PESA Act, 1996

PESA Act, 1996

News: An electoral party is trying to woo tribals in Gujarat by making promises to strictly implement the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, 1996. Also, Chattisgarh recently became the 7 th state to implement the Panchayats (extension to schedule area) rules.

• Based on the recommendations of Dileep Singh Bhuria Committee, PESA Act was enacted in 1996 for tribal empowerment and to bring them into the mainstream.
• It recognizes the role of the Gram Sabha and the community in these areas and directs the state government to devolve power and authority directly to the Gram Sabha and panchayats.
• The Ministry of Panchayati Raj is the nodal ministry for implementation of the provisions of PESA act.
• Seven states (Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh) have formed the PESA laws.

What are the provisions and objectives of PESA act?
• Under the Act, Scheduled Areas are those referred to in Article 244(1), which says that the provisions of the Fifth Schedule shall apply to the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in states other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram. The Fifth schedule provides for a range of special provisions for these areas.
• All state legislation on panchayats shall be in conformity with the customary law, social and religious practices and traditional management practices of community resources.
• Every village to have a separate Gram Sabha consisting of persons whose names are included in the electoral rolls for the panchayat at the village level.
• The Gram Sabha is responsible to approve all development works in the village, identity beneficiaries, issue certificates of utilization of funds.
• Every Gram Sabha is to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people, their cultural identity, community resources and customary mode of dispute resolution.

What is the significance of the Act?
• It facilitates Tribal integration as decentralized governance helps in reducing grievances of tribal people and builds trust.
• It empowers the Gram Sabha as they play a key role in approving development plans, controlling all major development in social sectors. For example, control of resources over water, forest and land, minor forest produce, managing local markets etc.
• The powers of gram sabhas include maintenance of cultural identity and tradition, control over schemes affecting the tribals, and control over natural resources within the area of a village.
• PESA empowers tribes through Gram Sabha to preserve their connection with ecosystem. For example, in 2013, the Supreme court of India ordered the Odisha government to seek Gram Sabha permission for bauxite mining in Kalahandi and Rayagada district of Odisha, leading to cancellation of mining on Niyamgiri Hills.

What are the challenges in PESA implementation?
• Lack of awarenesss about PESA amongst tribal community.
• PESA implementation is overseen by people lacking understanding of tribal culture.
• Major tribal states such as Jharkhand, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh are yet to implement PESA rules.
• There is a visible gap seen in adoption of PESA in letter and spirit.
• Limited autonomy of Gram Sabha and Panchayats.
• Use of unfair means for bypassing the law – Acquisition of land happens under other acts, violating the spirit behind PESA which seeks to safeguard tribal land and undermining the powers of Gram Sabha. For example, in Korba district of Chhattisgarh, the authorities decided to acquire land using the Coal Bearing Act of 1957.

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