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Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act 

Context:

Recently, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader declared a six-point “guarantee” for tribals in Gujarat’s Chhota Udepur district, including the “strict implementation” of The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA Act).

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About PESA Act:
  2. Objectives of the Act
  3. Why are rules under PESA important?

About PESA Act:

  • The provisions of Part IX of the constitution relating to the Panchayats are not applicable to the Fifth Schedule areas.
  • The Parliament may extend these provisions to such areas, subject to such exceptions and modifications as it may specify.
  • Under this provision, the Parliament has enacted the “Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act”, 1996, popularly known as the PESA Act or the Extension Act.
  •  At present, ten states have Fifth Schedule Areas. These are: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan. All the ten states have enacted requisite compliance legislations by amending the respective Panchayati Raj Acts.

Objectives of the Act

  • To extend the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the panchayats to the scheduled areas with certain modifications
  • To provide self-rule for the bulk of the tribal population
  • To have village governance with participatory democracy and to make the gram sabha a nucleus of all activities
  • To evolve a suitable administrative framework consistent with traditional practices
  • To safeguard and to preserve the traditions and customs of tribal communities
  • To empower panchayats at the appropriate levels with specific powers conducive to tribal requirements
  • To prevent panchayats at the higher level from assuming the powers and authority of panchayats at the lower level of the gram sabha

Why are rules under PESA important?

  • PESA rules enable the residents of scheduled areas to strengthen their village-level bodies by transferring power from the government to the gram sabha, a body of all the registered voters of the village.
  • The powers of gram sabhas include maintenance of cultural identity and tradition, control over schemes affecting the tribals, and control over natural resources within the area of a village.
  • The PESA Act thus enables gram sabhas to maintain a safety net over their rights and surroundings against external or internal conflicts. Without proper rules, its implementation is not possible as it is an exercise in decentralising the power from institutionalised structures, back to the village residents.
  • The laws, once formed, will give gram sabhas the power to take decisions not only over their customs and traditionally managed resources, but also on the minerals being excavated from their areas.
  • The rules state that the gram sabha will have to be kept informed by any and all agencies working in their village, and that the gram sabha has the power to approve or stop the work being done within the village limits.
  • The rules also give power to the gram sabhas over:
    • Management of resources over jal, jangal, zameen (water, forest and land), the three major demands of tribals;
    • Management of minor forest produce;
    • Management of mines and minerals;
    • Management of markets;
    • Management of markets human resources;
    • Monitoring and prohibition of the manufacturing, transport, sale and consumption of intoxicants within their village limits;
    • Maintenance of peace and resolving conflicts arising in the village;
    • Protecting tribal customs and traditions;
    • Encouraging customs like ghotul.

What is the issue in Gujarat?

  • Gujarat notified the State PESA Rules in January 2017, and made them applicable in 4,503 gram sabhas under 2,584 village panchayats in 50 tribal talukas in eight districts of the state.
  • The provisions of the law deem the Gram Sabhas as “most competent”.
  • However, the Act has not been enforced in letter and spirit.
  • The Act lays down that the state must conduct elections in such a way that the tribal representation is to be dominant in the Gram Sabha Committees.
  • Yet again, there has been no attempt to proportionally increase the representation.

-Source: Indian Express


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October 2022
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