Odishatv Bureau

In the last few years, some of the moves of the Odisha government seem to have created an ambiguous atmosphere for tribals who are no longer able to trust any of the developmental schemes or projects of the State government.

The tribals consider natural resources like water bodies, lands and forests as their Gods. Those are their sources of lives and livelihoods. They are known as the real conservators of natural resources. However, their development has taken a back seat even though many companies have been set up in Odisha.

The State Cabinet’s November 14 decision on Odisha Schedule Areas Transfer of Immovable Property (OSATIP) Regulations and its subsequent withhold and referral to the Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) to reconsider the matter has raised questions whether the Odisha government is really concerned about the development of tribals. The matter has now snowballed into a political controversy.

Why the regulation was withheld just 48 hours after the Cabinet decision? The main reason behind the move is the criticism that the Odisha government faced at national level. Several reports in this regard were published in various national level newspapers. Many tribal organisations and eminent individuals were also up in arms against the State government’s decision.

Responding to the State government’s move, tribal activist Gladson Dungdung took to his social media account X (earlier known as Twitter) and wrote, “To end the existence of tribals, Odisha Chief Minister had amended the Tribals Land Transfer Regulation. Land is our identity, culture, heritage, history and existence. The tribal society will not exist without land. Hence, stag strong protest against the move.”

“Preparation is underway to snatch away lands from the tribals by amending laws during the British rule which was protecting the lands of the tribals,” tweeted adivasi.com.

“It was the purpose behind making a tribal woman as the President of India,” tweeted PK Oran.

Following massive flak against the move, Odisha’s Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Sudam Marndi took to X to announce that the regulation has been withheld.

As per sources, the government didn’t want to take any risk eyeing the upcoming election as the state has 22 per cent tribals. When many political parties and tribal organisations raised their voices for the complete withdrawal of the regulation, the Chief Minister decided through a virtual cabinet meeting to send it to the Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) for referral. However, the development has triggered massive controversy.

Though complete withdrawal of the regulation has been demanded from various quarters, the ruling party slammed the Opposition parties by calling them ‘anti tribals’ on their social media posts.

A Tribal Leader - Deputy Speaker of Odisha Assembly

However, to divert the attention of the people from the issue, ruling BJD has presented a tribal leader as the Deputy Speaker of Odisha Assembly. With this move, the party wants to prove that they are giving much importance to the tribals. Amid the development, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sent an order to the State government which is a matter of concern.

In its order, NHRC mentioned that due to the neglect by the Health Department of the State government, as many as nine Juanga tribals at Jantari village under Bansapala block in Keonjhar district have lost their lives in the last five months. NHRC has ordered the Health Department Secretary of the State government to take necessary steps in this regard.

While the Primary Health Centre is located at Gonasika which is 15 km away from Jantari, the Community Health Centre is located 40 kms away at Banshapal. As per reports, many tribals are having untimely death as the hospitals are situated far away from their villages.

There was also a six-year-old child among the deceased. Many more tribals are still suffering from fever. Under the circumstances, NHRC has ordered the Secretary of the Health Department to submit a detailed report in this regard within eight months. Considering all the above incidents, the government’s priority for the tribals is a matter of concern.

(By Dilip Sabat)
He can be reached out at- dksawat@gmail.com.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)