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BJP’s poor record on tribal welfare – Kashmir Media Service

Ever since the day the BJP parliamentary council announced that Draupadi Murmu, a Santhal leader from Odisha, would be the party’s nominee for President of India, the media has been brimming with opinions on how it was. of another “masterstroke” from the party high command, that it will win over the tribal communities in the State Assembly elections slated for the coming months/years and even in the 2024 general election.

While some goodwill may be created by party propaganda and the obsequious service of the mainstream media to the cause of the BJP, all of this hype begs the question of why does the BJP need these crutches? Why are the tribals disillusioned in the first place? This, of course, leads to the next question. Will such symbolic gestures allay the deep frustration and resentment simmering in vast swathes of tribal areas, both in central India and in the northeast?

Three key issues have caused tribal disaffection, particularly in the central Indian tribal belt that stretches from eastern Gujarat to Odisha, including northwestern Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and southern West Bengal. It should be noted that the BJP only runs the state governments in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and now Maharashtra. Even in these three states, he actually won the last Assembly elections only in Gujarat, having only managed to seize power in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra by splitting the party/l ruling alliance after a hiatus. This reflects the BJP’s rather weak position in tribal-dominated states and, therefore, its desperation to do whatever it takes to win back tribal communities. But the Modi government and BJP state governments have a very poor track record on the three issues of implementing the Forest Rights Act (FRA), allocating funds for tribal welfare and combating against the increasing atrocities against the tribals.

Land titles under FRA

The FRA, passed by Parliament in 2006, plans, among other things, to give land titles to tribals and other forest dwellers for plots of land they traditionally cultivate. This was envisioned as a measure to economically empower members of the tribal community. The chart below shows the track record of various states in implementing this law in terms of the share of claims that have been processed and land titles awarded as of the end of March 2022. Clearly, most states governed by the BJP – indicated in the orange bars – are lagging behind.

Among these BJP-ruled states, HP and Uttarakhand are small states, while UP has a very small tribal population, mostly concentrated in Sonabhadra district. What is remarkable is that with the exception of Tripura, none of the BJP-ruled states even exceeded the average of 50.4% claims converted into titles for all India. Gujarat, where the BJP has ruled continuously for almost 30 years, has just reached this average level. Most other non-BJP ruled states did much better, with Andhra Pradesh distributing 77% of claimed land titles and Odisha 71%. The data is derived from a response submitted by the government in response to a question to Rajya Sabha on July 20, 2022.

This means that those tribal farmers who cultivate forest land face evictions and harassment from the authorities, leaving them dependent on other means of survival. During the pandemic period, there have been reports of an increase in deportations of tribals, further worsening their plight.

Welfare fund allocation

A certain proportion of central budget funds are supposed to be set aside and spent exclusively on social welfare programs for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). The allocated funds are part of the Central Schemes and the Centrally Sponsored Schemes. The proportion is determined by the proportion of SC and ST, respectively, in the total population. According to the Niti Aayog guidelines of 2017, these proportions are 15.49% for SC and 8.2% for ST.

As shown in the graph below, the actual allocation for tribals was only 4.9% in 2018-2019, which then increased to 7.3% in the budget forecast for 2022-23, still in below the prescribed 8.2%. This analysis, based on budget documents, was carried out by the National Campaign for Dalit-Dalit Human Rights Arthik Adhikar Andolan, a Delhi-based Dalit and Adivasi rights group.

However, the situation is even more serious than that, as rights groups point out. Many of the programs that are shown to have an allocation for Dalit and Adivasi communities are in fact general programs; that is, they do not target these two disadvantaged and disadvantaged communities. For example, the School Grant is a general scheme for the entire school population, which also includes Dalit and Adivasi children. It is argued that such a general allocation does not serve the purpose of targeted programs for the empowerment of these communities. An example of targeted programs would be post-matric scholarship programs for Dalit and Adivasi students. Analysis by the NCDHR shows that targeted funds represent only 3.6% of total funds, although this proportion should have been 8.2% for tribals.

Between 2018-19 and 2022-23, the total allocation for central schemes and centrally sponsored schemes was Rs 49.3 lakh crore. Taking 8.2% of this, the allowance due should have been around Rs 4 lakh crore. The actual allocation was Rs 3.2 lakh crore, while the targeted and meaningful allocation was only Rs 1.3 lakh crore.

This blatant neglect has a direct effect on the lives of the tribes – children are denied scholarships or vocational training, houses are not built, laws that protect against atrocities are not properly enforced, etc.

Growing atrocities

According to data collected by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) based on state reports, 8,272 atrocity cases were reported in 2020, the latest year for which crime data is available. This means that a crime was committed against an adivasi person almost every hour, every day, throughout the year. Atrocities include all Indian Penal Code crimes like murder, rape, grievous bodily harm, etc. read with the Prevention of Atrocity Act (POA) which defines willful insult, discrimination, humiliation or dispossession of land, etc. like crimes.

The graph below, derived from NCRB data over the past five years, shows that there is an upward trend in such atrocities against Adivasis.

The BJP-led state governments paid little heed to this heinous aspect of social life. It must be said that a similar situation prevails with regard to the Dalits.

Can the election of President Murmu help?

While anything that lends a helping hand to this shocking condition of the tribals would be welcome, sadly, mere token actions are unlikely to bring about change. After all, India’s incumbent president is a Dalit himself, but that hasn’t changed much for Dalits in India. It is this sad reality that leads to the conclusion that the nomination and election of Draupadi Murmu is more of a BJP election tactic – and unlikely to succeed. To bring about a positive change in the condition of Dalits and Adivasis, there is still a lot to be done, including creating job opportunities, enabling young people to develop skills, providing land to these communities, filling the positions reserved within of government at the state and central government levels and strict enforcement of laws for their protection, among other measures.

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