Prime Minister Narendra Modi led NDA government has clearly put down its resolve to get rid of “environment clearances” roadblock and restart India’s growth and thus proposals are apparently being mooted to exempt projects like roads & highways, transmission lines from seeking consent of “Gram Sabhas” (village council). But the Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, who was also India’s first Union tribal affairs minister during NDA-I under PM AB Vajpayee, has clearly said that he will not allow dilution of the requirement of seeking Gram Sabhas consent while giving green environment clearances to projects.
In an interview with dna’s Mayank Aggarwal, Jual Oram stressed on his goal of getting “maximum benefit (for tribals) while having minimum disturbance” to them.
Tribals today seems to facing exploitation while industries allegedly making huge profits? How will you address concerns of such Tribals ?
Jual Oram: Tribals have immensely contributed in in country’s development ... because of them only big huge dams have come up, industry and mining has prospered. But now land is becoming scarce and alternate locations are becoming impossible to find. My ministry’s policy and programmes would focus that industry and mining remain but without displacement of tribals (from their land) and without disturbance to them.
Secondly, whatever decision about their land is taken should be though discussion with full discussion and concurrence of tribals rather than forcibly through use of police power. This is going to be the policy of our department. As Tribal Affairs minister of Indian government, our endeavour would be that whosoever wants to carry out work in tribal area should tell how tribals can get “maximum benefit while having minimum disturbance”. Only then displacement should take place.
We don’t want to be roadblock in development but development should have least disturbance to us – the tribals.
Proposals are being mooted to dilute role of “Gram Sabhas” while giving green clearances to projects? What do you think about them?
Jual Oram: No … that cannot happen. We have seen at a lot of places where manipulation of gram sabhas takes place (while deciding for giving clearances to industry) – either through money power or by deploying people or system from outside. Our endeavour is that Gram Sabha clearance should come truly as per wishes of the people … the tribals … We would strictly ensure that and we will see that it happens.
From last few years, Tribal Affairs ministry has been demanding from environment ministry to include it in process of according green clearances. Will you approach cabinet regarding it?
Jual Oram: It is a policy matter between different ministries. Internal discussions and dialogue process (with environment ministry) on this issue is going on. If needed, we could go to cabinet too.
You were India’s first tribal affairs minister in 1999 and after taking over the post once again in 2014 you talked about revamping of ministry’s programmes. What progress has been made on that front?
A. Our policies are programmes are very vast. Three ministers have worked here in this ministry and I will not say that they have done nothing ... some good work has been done. But we want to add many more schemes especially related to development of sports facilities and vocational training for Tribals.
PM Narendra Modi has repeatedly voiced for skill development including for Tribals? What are the steps being taken to do that?
Jual Oram: Keeping in line with announcements of PM regarding skill development, my tribal ministry will run vocational training and skill development programmes through our existing network of institutions. We will also launch soe fresh programmes. We have started the revamping process of the schemes and I have been very focused on it since the I assumed post.
Another concern area for Tribals is preservation of their culture and languages. Any plan for that?
Jual Oram: We will launch programmes for it ... already there are some programmes for language study and research. This is one of our priority and focus area.