While the country is rushing to complete its aspiring developmental projects, her tribal and Schedule Caste population is the worst hit due to large-scale transfer of agricultural and forest lands. This has been stated by the Committee on State Agrarian Relations and The Unfinished Task in Land Reforms set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in January 2008.
The report presents a unique challenge before the government to manage the precious land resources and keep pace with the demand of economic growth. The country witnessed rapid growth and a slow down in agriculture during the past two decades.
"The tribals have been the biggest victims of displacement due to development projects. Though they are just 9 per cent of the population, the tribal communities have contributed over 40 percent of the total land acquired so far," notes the committee.
"Massive transfers of agricultural and forest land for industrial, mining and infrastructure projects have created rural unrest and distress migration," the report further observes. Sadly, though the government stands committed to protection of the tribal corpus of land, and there is a protective legislative framework in the form of Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, better known as PESA, tribal land is subject to erosion through moneylenders, collusive title suits, illegal or forcible possession, fraudulent transfers and incorrect entries in land records, the report states.
Though PESA restores the community command over natural resources and empowers the Gram Sabha to identify and restore the alienated tribal lands and protect the tribal way of life, in none of the 9 states with tribal populations, the act has been implemented, notes the committee.
The committee has made a special mention that declining operational holdings size and the ownership size indicates that the corpus of tribal land is in serious danger of erosion.
Data shows around 10 lakh acres of land, 750,000 acres for mining and another 250,000 acres for industrial purposes, have been transferred during the past two decades.