About PESA Act
- The Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, came into existence for ensuring tribal self-rule for people living in fifth scheduled areas of India.
- The PESA Act conferred the absolute powers to Gram Sabha, whereas state legislature has given an advisory role to ensure the proper functioning of Panchayats and Gram Sabhas.
- While the 73rd and the 74th Amendments to the Indian Constitution passed in 1992 took the three-tier Panchayati Raj governance structure to rural and urban parts of the country, the Adivasi-dominated areas listed under the fifth schedule of the Constitution were kept out of the purview of the Panchayati Raj Acts.
- The PESA Act, enacted in 1996, took local self-governance rules to the areas listed under the fifth schedule. The fifth schedule areas, which deals with the administration of the districts dominated by the Adivasi communities, is in force in 10 states of the country. These states include Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Telangana.
Features of PESA Act, 1996
- In pursuance of this objective, PESA empowers gram sabhas to play a key role in approving development plans and controlling all social sectors.
- The PESA is considered to be the backbone of tribal legislation in India.
- State governments were required to amend their respective Panchayat Raj Acts without making any law that would be inconsistent with the mandate of PESA.
- Following legal powers have been given to Gram Sabha under PESA Act:
- Safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people, their cultural identity, community resources and the customary mode of dispute resolution.
- Approve plans, programmes and projects for social and economic development before such plans, programmes and projects are taken up for implementation by the Panchayat at the village level.
- Identification or selection of persons as beneficiaries under the poverty alleviation and other programmes.
- Right to be consulted before making acquisition of land in the Scheduled Areas for development projects and before re-settling or rehabilitating persons affected by such projects in the Scheduled Areas.
- Right to plan and manage minor water bodies in the Scheduled Areas.
- Recommendations prior to grant of prospecting licence or mining lease for minor minerals and for grant of concession for the exploitation of minor minerals by auction in the Scheduled Areas.
- Power to enforce prohibition or to regulate or restrict the sale and consumption of any intoxicant.
- Ownership of minor forest produce.
- Power to prevent alienation of land in the Scheduled Areas and to restore any unlawfully alienated land of a Scheduled Tribe.
- Power to manage village markets.
- Power to exercise control over money lending to the Scheduled Tribes.
- Power to exercise control over institutions and functionaries in all social sectors.
- Power to control over local plans and resources for such plans including tribal sub-plans.
- The PESA Act thus enables gram sabhas to maintain a safety net over their rights and surroundings against external or internal conflicts.
Present Status of Act
- However, the law remains disempowered as 40% of the states under its purview have not been able to frame their rules for its implementation even after 25 years of its existence.
- Once considered as one of the most powerful legislation supporting the Adivasi community which constitutes around 9% of India’s population, a total of four states – Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha have not even framed the rules yet.
- But even in the states where the rules were formulated, the situation is not different. States were supposed to amend their law incorporating the provisions of PESA but even though some states managed to formulate the rules they performed quite poorly on ensuring their implementation.
- A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Public Administration (2017) in six districts of three states – Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, highlights the poor implementation of the PESA Act.
- For example: In the Khunti district of Jharkhand, 65% of people whose land was acquired in 2017-18 said they were not even asked about it. From the same Khunti district, the Pathalgadi movement began and spread to several other districts and also to neighbouring states like Odisha and Chhattisgarh in 2017-2018.
- Pathalgadi is a practice adopted by many tribal villages to declare their gram sabha as the only sovereign authority, as per laws applicable in areas under fifth schedule of the Constitution.
- Under this practice, huge stone plaques, called Pathalgadi in the local dialect, were put up outside tribal settlements stating that laws made by the Parliament or the state Assembly were not applicable in the region, besides warning outsiders from entering, wandering, living or settling down in the village.
- The movement was, however, quelled in 2018, following police action and arrest of its leaders, most of whom were charged with sedition.
Why in News?
- The Chhattisgarh government has started the process to frame the rules to implement the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.
- Since the PESA Act was passed, six states – Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat – have made rules while Chhattisgarh , Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand have yet to do so for implementation of the Act.