“We enforced the ‘Forest Act’ successfully, which resulted in distribution of land rights to 17 lakh people. All in all, 55 lakh hectares of land have been distributed among tribals, which in itself is a big success,” says Union Minister of Tribal Affairs, Jual Oram in an exclusive tete-a-tete with Deepak Kumar Rath, Editor, Uday India. Excerpts:
Would you like to elaborate on the works done by your ministry in the last three years?
In the last three years, the best thing we did is that we enforced the ‘Forest Act’ successfully, which resulted in distribution of land rights to 17 lakh people. All in all, 55 lakh hectares of land have been distributed among tribals, which in itself is a big success. This has also resulted in improved status of roads, schools and water in these areas.
It is perceived that in the name of this act tribals are harassed in these areas.
This is a wrong perception. These land rights are given with full authenticity. These lands belong to the tribals living there. As far as the question of distribution of these land rights is concerned, these rights are given to those only who have been living in those areas for the last 75 years or more. Along with this, we have fixed the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for 24 goods in these areas, which eventually has led to ending of middlemen culture. We have also launched a web portal so that farmers of these areas can get to know about their crops and itheir prices. This web portal is attached with ‘Kisan Call Centre’.
How does the MSP works in these areas?
I tell you one thing. Earlier, these tribals used to barter mahua and shal in exchange for salt; now they easily buy salt. Earlier, traders used to loot these tribals by buying tamarind, lakh and gum at throwaway prices, but now, after the enactment of MSP, they have to buy according to the government’s fixed prices, which is a big change.
What is the contribution of Centre of Excellence in these areas?
Whatever the government is doing in these areas through these Centres of Excellences, we give those data to major institutes for research and study. Now it is also in the hands of state governments how to promote these centers.
You have said that you are promoting traditional tribal languages. Till now, what have you done in this regard?
We can’t give recognition to these languages but we can strive for their development. We have tried to assimilate different tribes together through various functions.
You have opened tribal shops in many cities along with Delhi. What has been the response of people towards them?
Response to tribal shops has been very amazing. You should know that these tribal shops have risen to 22 in numbers and their yearly turnover is around Rs 14 crore. Through these shops we present tribal artifacts in front of people. Now many things from these shops have turned into brands and people are liking it.
In the last three years, which decision will you cite as a game-changer in your ministry?
I believe the introduction of MSP in tribal areas is the greatest decision till now. Earlier, the scholarships to the tribal students were given through schools, which was a cumbersome process, but now we are giving these scholarships directly to the beneficiaries.
In the coming two years, what will be your priorities?
We not only want to develop the tribal community but also want them to be self-dependant. Digital mediums and mobile technology can play a big role in this regard.