The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA Act) is a law created by the Indian government to ensure self-governance for people residing in India’s Scheduled Areas through traditional Gram Sabhas. In India, the PESA is regarded as the cornerstone of tribal legislation. PESA acknowledges the existing decision-making structure and advocates for people’s self-governance.
How it empowers
Powers and functions that have been provided to the Gram Sabhas:
- Right to mandatory consultation in land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced persons.
- Protection of traditional belief, the culture of the tribal communities
- Ownership of minor forest products
- Resolution of the local disputes
- Prevention of land alienation
- Management of village markets
- Right to control production, distillation, and prohibition of liquor
- Exercise of control over money-lending
- Any other rights involving the Scheduled Tribes.
- It legally recognises the right of tribal communities, residents of the scheduled areas, to govern themselves through their own systems of self-government, and also acknowledges their traditional rights over natural resources. In pursuance of this objective, PESA empowers gram sabhas to play a key role in approving development plans and controlling all social sectors.
- This includes the processes and personnel who implement policies, exercising control over minor (non-timber) forest resources, minor water bodies and minor minerals, managing local markets, preventing land alienation and regulating intoxicants among other things.
- 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.
- 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; minor forest produce; mines and minerals; markets; and human resources. The gram sabha would have the powers to monitor and prohibit the manufacturing, transport, sale and consumption of intoxicants within their village limits. It also has a duty to maintain peace and resolve conflicts arising in the village, while protecting tribal customs and traditions, and encouraging customs.
- State governments are required to establish state laws in accordance with this national statute for their Scheduled Areas. As a result, the PESA was only partially implemented.
- In Adivasi areas, like as Jharkhand, the partial implementation has harmed self-governance.
- PESA failed to deliver, according to many experts, due to a lack of clarity, legal flaws, bureaucratic indifference, a lack of political will, opposition to change in the power structure, and so on.
- According to social audits undertaken across the state, different developmental programmes were approved on paper by Gram Sabha without any actual gathering for discussion and decision-making.
PESA will revitalise the tribal area’s fading self-governance system if it is implemented in word and spirit. This will also provide an opportunity to address the existing governance system’s flaws and make it a more gender-inclusive and democratic arena.
How to structure:
- Give a brief introduction of the PESA Act
- Give the features of it
- Analyse how it has tried to empower the tribals.
- Mention the roadblocks
- Suggest way forward and conclude