Consultation on Draft National Policy on Tribals

Date: 15th and 16th November 2004
Venue: Department of Anthropology, Arts Block,
BJB Autonomous College, Bhubaneswar


The two-day consultation on the ‘Draft National Policy on Tribals’ was organised by Orissa Development Action Forum (ODAF) in collaboration with Orissa Adivasi Adhikar Abhijan (OAAA) and Department of Anthropology, BJB Autonomous College on 15th and 16th November at BJB College, Bhubaneswar.

Objectives of the Consultation

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs of the Government of India had prepared a Draft National Policy on Tribals and invited comments and suggestions on this policy from Adivasis researchers, NGOs. social activists and state governments having adivasi population. Eminent Anthropologists, Social Scientists, Civil Society organizations , Advocates and Media representatives from Orissa, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka participated in the two-day deliberation.

The main objectives of the consultation were:

  • To review the Draft National Policy on Tribals
  • To understand different perspectives from different people – Academicians, Intellectuals, NGOs and Activists
  • To revisit the State Adivasi Policy formulated by Adivasis
  • To build solidarity between different interested groups
  • To form a Think Tank to critically analyse various policies, identity inadequacies, and formulate alternative position papers
  • To mobilise of the communities towards demanding pro people Adivasi Policy at National and State level and work towards a National Level Rally at New Delhi
Inaugural Session

The consultation began with a welcome note by Mr. Sukant Mohanty, Secretary; Seva Bharati He elaborated the background and vision of the workshop. The panelists for the session were Prof. B.K. Roy Burman, (Former Chairman- Tribal Studies Panel, Indian Council of Social Science Research, Social Policy Advisory Committee, Manipur), Prof. L.K. Mahapatra, Chairman Naba Krushna Choudhury Centre for Development Studies, Bhubaneswar (former Vice-Chancellor, Utkal University and Sambalpur University), Dr. Ram Dayal Munda (former Vice-Chancellor Ranchi University, and Former member of the Presidium of Indian Consortium of Indigenous and Tribal people), Dr. K.C. Malhotra (Former Professor of Anthropometry and Human Genetics, Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta and Member of Planning Commission- Committee on National Strategy of Conservation, (NBSAR)), Advocate Sanjay Upadhyaya (Director, Legal affairs - Defense Fund, Delhi), Prof B.N. Patnaik, (Vice Principal of BJB Autonomous College, Dr. William Stanley, (Executive Secretary ODAF), Ms. Hemlata Hontal (an eminent Adivasi leader from Koraput) and Mr. Basudeb Jani, (President OAAA), Dr. K. C. Malhotra moderated the session.

Dr. K. C. Malhotra in his welcome speech congratulated the participants and invited Ms. Naranga Pujari and team to present a song to mark the beginning of the workshop.

Prof. B.K. Roy Burman inaugurated the consultation by lighting of lamp and candles amidst the hymn of Adivasi welcome songs by members of OAAA

After the inauguration Mr. Kaira Singh paid a tribute to Birsa Munda, the great adivasi leader and martyr and said this Consultation is organized this day to remember the deeds of Birsa Munda .

Dr. William Stanley greeted all the participants on behalf of the organisers and gave a brief description of ODAF and its functioning. In his deliberations, he spoke about the sub-human attitude and apathy projected towards our Adivasi brethren everywhere. In the national census the Adivasis constitute 8.1% of the national population and 23% in MP, 22.21% in Orissa, 8% in Bihar and 6% in West Bengal. In fact, half of the total Adivasi population inhibit in this region alone. Contrary to the general perception of Adivasi primitiveness, Adivasis of Orissa, which constitutes 22.21% of the state population, exhibit great variety in languages, culture, customs and practices. The Adivasi population in the state includes most populated tribes such as Gond, Santhal, Oraon and the Kondh and unique tribes such as Juang, Bondo, and Bhuiyan are only found in the state of Orissa. He further informed that during the last few years the Adivasi identity is at risk in the country because they are referred as ‘tribal communities’ which is a legal term that excludes some groups who might be considered as Adivasis. In the absence of a clear policy framework for the Adivasis, the economic development poses a serious threat leading to further marginalisation. He also said that the time has come to build solidarity to understand different perspectives with regard to the Adivasi development in the state as well as the country.

He requested the participants to go through different documents and draft papers on the adivsi issue provided in the reference pack and invited all to contribute substantially to the cause of policy recommendations. He also detailed on the plan of activities and documentation in the workshop.

Mr. Basudeb Jani expressed his concern over the discrimination caused to the Adivasis in the field of education, health and property rights. There is no recognition to the basic minimum rights of the Adivasis who do not have free access to natural resources in their surrounding habitats and suffer from land alienation by the non-Adivasis, the state and corporates. He suggested that the village committee should be empowered for carrying out village development plans, managing natural resources and resolving conflicts in accordance with traditional customs and practices.

Ms. Hemalata Hontal said that even after 57 years of independence, the Adivasis are living with an identity crisis. In all these years the struggle for rights pushed the Adivasis into the clutches of poverty. She shared that the state is responsible for destroying the Adivasi value system by propagating the issue of mainstreaming the Adivasis. The natural resources are handed over to the outsiders in the name of development at the cost of disposition of the Adivasis. Apart from all the assurances they were never compensated genuinely for their displacement and resettlement. She felt that the state should recognise the cultural pattern, languages, social institution and legal system of the Adivasis as a heritage in the history of the nation. She concluded that the rights for secured land tenures, forest and forest based products, women property rights and access and control over local water resources should be given due recognition in the policy.

Prof B.N. Patnaik said that the diversity in Indian culture owes its richness to the contributions by the varied range of traditional Adivasi culture and practices. These traditions should be further developed through research and recognition. There should be a separate university for Adivasi studies, their language, culture and life style. The Adivasi areas should be developed into places of tourist interest. He also said that the Adivasi policy should be area specific.

Dr. Malhotra summing up the views of the speakers agreed that a majority of the population regards the Adivasis as primitive and government programs aim at integrating them with the mainstream rather than emphasising their distinctiveness. He told that there is a need for a collective effort for the formulation of a just Adivasi policy and requested Dr. B. K. Roy Burman to deliver the keynote address.

Prof. B. K. Roy Burman in his key note address critically analysed the different aspects in the draft national policy which are: a) Formal education, b) Traditional wisdom, c) Health, d) Displacement and resettlement, e) Forest villages, f) Land alienation, g) Intellectual Property Rights, h) Primitive tribal groups, i) Scheduled tribes and scheduled areas, j) Research, k) Participatory approach, l) Assimilation. Among these Participatory Approach and Assimilation are truly policy issues where as the others are inventory of already existing plans and programs. The definitions and descriptions in the draft policy are derogatory in nature. He questioned the jurisdiction of the policy as the separately created Ministry of Tribal Affairs has extremely limited operational mandate.

Most of the plans and programs in respect of the Adivasi people are formulated and implemented by line departments. Unless reoriented to the needs of diverse adivasi communities, the line departments within the budgetary limits of the tribal sub plan would implement the plans and programs meant for the general population. The state machinery could not even accord the status of a National Policy Instrument to Nehru’s Panchasheel (a set of five principles) approach to the Adivasi people.

The access of the Adivasis to natural resources is threatened due to the indiscriminate growth of industries, modernisation and consumerist market economy. They are also becoming more marginalised due to failure of various government initiatives such as Adivasi Sub-plans, Special Component Plans, Primitive Adivasi Micro Projects, Modified Area Development Agency, Cluster and Dispersed Adivasi Development programmes and Special Education Program.

He critically examined the policy statement where it states that identification of Adivasi groups with primitive traits shall be done away with on a priority basis to bring the adivasi people into country’s mainstream. 75 of the 698 STs are identified as Primitive Tribal Groups, considering that they are more backward than other STs. In this context the hierarchy of the primitiveness is derogatory. The statement on provision of opportunities for the adivasis to interact with outside cultures is patronizing in tone. As regards to assimilation, it is incoherent and disharmonic not only to the national reality of symbiosis of pluri-cultural, pluri-ethnic structures, but even to the national ethos of unity in diversity.

He threw light on the concept of participatory approach in the policy where the NGOs are involved as conduits for reaching government plans, programs and policies at the grass roots level. There is no provision of participation of the adivasi people in formulating plans and programs meant for them and in implementing and monitoring the same. As regards formal education, the experience shows that specific orientation for specific tribes was necessary for the implementation of different schemes. There is no holistic view of education in the document. As regards health care, the national health policy focuses on both medical and non medical aspects of health care. The draft adivasi policy has virtually ignored the non medical aspects of health care. As of displacement and resettlement, the term rehabilitation should be more appropriate than resettlement.

He informed that the forest villages were created by law to ensure regular supply of labour for forest department and others. The habitation terms and conditions in these villages were similar to those of bonded labour. In the provision for developing these villages at par with the revenue villages even if these can not be converted to revenue villages, the policy is in express agreement with the continuation of the bonded labour system.

In the context of Primitive Tribal Groups in the draft policy, a detailed focus is sought after to deal with the two specific tribes – ex-criminal tribes and nomadic tribes. As of excriminal tribes, in many cases it was not the entire communities, but specific segments of specific areas or some named bands within the communities were notified as Criminal Tribes under the Act of 1874. In several cases the communities are being treated as ex-criminal or de-notified tribes and to them the benefit of indignity as descendants of criminals extended which perpetuate the stigma of their being criminals in the eyes of their neighbours. As regards nomadic tribes the policy points to nomadic tribes’ sedentarisation schemes without acknowledging nomadism as a structural feature underpinned by institutional arrangements.

There are certain undemocratic provisions made in the V Schedule as regards to the schedule tribes and scheduled areas. The policy document has not analytically focused on the incongruities and inadequacies responsible for the unsatisfactory state of affairs of ITDAs and ITDPs and non-banking financial institutions like TDCC, FDC & LAMPS and spelt out policy parameters to rectify the situation.

He also emphasised that the research institutes established by the government are to be restructured with the inclusion of outside social scientists of national credibility.

Prof A. B. Ota delivered vote of thanks to the panelists of the session, the participants, the organisers and the volunteers.

1st Technical session: Adivasi Identity

In the post-inaugural panel discussion, five resource persons deliberated extensively on issues of identity in relation to territory, dialect, language, religion, socio-cultural aspects and the status of Adivasi women. The moderator for the session Dr. Jonathan Gnanadasan, Founder Member, ODAF explained the course of action for the session at the outset. He pointed out that there is scope for a lot of improvement in the so called policy meant for Adivasis. In this context, he invited the panelists Dr. Nafisa D’Souza, Director LAYA, Dr. A. C. Sahoo, Director, Academy of Tribal Language and Culture and Ms. Lalita Missal, State Coordinator NAWO to put forth their reflection on the said topic.

Dr. Nafisa D’Souza said that at present adivasi people are going through a process of transition in relation to their identity. There is a necessity to identify indicators in order to assess, measure and evaluate this transitional process. For instance an indicator like the changing relationship between adivasi and surrounding natural resources could be taken into account for understanding the process of loss of access to natural resources. With liberalization and development better financial capability, more consumer goods are reaching the adivasi population. However, it doesn’t necessarily translate to better nutrition or health in their case. Talking of development, the rootedness of adivasis is a vital issue. Most of the communities across the Globe have suffered rootlessness at some point or the other. However, the crucial issue for a adivasi is the possible substitutes available to them for self-actualisation. The challenges that are faced by the communities now could be broadly categorized as the following:

Gradual loss of institutional memory, Stratification of society based on religion, monetary divide, Changing status of women owing to increasing gender inequalities

Identity is closely linked to mechanisms of survival, she clarified. The external and internal threats to identity are-

Loss of community bonding, Livelihood insecurity, Rising aspirations versus community interests, Leadership crisis, Relegation of women’s


She said that indigenous societies all over the world have faced questions in relation to identity, but in our case the situation is radically different as there is an absence of romantic reconstruction of identity.

Dr. A.C Sahoo citing examples from his own experience stated that even small Adivasi groups have individualistic traits. He was of the view that a greater degree of sensitivity and empathy is required while imparting education in adivasi region. He rightly pointed out that indigenous people know the true art of living. Thus there is a necessity to incorporate practicable suggestions from the adivasis themselves.

Ms. Lalita Missal spoke on the current status of Adivasi women who more or less form 50% of the adivasi population in most places. She highlighted the following problems

Depleting health status mainly due to depletion of forest, which, has resulted in scarcity of nutrition and natural medicines. Also the non-availability of ample primary health services, scarcity of safe drinking water and increase in pest population.

Low nutritional level as food crops have lately been replaced with cash crops, High mortality rate among infants and mothers, Illiteracy – higher drop out rates owing to unsuitable medium of instruction and curriculum Diminishing social participation, Loss of access over resources (no property rights), Transformation from cultivators to labourers owing to industrializatio, Exclusion from social proceedings like gram sabhas and other village meetings, High incidences of sexual exploitation

All of the above have resulted in greater alienation. Subsequently, she came up with some valuable suggestions for betterment of the women which are as follows:

Provision of safe drinking water, Provision of mobile health service vehicles to ensure safe deliveries and other emergency service needs, Education by ensuring enrollment through several incentives, The conditionality of two children should be taken out from PRI functionality, Registration of land pattas in women’s name, Need for abolishing bride-price system, Gender impact assessment in relation to development projects, Setting up of a Adivasi Mahila commission/ special women’s cell/ creation of a wing under SC/ST cell to advocate the rights of Adivasi women

Following the panel discussion, buzz group discussions were held with aid from resource persons and following recommendations were made for the draft policy with regard to Adivasi Identity:

Adivasi identity must be based on value frame work, The identity of any group or community should not infringe in human rights frame, Adivasi Mahila commission be constituted with legislative powers, Land pattas in the name of both men and women, The land which are with the possession of adivasis should be recorded immediately in their favour, Each tribe should enjoy total autonomy and involve its own life style. No Adivasi policy should be imposed by the central govt. All Adivasi children should be educated in the medium of the Adivasi language taught by the Adivasi teacher. The Adivasi teacher should also teach Oriya language.

In policy level rights over natural resources, importance to their self governance system, respect their value based culture and knowledge system and also practices for the sustainability of their identity within their territories.

In context of the transitions, the focus should be on protecting their key identities, awareness building through education, giving them the right choice and participatory approach in policy implementation.

Interest of each individual group including gender needs to be protected, From initial stages the adivasi language should be compulsory basing on culture, There should be community specific religious code of conductThe efforts of our Adivasi communities to establish their identity (a multi faceted concept) should be compassionately supported through a state/ national policy and implemented whole heartedly failing which large scale adivasi unrest on the anvil may erupt to disrupt the apparent comforts of the non tribal and exploiting adivasis, A women cell at the block level should be constituted consisting of at least one woman knowing the local language. Any worker working in the govt. and non govt. sector should know the culture and traditions of the local people along with their language. Local teacher should be employed for imparting education in the villages.

Record of Rights on forestland should be given. Rights over natural resources like water, land and forest to be vested with the Adivasis. The following should be considered in framing the policy for adivasis Adivasi values (agriculture methods, festivals, conflict resolution etc) should be taken into consideration. To safe guard these cultural practices and rights over resources should be focused.

Post-lunch Session: Tribal Economy

In this technical session ‘Adivasi Economy’ was discussed elaborately. Views on land alienation, displacement and rehabilitation and issues related to Natural Resource Management, economic globalization, conflict between protected areas and Adivasi livelihood, shifting cultivation, livestock and skills were put forth. The panelists were Dr. L. K Mohapatra, former Vice chancellor, Utkal University, Dr. A. B. Otta, HoD, Anthropology, BJB Autonomous College, Dr. Saratchandra, Executive Director, Centre for Research on Environment, Development Innovations, Technology and Trade, Bangalore, Mr. Trinath Rao, Advocate, Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Manoj Pradhan, Executive Director, CPSW and Mr. Walter Mendoza, Social Activist. Mr. Dominic D’Souza moderated the session.

Dr. L. K. Mohapatra was critical on the provisions in the National Adivasi Policy, which do not have adequate focus on alienation, displacement, community ownership and management of resources. He informed that in 1992, Government of Orissa made a declaration to allocate the land rights to the shifting cultivators of Kasipur up to 30 degrees of the hills they were cultivating. However, this could not be properly implemented. He clarified that for Adivasis, the land is not a commercial commodity but a community asset. They not only lose mere lands when they are ousted in the name of development initiatives, but also lose their common property resources. Over 25 million people have been evicted against their wishes in our country. And in the process, they have lost their past, present and future. The replacement value allocated by the government can never compensate such a terrible loss, he clarified.

Dr. Saratchandra made the following recommendations to be taken up as a responsibility of local communities in relation to Protected Areas:

Threatened species and eco-systems from further threats emanating from within or outside the communities themselves should be protected. Conflict prevention, building of trust, confidence and security within their local areas and bioregions should be established. The traditional and customary utility of land, water and other resources in a sustainable manner should be retained. Traditional practices to be nurtured and to be handed over as legacy. Cultural, spiritual and intellectual heritage and the knowledge related to bio-diversity and natural resource management should not be used in ways detrimental to the ecological security of the area.

Mr. Trinadha Rao said that the Adivasi economy is controlled by external factors. The Adivasis suffer from land alienation and loss of control and access to natural resources. He proposed that the Adivasis should be given a clear mandate to have customary rights over the natural resources which includes water, land and forest produce. The Adivasis should have the right to self-determination. He also stated that the process of external interventions deciding the adivasi economy should be checked.

Mr. Walter Mendoza speaking on marketing and markets made it clear that the onus is on the CBOs and NGOs at the grassroots to take up marketing issues. State needs to invest in infrastructure and credit in a big manner. Time has come to define the role of communities and marketing institutions, he emphasized.

Countering the notion of big budget development projects Mr. Manoj Pradhan pointed out the futility of mega hydro projects and dams. He proposed that as an alternative, environment friendly techniques should be promoted in tribal zones. For instance, watershed programme and solar/ biogas initiatives could be a viable source of economy for adivasi people. Regarding credit facilities there should be clear cut guidelines, he stressed.

Dr. A.B. Otta suggested that the corporates should also take up the responsibility to address Adivasi issues as phenomenon like displacement happen for them. Overall it was observed that Adivasi economy has not been touched in detail by the draft policy. Hence prominent attributes such as stress on traditional craft and skills, focus on shifting cultivation, utilization of alternative energy sources have to be seriously taken up.


Land of the Project affected Adivasis which are under the possession of the Adivasis and on which they have customary rights for ages should be recognized for the purpose of compensation at par with the titled land in case of Development Projects.

-block resettlements should be made mandatory to overcome the problem of social disarticulation. Placement cost of the land should be provided to the adivasis instead of providing them compensation at the govt. rate which is far less than the replacement cost. Since the adivasis are getting displaced giving away the rich Mineral resources to the MNCs, they should be kept share holders with the corporate house setting up the project. Land based resettlement should be made mandatory under the policy.There should be a regulatory body at the state level to monitor the resettlement and rehabilitation of the Adivasis .Permission should not be given for any mining, mega industry, mega hydro project where Adivasi habitants exist. Under forest land eviction act, the stipulated period 1980 should be extended up to 2003, separate agriculture policy should be adopted at policy level. Land reform / land ceiling Act and community forest management policy to be well wedded into the Adivasi policy.With the above resources rights in place, legalisation of limited land under shifting cultivation. Definite policy to empower PRI. Awareness building of different stake holders including Adivasi communities and NGOs and grass root level workers who directly work with the adivasis on the intricacies and details of Intellectual Property Rights should be part of the policy. In policy level value and importance should be given to traditional medicinal culture, health practices, legal entity and recognition should be given through legal institute and there should be document and record of the traditional knowledge systems and it should not encourage the commercial institutes to market the processed herbal medicines, instead of giving priority to the Adivasi traditional practitioners. Formation of traditional knowledge and practice, create institutes in rural areas where traditional practitioners will be encouraged and get recognition.

Indigenous Knowledge System

In the last technical session, Health Education, Bio-diversity and Intellectual Property Right issues were discussed in an elaborate manner. Dr. K.C. Malhotra moderated the session. The panelists were Prof. A. B. Mishra, School. of Life Sciences, Sambalpur University; Mr. Bhaskar Rao, Secretary,SVK and Mr. B. P. Tripathy, Advocate.

Prof. A. B. Mishra pointed out the vital need for documentation of the traditional practices based on knowledge and skills, especially healing methods. He opined that development should be a security-based phenomenon. True development should enable people to have a secured life. He explained the relationship and dynamics between protected area, productive area, compromise area and urban industrial area. Education according to him teaches one how to earn a livelihood and how to live, the later being practised well in adivasi communities.

Mr. S. Bhaskar Rao said that though the health facilities have increased, the benefits are yet to be seen. Infant Mortality Rate among the Adivasis is on the rise. The draft policy lays more stress on allopathic mode of treatment which is detrimental to the Adivasi traditional remedies. The lands of the Adivasis are relegated, as the outsiders are encouraged to forge into the tribal habitations. He suggested the following

Recognize the Adivasi medicine system and practitioners by providing them licenses. Village committee or panchayat can certify their health and education personnel to operate in their community (both traditional and modern). Establishment of Adivasi medicinal Health Research Institute Herbal medicines should be developed in each Adivasi village. Health messages should be propagated in Adivasi language and cultural practices i.e., entertainment based health education. A list of nutritive crops can be maintained in the village agro-center (with seed stock) along with a village bio-diversity register. Village/ panchayat level records (preferably visuals) of all productive innovative and creative activities with names and photographs of individuals be maintained by CBOs/ NGOs A detailed list of crop varieties not cultivated now, medicinal and food plants, animals becoming rare or extinct should be maintained in each community and local task forces should try to find and conserve them Adivasis should be given rights over community forests and NTFPs. Formulation of the tribal policy through participatory approach (i.e. by Adivasis). Autonomous Adivasi councils should operate at panchayat and block levels. Self governance should be the order of the day. Let us share our knowledge and resources like seed banks. In future seminars and workshops we should be in a position to show visuals of what we have achieved in the fields discussed in this seminar.

Mr. Bibhu Prasad Tripathy elaborated on the provisions of different Acts and Bills related to Indigenous Knowledge, Bio Prospecting and Intellectual Property Rights. There is no intellectual frame work to safe guard the community IPR. IPR laws covered by the TRIPS Agreement relate to - Copy right and related right, Trademark, Geographical indication, Industrial design, Patents, Layout design of integrated circuit, Protected undisclosed information and Control of anti competitive practices on contractual license.

He cited from the Mataatua Declaration which stated: “Indigenous peoples are the exclusive guardians of their knowledge and as such be the ones to define it, must be first beneficiaries of it, must be respected for their right to create more knowledge, and must be the ones to decide whether to protect, promote or develop their knowledge”.

He suggested that Collective Intellectual Property Rights should be protected on grounds of commonly held and practiced knowledge. The Gram Sabhas should be competent to safe guard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people, their cultural identity, community resources and mode of dispute resolution. Conservation of indigenous knowledge and the cultural heritage beyond the market system is important.

II: 16/11/2004
Technical Session on Adivasi Political Governance

In this session different facets of political governance with relation to Adivasi people viz. judiciary, constitutional and land rights, PESA, Nyaya panchayat, human and Adivasi rights and customary laws were elaborately discussed.

Moderator Dr..Ram Dayal Munda, expressed his pleasure on being able to participate in the vital discussion on policy statement. Saying that Adivasis are the poorest of poor, he hoped that the Orissa example of inviting suggestions from different backgrounds should be replicated in every adivasi dominated zone in the country. The drive to have an improved policy, where suitable steps would be taken to draft an effective policy for indigenous people, he said. He pointed out that the discussion would be crystallized into resolutions and would be disseminated afterwards.

Congratulating ODAF and OAAA on the mammoth endeavor of coming up with valuable recommendations for the draft policy, Advocate Sanjay Upadhaya commented on the National policy document. His suggestions are listed below.

Structural recommendat

The present policy statement is in the form of a big legal brief. There is scope for simplification and further shortening.

Usage of conversational language is instead of technical jargon. Acronyms to be avoided Adoption of formal language is essential for a standardized meaning(for instance, scheduled area in place of Adivasi area)

Thematic suggestions

The document should stand as an independent document and not as a reactive statemen A policy has mild connotations and serves as an instrument of persuasion at best. However, the clauses should be clear cut in order to have some degree of impact The policy either has specifics or gross generalizations, this approach needs to be toned down There needs to be coherence between problem statements and recommendations Principles should be emphasized and should form the basis of the policy. There is also a need to coin new principles of relevance The linkage with legal instrument is vital. It could be achieved through operational rules and insertion of legal mechanisms. Certain relevant principles and instruments from various existing international, national and rural policies, which are in line with the issue could be enunciated The policy should not stand in isolation Substantiating reasons and evidence should back demands In depth, knowledge based interpretation should be there Contradictory statements to be avoided Benefit sharing mechanisms in relation to development projects should be ingrained in the policy The importance of natural heritage to be detailed along with cultural heritage Amendments could be considered instead of appeals for further legislations.

Mr. Ravi Varma Kumar, Senior Advocate, Karnataka High Court, stated that the basic principles that have repeatedly emphasized are autonomy, sovereignty and independence of adivasi people. In most societies self-rule is the ultimate aspiration. So is in case of adivasi communities. Constitutional principles such as liberty, equality, social justice and spirit of fraternity are upheld and nurtured by the adivasi communities as barriers of caste, creed and religious divide is not relevant in their contest. He justifiably pointed out that tribes are the future of the mankind and that the mainstreaming is a meaningless procedure, he suggested, the reverse process should be adopted. Since the draft national policy is designed exclusively by the bureaucrats at the helm, without inviting participation from Adivasis, it should be rejected in toto, he accentuated. Quoting from other participant’s suggestion regarding education, he stressed that there is a dire need to integrate Adivasi instructions mode in to formal education.

Globalization is widening the gap between rich and poor hence is unconstitutional in nature. In the name of public purpose Adivasi property is being appropriated. Tribes are as much a part of the projects as others. Time has come for the indigenous people to fight for their own rights. The potential victims can protect their own human rights, he said. Citing the example of Great Granite movement, 1982 in Karnataka he stressed on the necessity for social ownership of natural resources. Hereditary and proprietary rights of adivasi communities over forests should be acknowledged by all. In support of this fact, an indigenous people friendly legislation which accords first right to them is the need of the hour, he said.

He suggested that a fresh review of the roll of scheduled tribes in the country should be carried out. There is need to prune the burgeoning scheduled tribe list as many non- tribals are claiming reservation benefits. Highlighting the status of judiciary he said that out of a total of 610 judges in India, only 20 are SC/ST. It is high time that the judiciary should be representative in character.

Speaking on Nyaya Panchayat Mr. Sankarsan Hota, Director, PIPAR highlighted that the judiciary recognizes the Alternative Dispute Resolution System (ADR). This system of community judiciary system has been subdued over the ages. To attain the dreams of local self governance, the establishment of PRIs and powers to PRI should be reformulated in a structured manner. In this regard the major structural frame work of the draft Nyaya Panchayat proposed are:

Enforcement of a fresh act on Nyaya Panchayat, Recognition of the role and jurisdiction of Nyaya Panchayat.

The administrative structure of a NP should have the following:

Ten member body with adequate gender representation from Dalit community, Nyaya Panchayat to operate as a separate entity at par with GP, Tenure of NP should be 5 years, Validity of customary laws in dispute resolution, No honorarium for the members,First hearing within 7 days and final within 6 months.Civil jurisdiction,Civil disputes like tenancy, boundary, purchase and CPR,Property disputes,Family disputes, Any other dispute in the community, Criminal jurisdiction, NP should have exclusive criminal jurisdiction on complains with property value not exceeding Rs50000.00 and fines to be collected not exceeding Rs5000.00 as income.,Provision of appeal and revision, An advisory committee at the district level should be constituted with 5 members, Execution,All the officials in the authority should assist the NP,Maintenance of records

Dr. B. K. Roy Burman presented some more details specific to the state of Orissa for consideration in the policy document. The draft national policy has failed to cover some extremely important aspects of Adivasi life-situation and access to resources and rights. The issue of land alienation and the conversion of forest villages to revenue villages have been dealt with in an inadequate manner. The draft policy also failed to evaluate the provisions and anomalies in the 73rd and 74th amendment of the constitution and the PESA Act of 1996, the Forest Conservation Act of 1980. A review of the Supreme Court’s judicial pronouncements on forest conservation, the progress made in bio-diversity research during the last two decades and management of forest have not been detailed in the draft national policy document.

A suitable system for sustainable forest eco system management in the Adivasi area needs to be developed. The policy could not focus on sustaining forest productivity, bio-diversity, natural landscapes and the full range of natural forest ecological processes. To promote the formal education among the Adivasis, the state should ensure that the Adivasis are taught in their own language and the content of the course should be reworked to suit their cultural and social need. The State Government must ensure adequate incentive structures such as scholarships, stipends, tuition waivers and residential school for Adivasis.

Summing up the session; Dr. Ram Dayal Munda, exhorted the Adivasi people to be assertive especially in case of development projects. He advised them not to get swayed by government’s commitment. Lastly, the time demands that the process of change must emerge from the Adivasis themselves, he concluded.

Group Discussion Session

Succeeding the panel discussion the gathering was divided into eight groups for brainstorming on topics related to Adivasi Identity, Adivasi Economy, Indigenous Knowledge System and Political Governance. The groups came up with several recommendations at the end of the discussion, which are as follows:


Formal education needs to be modified or restructured altered for Adivasis. More and more adivasi instructors should be inducted into the system. Declaration of government holidays on Adivasi festivals. Identification of un-registered tribes through adivasis themselves, followed by their registration.Consultation with people to be affected through development projects to be made mandatory. To stop projects requiring displacement. To use the coinage ‘Adivasi’ or ‘Indigenous people’ instead of ‘Tribal’ in official documents.Complete right over natural resources. To check the infringement on culture through development projects


Complete ownership rights over forest and land inhabited by indigenous people, Joint pattas in the name of adivasi men and women, Reserved forests and sanctuaries, conservation of flora and fauna to be the sole responsibility of tribes., In case of forest produces, the price to be fixed by panchayats. The trading of such products to be done through cooperatives. Mineral resources and ore rights to the tribes. For installation of industries local committee to be instituted and consulted. Profit sharing to be mandatory.The decision for dev pro to be taken by the native people about to get affected Industries instituted to be under panchayat control. Mega Hydro projects to be checked in Adivasi area .The right to buy Adivasi land to be conferred only on Adivasis. Old age pension for adivasi people to be raised from Rs.100/- to Rs.500/-. Skilled labour to be promoted. The benfits of an Adivasi girl not to pass on to her non-tribal spouse post-wedding. Centre for technological studies to be instituted at block levels for development of traditional knowledge system and income generation


To document the agricultural, health, environmental, traditional medicine practices. To check the depletion of forests. To start herbal gardens in Adivasi habitations.To recognise the practices of village medical practitioners.Preservation of local seed varieties.Hybrid seeds to be stopped from being sold to Adivasi communities.Availability of marketing facilities for local produces. To recognize and promote contribution of women in govt. facilities to reduce MMR & IMR. Need to evaluate the vocational education system of Adivasis. To record to bio-diversities in Adivasi areas


The self-governance issue has been relegated in the draft. It needs adequate coverage.To protect the women’s rights in PRI. The two-child norm and the conditionality of being literate must be abolished. PESA must be implemented in letter and spirit by Orissa state govt. All the acts related to the livelihood support system of Adivasis must be reconsidered Nyaya panchayat and customary laws should have space for promotion, protection and propagation. All acts and rules must be simplified In present circumstances panchayat is reduced to a mere implementing agency, the need for grooming, orientation and training for panchayat officials needs to be given a thought. Besides the above recommendations, the following principles needs to be taken in to account as suggested by non Oriya speaking participants

Right to self-determination – course of action to realize their aspirations. Ensure convergence of adivasi policy with basic principles underlying in other legal instruments such as the constitution, ILO and other sector related policies, judgments of high courts and Supreme Court. Adivasi development should be under taken without disturbing adivasi social and cultural institutions subjected to human rights framework. Safe guarding the principles of socialization and value frame within which adivasi society exists including gender relationship. Safe guarding generation and inter generation sustainability which means avoiding extraction but respecting nature. To recognize the transitional nature of adivasi identity and economies that would imply not only assimilation but co-existence between two different cultures also. Summing up the recommendations Dr. K.C Malhotra pointed out that the exclusive Adivasi songs, dances, artistry need a greater degree of protection and they need to be viewed in the light of IPR.


Mr. Aditya Patnaik, Vice Chairman, ODAF, chaired the concluding session of the workshop. The panelists were Mr. Bijay Kumar Patnaik, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Government of Orissa, Mr. Basudeb Jani, President OAAA, Dr,.William Stanley, Executive Secretary ODAF and Mr. Sankarsan Hota.

Mr. Aditya Patnaik welcomed the panelists and summed up the findings of the two day Consultation. He further informed that the process of drafting a suitable Adivasi policy in the state has been initiated since last two years with the active participation of activists, academics, indigenous and adivasi personalities and others concerned citizens. The drafting committee has the responsibility to finalise the document to be presented before the government in the succeeding rally where nearly 10000 Adivasis were expected to participate. The state government has to submit the final recommendations to the central government by 30th November 2004. He hoped that in the onset of a rapidly changing political, economical, cultural and ecological scenario in national and international level, the issues relating to the indigenous and Adivasi people will be addressed with priority and without any form of prejudice.

Mr. Bijay Kumar Patnaik, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Government of Orissa, spoke about government’s attitude towards Adivasi community at large. He stated that a common approach for development has been followed throughout the country, which is more often than not a faulty strategy. For a successful programme, the goal needs to be fixed before chalking out the expenses, he informed. However, conventional method is to acquire finances first and then decide the course of action.

The perspective of indigenous people with relation to forest, land and water need to be brought into focus. Issues such as forest conservation, wildlife preservation and Adivasi way of life needs to be integrated as they are all intertwined.

Education being an instrument for a better way of life, the relevance of formal education in Adivasi life should be analysed. There is a definite need for content and value modification in the curriculum meant for Adivasi children, he proposed. The issue concern is to improve the earning capacity of the indigenous people. To achieve, these end group activities in villages should be promoted. There is a need for skill up-gradation and spreading of vocational training, he said.

In health sector there is a need to integrate modern medicine practices with the traditional healing methods. However, ensuring good health in adivasi communities is of utmost vitality, he said. The reason behind of diseases needs to be spotted and obliterated.

All the panelists namely Dr. B. K. Roy Burman, Prof. L. K. Mohapatra, Dr. K. C. Malhotra, Dr. Ram Dayal Munda, Mr. Bijay Kumar Patnaik, all the moderators and speakers were felicitated for their profound contributions to their respective fields which overtly or covertly contributed to the Consultation.

Mr. Dhirendra Panda, the Coordinator of ODAF conveyed the greetings received from the Chairman of ODAF Dr. K. Rajaratnam to the participants of the Consultation and extended vote of thanks to the participants, dignitaries and organizers.

Documented by Mr. Sibabrata Kar and Mrs. Rupali Kar
Finalised by the Editorial Team, ODAF
Edited by Dr. William Stanley, Executive Secretary, ODAF