Strengthening Tribal Self Governance through PESA, FRA and Tribal Customary Norms and Practices

The government of India enacted Panchayatiraj Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) and the Forest Rights Act (FRA)to empower tribals living in the forest with various privileges including minor forest produces and minor minerals. Several Civil Society Organizations and Non-Government Organizations are working towards proper implementation of PESA and FRA in the respective areas to provide dignity of life to the tribal population. Caritas India’s Gram Nirman is one such programme which supports the tribal communities of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand to achieve socio-economic wellbeing through socially and politically dynamic participation in decision making bodies (Gram Sabhas).

The programme is supported by Caritas Australia to help rural communities in developing skills to negotiate for their entitlement and participate in reducing poverty and other social problems. It aims to empower Tribal communities to have improved access to various entitlements and manage local resources through Gram Sabhas by participatory decision-making process.

Gram Nirman partners from Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand gathered at Ranchi on April 6-7, 2018 to conceptualize the governance issue and people’s role in integrating Tribal Customary norms and practices in the aspects of community issues.

Historically and customarily, tribal communities had Panch system who used to decide on behalf of the community and maintained the integrity and sacredness of being decision maker through their approach to do good for the community. In the current scenario tribals need to be educated and aware of the strategies that will support their struggle for equality and human dignity in the long term and be supported with organization that work for human dignity and justice.

The core objective of the workshop was to enhance understanding the issues and challenges impending proper implementation of PESA and FRA and how to engage with respective Govt depts. and support for the proper implementation of policies and flagship programme.

The Customary practices and traditional norms among the tribal community is very broad and every tribe have their established customs in place to guide them and move ahead in their socio-economic and cultural lives. The attempt was made to develop more critical understanding about the tribal customary practices so that these elements could be integrated for finding the solution of conflicts that disturbs community life among the tribals.

It was perceived to create scope for incorporating the good traditional norms towards strengthening local governance and peaceful co-existence.

The workshop helped in bringing an in-depth understanding of PESA, FRA and Power endorsed with Gram Sabha. It was discussed that partners in consultation with the community can make efforts in creating model PESA village. Sensitization and awareness on FRA were helpful for the community to access their entitlements through proper channels. Legal cell component under the programme can be scaled up in the villages where the community can take initiatives so that there is more legal awareness and understanding on PESA, FRA, and other acts, as well as customary practices so that people choose the best alternatives to strengthening their stakes in self Governance.

The learning of the workshop has been commendable for the expertise of knowledge and information that was shared with fthe lair of Practicality. New learning that have been a value addition in this workshop are – Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) – formation, process, roles and powers,  annual report on tribal status to brought in public view, need for community solidarity, promotion of CFR- that ensure land right and livelihood. Tribal identity and history behind the enactment of CNT and SPT Acts.

The outcome of the consultation workshop was streamlined -Action point for future shared

  • Identify a village and develop a Model PESA village.
  • Improve interaction with members of TAC- and Share good practices with TAC members
  • Network and strengthening Tribal federations Majhi Mahal, Ho Mahasabha, Munda Manki etc
  • Promote convergence with District Legal Service Assistance