Monday, September 15, 2008

Schemes for tribal welfare bearing fruit, but it could have been better

Express News Service
Posted: Sep 14, 2008 at 0419 hrs IST

Ahmedabad, September 13 TRTI’s impact assessment says subsidies insufficient, land ownership records not updated

The Tribal Research and Training Institute (TRTI) at Gujarat Vidyapith in Ahmedabad has submitted a detailed impact assessment report to the Tribal Development Department, Gujarat government, after analysing the performance of the ‘Development of Forest Settlements’ (DFS) scheme being implemented in all the 199 forest villages in Gujarat.

As per the scheme, the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs issues grants as Special Central Assistance (SCA) under the Tribal Sub Plan to respective state governments. These grants are further transferred to the Forest Development Agencies (FDA) for the implementation of various welfare schemes in the forest villages.

The scheme was approved by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in January 2005, under section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, allowing diversion of forest lands for providing the basic and essential development facilities to the tribal/forest villages.

The report prepared by three researchers of TRTI, Arun Patel, Chandrakant Patel and Ravindra Pancholi, has looked at the implications, benefits and loopholes in the scheme. According to their report, since 2005, FDAs in Gujarat have received around Rs 28 crore as SCA to be used in 72 development schemes in both community development and individual welfare programmes.

While explaining the welfare programmes, Pancholi said: “At the community level, wells, check dams and metal roads have been built. Fencing of villages is also underway at some places. As far as individual welfare programmes are concerned, housing, bank loans and Sarv Rog Nidan Camp to improve health care in forest villages have been undertaken. The seeds, fertilisers and equipments to increase the agricultural produce have also been supplied.”

Patel said: “In some areas, the Forest Department has allowed the tribals to use minor forest produce such as Timroo, Gond and Bili Patra for commercial purposes. We also found that in some villages, pipelines have been laid to supply water for irrigation purposes.”

Apart from the plus points, the report has highlighted some loopholes in the scheme too. The biggest problem, according to TRTI, is of insufficient subsidies. Pancholi said: “While the subsidy for a cow is Rs 7,000, it is Rs 8,000 for a buffalo. However, the market price of these animals is around Rs 15,000. This shows that the whole subsidy scheme is irrelevant.”

Another major loophole in the scheme is that there has been no ‘versaii’ in these villages. This essentially means that the ownership of land in forest villages has not been transferred across generations. Patel explained: “For example, if the old land record enlists only 100 residents of a village, the grant for welfare schemes come for only 100 people, despite the fact that the population of the village may have reached 1,000. This makes the grants extremely insufficient for the villagers.”


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