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Ravi Rebbapragada introduces a campaign to oppose the amendment of Schedule V of the Constitution of India
July 2001: The Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution that provides protection to the adivasi people living in the Scheduled Areas, is under imminent threat of being amended to allow the transfer of tribal lands to non-tribals and corporates. This move has serious economic and cultural implications to the 80 million tribals of the country. This report attempts to capture the sequence of recent events and concludes with an appeal for support.
The 1997 Supreme Court Judgement:
Samata, an NGO working in the scheduled area of Andhra Pradesh, filed a case against the Government of A.P for leasing tribal lands to private mining companies in the scheduled areas. The SLP [special leave petition] filed in the Supreme court led to a historic judgement in July 1997 by a three judge-bench which declared that government is also a 'person' and that all lands leased to private mining companies in the scheduled areas are null and void.Extracts: Salient features of this judgement
94. As per the 73rd Amendment Act, 1992, ."Every Gram Sabha shall be competent to safeguard ..Under clause (m) (ii) the power to prevent alienation of land in the Scheduled Areas and to take appropriate action to restore any unlawful alienation of land of a scheduled tribe".110. Minerals to be exploited by tribals themselves either individually or through cooperative societies with financial assistance of the State. 112. In the absence of total prohibition, the court laid down certain duties and obligations to the lessee, as part of the project expenditure. 114. Atleast 20% of net profits as permanent fund for development needs apart from reforestation and maintenance of ecology. 115. Transfer of land in Scheduled Area by way of lease to non-tribals, corporation aggregate, etc stands prohibited. 116. Renewal of lease is fresh grant of lease and therefore, any transfer stands prohibited. 117. Transfer of mining lease to non-tribals, company, corporation aggregate or partnership firm, etc is unconstitutional, void and inoperative. State instrumentality's like APMDC stand excluded from prohibition. 129. In the absence of total prohibition in some states with Scheduled Areas, Committee of Secretaries and State Cabinet Sub Committees should be constituted and decision taken thereafter. 131. Conference of all Chief Ministers, Ministers holding the Ministry concerned and Prime Minister, and Central Ministers concerned should take a policy decision for a consistent scheme throughout the country in respect of tribal lands.
Instead of implementing the orders of the Supreme Court which gives strength and clarity to the Fifth Schedule, the Central government has not only ignored the directions, but has also continued its efforts to reverse the judgement.
In view of future mining activities, the Supreme Court had given certain clear directions on the course of action that could be taken by the government. It directed that the Prime Minister should convene a conference of all Chief Ministers and other concerned Central Ministers, to take a policy decision so as to bring about a suitable enactment in the light of the guidelines, so that a consistent scheme throughout the country is evolved and adopted. However, if the Constitution is amended for the sake of mining as proposed, there will be many sectors which would justify acquisition of tribal lands for other development objectives. This would only lead to tribals being completely destroyed and dislocated. The government has not taken any of these serious issues into consideration when it started its sale of the first public sector mining company in the scheduled area.
The opinion of the government is evident in its recommendations through the Attorney General Soli Sorabjee who had, ironically, appeared on behalf of the tribals in the Samata Case! If nothing else, this raises the question of whether Mr. Sorabjee, in now representing a party opposed to his earlier client, may be acting with conflicting interests. In his new avatar as the government's spokesman (rather than Samata's) he stated to the Ministry of Mines in the above mentioned Secret Document that -
All the above moves are clearly indicative of the wholesome disregard of the Government towards adivasi rights under the Constitution. A majority of Fifth Schedule areas have already have a history of revolts and rebellions against state oppression and injustice. Any move to amend the Fifth Schedule, will only result in agitations and unrest. We demand that such moves should be immediately withdrawn.The Campaign's APPEAL
For this purpose of initiating discussion and planning out strategies, we have organised a Protest National Convention in ISI, New Delhi, on 8th & 9th July 2001 with the participation of Adivasi communities, grass-roots organisations and movements, NGOs, resource and advocacy groups, trade unions, legal and other experts.
We hope that you will deliberate this situation and join us in our fight to stop this proposed amendment to the Fifth Schedule. We appeal to you to take it up with your respective party, government, union, association, organisation, community, university and any other fora to prevent such a constitutional disaster. We also appeal to you to bring this up as a very urgent and important national issue to be immediately solved peacefully before the situation goes beyond control.Ravi Rebbapragada
F 10/12, Malaviya Nagar,
Tel : 011 6680883, 6680914
email@example.com Indian Social Institute
Dr. Prakash Louis
10, Institutional area
Lodhi Road, N Delhi - 3
Tel: 011 4611745,4622379