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Weekly Pullouts » Himachal Tribune

Posted at: May 12, 2018, 12:03 AM; last updated: May 12, 2018, 12:03 AM (IST)

Planning for tribal development in state

Mary Parmar

In India, according to the 2011 Census, the population of Scheduled Tribes is 10.45 crore and comprises 8.6 per cent of the total population. The tribal areas constitute a considerable part of the backward areas of the country. Soon after attaining Independence, the need for a special strategy to develop the tribal areas was recognised early in the country.  When the Community Development Programmes were launched in 1952, a concept equally applicable to the tribal areas, it was found that the task was much more difficult in the tribal areas, as they comprised sparsely populated hill and forest regions with poor communications and limited institutional infrastructure.  It was therefore decided to supplement the community development programmes in the tribal areas. Forty-three special multi-purpose tribal development projects were started during 1954 for this purpose. Thereafter, during the second Five Year Plan, tribal development blocks were started. The concept of a sub-plan was evolved in the Fifth Five Year Plan.

In Himachal Pradesh, the tribal areas together constitute 42.49 per cent of the total area of the state.  According to the 2011 Census, the tribal population of the state is 3.92 lakh, the total population of the state being 68, 64,602 lakh. The percentage of the ST population is 5.71 per cent of the total population. Lahaul-Spiti tribal district occupies 24.85 per cent of the state’s geographical area and is inhabited by 0.46 per cent of the state’s population, the density being only two persons per sq km. The main tribes who inhabit the state are the Bhot, Bodh, Gaddi, Gujjar, Jad, Khampa, Kannaura, Lahuala, Pangwala and Swangla.

The alpine tribal zones with prolonged winters and inhospitable climate, isolated and inaccessible for a considerable part of the year, were indeed a challenge to development planning. To bring the tribesmen of the state into the mainstream of the state and national life, the tribal sub-plan has been in operation in the state since the inception of the Fifth Five Year Plan. However, before this, the Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts were being given special treatment and the outlays for the two districts were segregated separately.

For the development of the tribesmen, the entire Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti and Bharmour tehsil and sub-tehsil Holi sub-divisions of Chamba district constitute the Scheduled Area under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, fulfilling the condition of 50 per cent ST population. The dispersed tribes in the non-scheduled area came under the ambit of the sub-plan in 1987-88, thus covering the entire ST population in the state.  

As much as 9 per cent of the State Plan fund flows to the Tribal sub-plan. In the scheduled areas, the 5 ITDP (Integrated Tribal Development Projects) are the basic units for planning and implementation.  Project Advisory Committees have been constituted for each ITDP which are broad-based and include members from all three tiers of the Panchayati Raj Institutions and the MLA and MP of the tribal area along with other official members, making it a highly decentralised mechanism of planning for development. At the apex level, Tribes Advisory Councils have also been set up with the Chief Minister as their Chairman.  Apart from performing an advisory role, it also oversees the implementation of the tribal sub-plan in the state.

Planning for development in the tribal areas is a formidable task due to the peculiar and unique socio-economic and geo-physical factors. But by providing special measures like single- line administration, adequate finances (9 per cent of plan funds for 5.7 per cent of the population), decentralisation of the financial powers, special assistance for the non-scheduled areas, grassroots planning through the ITDP,  monitoring and review by the higher bodies, specially the Tribes Advisory Council, granting of additional benefits to the government employees posted in these remote and hard areas, protective and anti-exploitative measures and reservation in jobs, etc, have helped the tribesmen in making steady headway on the path of development.

Under the plans, there has been a significant development of roads, communication and other essential infrastructure, which are the life lines of remote tribal areas.  In the social sector, health and education, various social welfare and protective measures have brought about a considerable improvement in the quality of life. Human development indicators like literacy which opens up the vistas for various aspects of development has been quite remarkable.  In the 1961 Census, the literacy in the scheduled tribal area was only 12.85 per cent, which has increased to 77.10 per cent, according to the 2011 Census, male literacy percentage being 85.50 and that of females 67.41 per cent.  

The hydel power potential in the tribal area is 8951.00 MW out of which 3242.30 MW has been harnessed and many projects are under operation with the HPSEB and the private sector.  However, there is need for utmost caution.  The locals are up in arms against such projects, as it has caused vast destruction in their villages and damaged the ecology. The present gains would definitely result in irreparable loss in the long run and there would be no turning back in this respect.  

In the tribal areas, the physiographic and climatic conditions and the remoteness of the area are a deterrent in setting up large-scale and medium- sized industries.  In a way it is a blessing in disguise. Industries bring along with them degradation of the environment and in an eco-fragile zone, the impact would be great which has repercussions not only for the state, but in the neighboring states, too. Lack of effective checks and control as has happened in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial areas bear testimony to this. The small-scale village and cottage industries are best suited for these areas. In this respect, food processing units, woollen and wood products, handloom and handcrafts can increase the income of the tribesmen considerably. 

As regards tourism for which there is a vast potential, the policy should not be such that the area is thrown open for everyone and everything. Tourism development has its fallouts.  To preserve the unique cultural and natural heritage, restricted tourist entry and activities and a sustainable tourism policy is needed.

Though in many areas development planning has brought about significant improvement in the quality of life, yet the ones at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder still need to be taken care of. The sustainability angle of development has to be the top priority since it is clearly linked with the survival of human species and the natural habitat.  Sustainable development calls for sacrifices of short-term gains not only from the political elements, but also from the general public. The support from these elements will depend on the level of awareness and understanding.  The onus to take up such measures which are essential for awakening awareness about the concept of sustainable development lies with the government and the voluntary agencies apart from others sections of the society.  

The hydel power potential in the tribal area is 8951.00 MW out of which 3242.30 MW has been harnessed and many projects are under operation with the HPSEB and the private sector.  However, there is need for utmost caution.  The locals are up in arms against such projects, as it has caused vast destruction in their villages and damaged the ecology. The present gains would definitely result in irreparable loss in the long run and there would be no turning back in this respect.  

In the tribal areas, the physiographic and climatic conditions and the remoteness of the area are a deterrent in setting up large-scale and medium- sized industries.  In a way it is a blessing in disguise. Industries bring along with them degradation of the environment and in an eco-fragile zone, the impact would be great which has repercussions not only for the state, but in the neighboring states, too. Lack of effective checks and control as has happened in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial areas bear testimony to this. The small-scale village and cottage industries are best suited for these areas. 

(The writer is an associate professor (retd), public administration, HP Education Department)

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