Monday, May 21, 2012

The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA,1996)

**The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA, 1996) was enacted and came into operation on 24 December, 1996. 

**This Act extends Panchayats to the tribal areas of nine States, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh,Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand,Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan, which intends to enable tribal society to assume control over their own destiny to preserve and conserve their traditional rights over natural resources.

**All the State Governments have enacted their State Legislations in pursuance with the PESA, 1996.

**However, the State Governments are required to amend all the relevant Acts/Rules to bring them in conformity with the provisions of the PESA, 1996.


Going into the background of it

Village level democracy became a real prospect for India in 1992 with the 73rd amendment to the Constitution, which mandated that resources, responsibility and decision making be passed on from central government to the lowest unit of the governance, the Gram Sabha or the Village Assembly. A three tier structure of local self government was envisaged under this amendment.

Since the laws do not automatically cover the scheduled areas, the PESA Act was in-acted in 1996 to enable Tribal Self Rule in these areas. The Act extended the provisions of Panchayats to the tribal areas of nine states that have Fifth Schedule Areas.

The PESA Act gives radical governance powers to the tribal community and recognizes its traditional community rights over local natural resources. It not only accepts the validity of “customary law, social and religious practices, and traditional management practices of community resources”, but also directs the state governments not to make any law which is inconsistent with these. Accepting a clear-cut role for the community, it gives wide-ranging powers to Gram Sabhas, which had hitherto been denied to them by the lawmakers of the country.

Gram Sabha are endowed specifically with the following powers-

(i)  the power to enforce prohibition or to regulate or restrict the sale and consumption of any intoxicant;
(ii) the ownership of minor forest produce; 
(iii) the power to prevent alienation of land in the Scheduled Areas and to take appropriate action to restore any unlawfully alienated land of a Scheduled Tribes;
(iv) the power to manage village markets by whatever name called;
(v)  the power to exercise control over money lending to the Scheduled Tribes;
(vi) the power to exercise control over institutions and functionaries in all social sectors;
(vii)   the power to control over local plans and resources for such plans including tribal sub-plans;

How will PESA help to counter face Naxalism ?

The full-fledged implementation of PESA will give Rs 50,000 crore to tribal communities to develop themselves. Nothing would deal a bigger blow to the Maoists than participative development by, for and of the tribal communities. Of the 76 districts highly infected by the Maoists, 32 are PESA districts. Hence, honest implementation of the PESA Act would empower the marginalized tribals so that they can take care of their developmental needs. This would deprive the Naxals of their ground support coming from the misguided and helpless tribals.


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