besides these safeguards, the Nehruvian Panchasheel spelt out in 1952 claim to have been guiding the administration of tribal affairs.

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