Reaching out to tribals who constitute more than 21 per cent of Madhya Pradesh population, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday said the Narendra Modi government was committed to their welfare and pointed out it had allocated Rs 78,000 crore for various schemes and programmes targeted at the community after assuming office in 2014.
He also said the Modi government has resolved to construct houses for each and every individual by 2022- end.
This is a government of the poor, Scheduled Tribes, Dalits and Backward Classes. During the Congress government's time, only Rs 21,000 crore was provided for the welfare of (tribal) people, but after Prime Minister Modi came to power in 2014, funds for tribal uplift were enhanced to Rs 78,000 crore, Shah said.
The home minister was speaking at `Van Samiti Sammelan', a programme where bonus was distributed to collectors of forest produce such as tendu leaves (used to wrap bidis - an Indian version of cigarette) and forest societies.
On the occasion, he also unveiled a plaque announcing the change of status of 827 `forest villages' into `revenue villages'. There was a demand that these areas be declared revenue villages to ensure their development as there are restrictions on undertaking projects in forest areas.
Terming the decision as historic, the Union minister said it fulfilled a long-pending demand.
Around Rs 123 crore was distributed as bonus to 12 lakh tendu leaf pluckers, bamboo growers and other forest produce societies.
According to an estimate, there were around 35 lakh tendu pluckers in Madhya Pradesh.
Tendu (diospyros melanoxylon) leaf collection is one of the major economic activities of tribals in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Tendu leave collections generate 150 million person days of employment during the agricultural lean season.
This was the second tribal outreach by Shah in just over 6 months in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, where Assembly polls are due in 2023 and the ruling party appears keen to woo the indigenous people, who form a major chunk of voters.
On September 18, Shah had addressed 'Gaurav Utsav', an event organised in honour of tribal icons and erstwhile Gondwana empire ruler Shankar Shah and his son Raghunath in Jabalpur district.
Shah's programme on Friday was held at Bhopal's Jamboree Ground, the venue where Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed a mega tribal gathering on Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas, the birth anniversary of revered tribal icon Birsa Munda on November 15.
The home minister said the Madhya Pradesh government has also decided to provide 20 per cent bonus to forest societies in the state.
The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government will now give 20 per cent of the revenue generated from all kinds of forest produce to village committees, said Shah, who is also the Minister for Cooperation.
The home minister said Madhya Pradesh has the highest percentage of tribal population in the country as community members form nearly 21 per cent of the state's demographic mix.
Today is an epoch-making day as forest dwellers in MP are becoming the owners of the forests and their produce, Shah asserted.
Shah said under the guidance of Modi, the Chouhan government was implementing numerous schemes for tribal welfare.
He said chief minister Chouhan, during his visit to Jabalpur on September 18, had announced 17 welfare schemes for the indigenous people.
When goals under these 17 schemes are accomplished we are going to come to seek your (tribals) blessings, Shah said, apparently referring to the 2023 Assembly polls.
Tribals hold the key to power in the state where 47 Assembly seats out of the total 230 are reserved for them in MP. Besides, there are more than 50,000 tribal voters in other 35 Assembly seats, political observers said.
The BJP narrowly lost the 2018 polls to the Congress, which put up an impressive show in tribal reserved Assembly seats and formed government in the state after 15 years though the saffron party came back to power in March 2020 after the then-ruling party witnessed a revolt by a section of its MLAs and Jyotiraditya Scindia switched sides. The Congress had won 31 tribal reserved seats in 2018 and the BJP just 16.
The saffron party stormed to power in MP by unseating the Congress in 2003 Assembly polls which saw the BJP winning 37 seats out of the 41 reserved for the Scheduled Tribes then.
In 2008, the BJP won 31 out of the 47 ST reserved seats (their number increased due to delimitation exercise) and retained power. Five years later, the saffron party repeated the performance in the tribal reserved Assembly constituencies.
According to the Schedule Tribe Population Census of 2011, the population of indigenous people was more than 1.53 crore and accounted for 21.08 per cent of the total 7.26 crore inhabitants of Madhya Pradesh ten years ago.