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Swami Agnivesh suggests 'people ownership model' for tribal area development

By Nitsi

New Delhi, Sept.8 (ANI): Blaming past Presidents of India and Governors of State for the poor condition of the tribals in the country, social worker Swami Agnivesh today suggested that only a 'People Ownership Model' of development will help solve the increasing naxal problem in India.

"The present loot model of development will not work. Tribals will not allow this kind of loot. The government will have to have come up with something like 'people ownership model' where the local tribals are made participatory in the development," Swami Agnivesh said while participating in a discussion on "Responding to Naxal Challenge: Thinking beyond conventional wisdom" at Observer Research Foundation here today.

The ORF release quoted Swami Agnivesh, as saying that while the Constitution has vested power on the President and Governors to take measures for the welfare of the tribals, none so far had used this power.

"Mere sorry will not do. The government has to own responsibility too," he said.

He said the Maoists are ready for talks with the government. "They are ready to limit their demands to the provisions already existed in the Indian Constitution. They are not asking for anything more."

"What can be more reasonable?" asked Surendra Singh, former Cabinet Secretary, about the Maoists demands while stressing that dispossession and marginalization of tribals by the nexus of politicians, bureaucrats, business community are the real problem.

Swami Agnivesh said he has again got a letter from Maoist leader Kishenji asking why mistreatment of Adivasis and rape of their women were not raised at the Lalgarh rally. He regretted the government's wasting of the breakthrough for talks with the Maoists.

He said the problem in Communist-ruled West Bengal is that the CPI-M is running armed camps in the forests which are clashing with the Maoists. "The fact of the matter is the CPI-M armed camps are bigger than the Maoists. They have much more arms than the Maoists altogether," he said, adding that it is strange that they wanted to fight with arms and also elections.

The ORF release quoted Keshav Rao, Congress Member of Parliament, as saying and agreeing that nothing has been done to better the lives of tribals despite providing many provisions for them in the Constitution.

He said: "We are all just talking. Nothing has been done to improve their lives, to save them from exploitations, he said. Rao suggested sincerely implementing the Constitutional provisions and sensitizing the peripheral villages to development to send the right message to the villages hit hard by insurgency.

Saying Adivasis are the original people of the country who got pushed towards the forests with every development, Mohan Guruswamy, who made the key presentation, suggested creation of self-governing districts in tribal majority areas, ownership rights over community lands and designated forest areas, creation of a new Civil Service for tribals, etc for solving the naxal problem.

He said first of all, the government should implement the provisions of the Indian Constitution with regard to the tribals besides ensuring that the royalties and income flowing from mineral and forest wealth should directly flow back to tribal areas.

B.G. Verghese, well-known journalist and activist, said the corporate world, which has more resources and managerial capability than many of the affected states, should be looked as a solution to the problem rather than as the problem itself.

The experts like Prof. Ajay Mehra, Mahendra Kumawat, former Special Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Dr. D.M. Mitra, Advisor, Naxal Management Division, MHA and Prof. Saroj Giri agreed that the problem could be solved only through dialogue and sincere implementation of the Constitutional provisions concerning tribals, ending their exploitation. (ANI)

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