Scheduled Areas in India are those with a predominance of tribal population and are subject to a special governance system in which the central government plays a direct role in protecting the cultural and economic interests of the region’s scheduled tribes. After reorganisation of districts, a total of 7 districts are fully covered and 6 districts partially, under the Scheduled Areas in Odisha.
Approximately one-fourth of the population of Odisha is ST, and according to the provisions of the Constitution, nearly half of the geographical area of the state falls within the Fifth Scheduled Area.
In exercise of powers conferred by sub-paragraph 6 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution the revised Presidential Order titled “The Scheduled Areas (states of Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh & Odisha) Order 1977” has declared the full districts viz. Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh, Koraput (which now includes the districts of Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur and Rayagada) , Kuchinda tehsil of Sambalpur district, Keonjhar, Telkoi, Champua, Barbil tehsils of Keonjhar district, Khondamal, Balliguda and G.Udayagiri tahasil of Khondamal district, R.Udaygiri tahasil, Gumma and Rayagada block of Parlakhemundi tehsil in Parlakhemundi Sub-division and Suruda tahasil (excluding Gazalbadi and Gochha Gram Panchayats), of Ghumsur sub-division in Ganjam district, Thuamul Rampur and Lanjigarh blocks of Kalahandi district and Nilagiri block of Balasore district as Scheduled Areas of the state.
After reorganisation of districts, a total of 7 districts are fully covered and 6 districts partially, under the Scheduled Areas of the state.
Brief study of the Constitution on Scheduled Tribe status
In the state, there are Adivasis who are not enrolled in the government’s ST list.
The chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, and leader of Adivasi Mahasabha, Jayapal Singh Munda, played an important role in ensuring arrangements for the security and growth of tribal communities.
Article 224(1) of the Constitution provides that the governors, together with the Tribes Advisory Council (TAC), have special jurisdiction over the administration of the Fifth Scheduled Area.
Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are nine states that have the Fifth Scheduled Area.
Without scheduled areas, states such as Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have TAC.
Part B of the 5th Schedule states that a Tribes Advisory Council consists of not more than 20 members, of whom nearly three-fourths are the representatives of the Scheduled Tribes in the legislative Assembly of the state.
The TAC must advise on the welfare and development of the state’s Scheduled tribes. In this regard, the Governor will make laws.
Odisha’s Tribes Advisory Council was formed with Chiisha for two years in 2014 all the majority of the members are tribal, with the exception of the Chief Minister and Secretary. The Secretary to the Council is the Principal Secretary of the ST and SC Development Department.
The tribal leaders of scheduled areas also argue that most of the TACs are governed and dominated by non-tribals who only need to be completely represented by tribals.
There has been no daily TAC meeting to address issues of concern about the life and livelihood of STs in the 5th Scheduled Region in Odisha.
Government role for Scheduled Areas in Odisha
It is argued that, according to the advice of the Tribes Advisory Council, the Governor is responsible for the administration of the 5th Scheduled Region, not the Council of Ministers.
Way back in 1948, in a debate in the Constituent Assembly, Jaypal Singh Munda said that the Scheduled Tribes should benefit from the provisions of the 5th Schedule region and that the TAC should be a fact and not a farce.
While he demanded a separate homeland for Central India’s indigenous people, he later joined the anti-colonial war to create modern India and became a member of the Constituent Assembly.
He said it was the culmination, with the enforcement of the Constitution, of six thousand years of marginalisation of Indian indigenous people dating back to the Indus Valley civilization.
“We are going to start a new chapter of independent India where there is equality of opportunities; where no one would be neglected,” he said.
Current status of Scheduled Areas in Odisha
Unsuccessful Tribes Advisory Council:
The TAC remains unsuccessful in many respects in fulfilling the hopes of the builders of the Constitution of Independent India after 66 years of enforcement of the Constitution.
A number of protective legal provisions have been implemented for the protection of STs such as SCs and STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act 2015, PESA Act 1996, FRA 2006 and special allocation of funds under the annual plan and sub-plans such as Consolidated Fund of India, 275(1), and Tribal Sub-Plan and MOTA grants explicitly allocated to the fifth scheduled area, but why no desired changes have been made.
The tremendous financial resources for tribal growth remain unused, leaving alone a lack of transparency and accountability. Under the District Mineral Base, CSR and CAMPA, the recent legal regulations have created the spectrum of financial resources as these funds are mainly for mining and forest areas, most of which are in planned areas.
Odisha is claimed to be the second state to give back tribal development funds.In amending state laws in compliance with provisions of the 5th Scheduled Area, such as the Odisha Panchayat Act, the Government of Odisha has failed to give Gram Sabha more control.
The 5th Scheduled Areas of the State are home to about more than 60 per cent of the total tribal population although they are highly resource-rich regions. But the STs’ measure of socio-economic growth reveals a very sad state of affairs.
Lack of basic amenities
Compared to other social classes, the scheduled areas in Odisha lag behind all measures of human growth, and a large chunk of the tribal population still lives in distress and sub-human misery.
In planned areas, the tribal population is decreasing rapidly due to social isolation, illiteracy, extreme poverty, malnutrition, migration distress, relocation, loss of livelihood and unemployment. Liberalisation and privatisation have paved the way for extractive industries, commercial projects and dams to become increasingly developed.
The entry of non-tribal communities into urbanisation has a direct effect on land, forest, water and, above all, the language, culture, faith and belief system of the local people. In the coming days, this presents a potential danger to the legal status of certain regions.
A long struggle
The colonial-age Adivasi struggle witnessed the emergence of many struggles, and Birsa Munda (1875-1900), who struggled for land, dignity and self-determination in the period of his 25 years, was the most noted protest. Today’s battles against similar obstacles continue to inspire historical legacies.
The leaders of the Indigenous People ‘s Forum, the Odisha ST People’s Forum, and the Adivasi Coordination Front, such as George Tirki, Nicolas Barla of Sundargarh and Theophil Gamango of Gajapati, argued that with the entry of corporations and non-tribals, organised state violence against STs in the 5th Scheduled areas has increased.
To counter left-wing extremism, police and paramilitary forces are deployed, but as is evident from Kandhamal, Nagada of Jajpur, Kashipur and Dana Majhi of Kalahandi, it is the STs who suffer most.
They are demanding to include all MADA, cluster areas and tribal villages of the State in the list of Scheduled areas.
Land and forest are fundamental to the life and wellbeing of STs, which were rejected by colonial laws and even today by the modern state in violation of the Constitution’s provisions.
The wretched situation is a severe violation of indigenous people’s right to life and development, and India, as a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, does not completely comply with the principles of the international convention.
Post-independent India has adopted Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s Pancasila ideals, but subsequent governments have not continued the ideals.
Request to the government
It is requested that all scheduled areas in Odisha get a place under the Eighth schedule to maintain the indigenous identity and that the Adivasi religion such as Sarna should be properly included in the religion code of the census.
In the form of their language, music, folk song, painting, weaving, agriculture, forestry, herbal medicine and community-based collective value system, the indigenous communities in Odisha hold rich cultural values.
These are the richness of Odisha, and by neglecting a significant part of its population and geographical area, the inclusive growth of Odisha is not feasible.