People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 48

December 02, 2012


AARM Meeting:

Resist Injustice & Intensify Struggles

                                                      Vijoo Krishnan


THE central executive committee of the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch (AARM) met at Ranchi on November 6-7, 2012. It was in Ranchi that the process towards the formation of the AARM was set rolling at the convention on adivasi rights held in 2002. Even as the adivasi communities have been mobilising for their rights, the attacks on their rights have also intensified. The formation of the AARM and the meeting at Ranchi only reinforces the steely resolve of the adivasi community to organise, build up resistance and fight for their rights. The rally and public meeting on November 6 where over 3000 adivasis gathered from different parts of Jharkhand despite inclement weather in many regions provided further evidence of the tempering of this resolve. The presence of a large number of adivasi women construction workers in the public meeting reflected the coordinated work between their trade union and AARM which is giving a fillip to the struggles of adivasis in the region.


The CEC meeting attended by thirty comrades from twelve states, began with introductory remarks by Baju Ban Riyan, chairman, AARM who noted that the neoliberal policies pursued by the Congress-led UPA government and many state governments have threatened adivasi livelihoods and heightened insecurity. Midiam Babu Rao, joint convenor of AARM who presented the report, mentioned about the abject deprivation and denial of rights in adivasi areas even after sixty five years of independence. He pointed to the looting of resources and indiscriminate land acquisition in tribal areas, deprivation of forest rights and impact of high food inflation on adivasi people. He also outlined the struggles launched by the affiliates of AARM in different parts of India. Brinda Karat spoke on the new amendments to the Rules of Forest Rights Act, the central government decisions on MFP, illegal mining, the coal scam, problem of tiger reserves and the situation in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD) of Assam. The meeting deliberated on these and numerous other issues. Prominent among them were the issue of limitation of LPG cylinders in tribal hostels, anganwadi centres and the escalation in costs for students, illegal mining, indiscriminate land acquisition, BPL cards for all tribals, safeguarding the rights of the tribal people to mineral resources and their land as well as forests, especially in the context of the denial of forest rights, illegal land acquisition and the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act. The central executive committee discussed these issues in detail and decided on the future course of action.


The report highlighted many issues including: 




Adivasi communities are directly affected by coal mining as majority of coal bearing areas are in Fifth Schedule areas inhabited by a large number of adivasis. The coal scam unearthed by the report of the CAG raised many critical issues of the entire process of wrongful allocations of coal mines to big corporates and companies linked to political leaders belonging to the Congress and the BJP. During the period when a majority of these allocations took place, the prime minister himself was the minister of coal. A high level inquiry must be held including into the role of the prime minister's office, the wrong allocations must be scrapped and the money recovered. This corruption at such a high level calculated to have cost the exchequer over 1.86 lakh crore rupees could have only occurred because of the basic policy of the central government to reverse the nationalisation of the coal industry and to hand over this precious national resource to corporates, domestic and foreign. AARM strongly opposes privatisation and demands that all coal should be mined and allocated by Coal India.


However, the issue goes deeper and includes the rights of adivasis to their land and livelihood. At present the rights of adivasis are completely ignored. Coal India itself has a most inhuman policy of forcible eviction of adivasi and other communities from their land which has been identified for mining, without any proper plans for consultation, rehabilitation and resettlement. At present under Coal India R and R policy, jobs will be given only in those cases where more than two acres of land has been acquired. Since land holdings of adivasis and dalits may be less than two acres, they are denied compensatory jobs. Proof of occupation is not considered sufficient for provision of jobs. The money compensation is usually pittance. It is shocking that in the richest coal mining areas, the local communities, large numbers of adivasis are reduced to destitution, facing displacement, sometimes multiple displacements. AARM will raise its voice to ensure that the rights of adivasis guaranteed by the Fifth Schedule and PESAA are guaranteed.


The meeting decided to hold a round-table conference at Delhi on the Mining Act and the loot of public resources, problem of illegal mining as well as tribal rights involving broader sections and organisations working for tribal rights. Seminars at state and district levels as well as a study of mining and related issues will precede this conference.




The UPA government has utterly failed to control the price rise of essential commodities. The rate of food inflation was as high as 12 per cent in the month of September. The UPA government dealt a serious blow by hiking the price of diesel by Rs 5 a litre and slashing the subsidy on gas cylinders reducing the number of subsidised cylinders to only six in a year. For the rest, the price will be around 1500 rupees per cylinder. The government while shamelessly making all concessions to corporates and subsidising them in different forms, has so far refused to reverse this disastrous anti-people policy. Anganwadis, Mid-day Meal Schemes and especially adivasi and dalit student hostels will be very badly affected. The meeting decided to conduct a survey to make an assessment of the cost escalation for students due to the limitation of subsidised LPG cylinders and mobilise these sections in adivasi areas and ST hostels demanding an increase in the allocations and subsidies while joining the general democratic struggle to force the reversal of this decision.


The UPA government has refused to universalise the PDS and is still insisting on a targeted system of APL/BPL on the basis of fraudulent estimates. The food minister has announced that 10 million tonnes of foodgrains will be released in the open market. This will only benefit the private traders and not consumers as there is no control of prices in the open market. The AARM has taken up the issue of universalisation of the PDS and giving BPL cards to all adivasis and wherever it has been taken up adivasis have responded and joined the struggles. This struggle will be further intensified.


The denial of minimum wages, rampant corruption and discrimination meted out to adivasis under the MNREGS, the denial of proper health facilities, housing and basic amenities as well as pre/post-matriculation fellowships to tribal students, the dismal state of affairs in Ashram Schools, tribal hostels and such issues were also brought to light by representatives from different States.




The most recent figures on the implementation of the Forest Rights Act once again show the utter callousness of most state governments in implementation of the Act. In reality, the governments at the centre and most of the states are not recognising adivasi rights under the FRA so as to facilitate land acquisition in forest areas.


Till September 30, 2012, at the national level less than 40 per cent of the claims made under FRA have been accepted. In other words 60 per cent of claims have been rejected. It is true that the flaw in the Act itself of including 75 years evidence as a condition to accept the claims of non-tribal traditional forest dwellers is a critical reason in non- acceptance of claims of these sections. However going by the ground level experience, even in the claims by adivasi forest dwellers, the rejection rate is high. It is significant and noteworthy that the Left led state of Tripura tops the list having accepted 65 per cent of the claims. In Tripura when only the applications of adivasis are taken into account, 98 per cent of them have been accepted. The Congress ruled states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have dismal records of just 51 per cent, 29 per cent and 50 per cent respectively. The BJP ruled states are even worse with Gujarat at just 20 per cent, Madhya Pradesh at 36.5 per cent and Chhattisgarh at around 44 per cent. The latter two states have a substantial adivasi population, so the denial is all the more reprehensible.


At the national level, in terms of total numbers, the total number of claims received till September 30, 2012 was 32,31,078 (of which 60,411 were for community rights). Of these the number of claims accepted and title deeds distributed was 12,72,076 of which only 8348 were for community rights, in other words just around 13 per cent of the claims for community rights have been accepted. The rejection of community rights has to be seen as part of the government policy to hand over the forest areas to so-called projects including mining, which would be hampered if community rights were recognised. The ministry has stated that of the total claims, both individual and community, 86 per cent of the claims have been “disposed of.” In other words, it has accepted the rejections as being final. It is clear from the experience, particularly of Maharashtra and of Andhra Pradesh where concrete interventions on a wide scale have been made by the Kisan Sabha and AARM that in a large number of cases, the rejections are totally illegal. AARM will protest against closing the claims as “disposed” with concrete evidence in the different states and also at the centre.


The Rules under FRA have been amended by a notification on September 6, 2012. The meeting noted that the amended Rules make it more difficult to reject claims on flimsy grounds such as the person not being present when the verification team reached or an individual officer rejecting the claim without going through the recommendation of the Forest Committee etc. But even while the Rules are amended the same ministry accepts that 86 per cent of the claims are already disposed of. AARM demands that the rejected claims be reopened. An important and positive amendment is to permit forest dwellers to transport MFP by “any appropriate means of transport.” It does away with the present restriction of “bicycle or handcart” in the Rules. The amendments also give power to Gram Sabhas to decide the “management plan for community resources”. This can be used as an effective counter to the arbitrary decisions of the government sponsored Forest Management Committees which often deny adivasis their rights.




The meeting welcomed the declaration of the minister of tribal affairs in May 2012 that a commission would be set up by January 2013 under the tribal affairs ministry to ensure a minimum support price (MSP) for MFP. This has been a long-standing demand for which AARM has been struggling. However, there are doubts as to the extent of implementation of this assurance given the earlier experience in this regard.


Earlier the ministry of panchayati raj had set up the Haque Committee to study the issue of MFP which had submitted its report in May 2011. The Planning Commission also set up a sub-group to look into this issue for the Twelfth Five Year Plan which also submitted its report in September 2011. The sub-group is already on record that the MSP for the 16 minor forest produce items identified by the Haque Committee such as tendu, bamboo, mahua flowers, mahua seeds, sal leaves, sal seeds, lac, chironji, wild honey, tamarind etc will cost at least 4000 crores to 5000 crores rupees a year. The sub-group has recommended allocations of just 2000 crores for the entire period of the Plan, which works out to just 400 crores a year. Thus even before the finalisation, the amount being suggested is just a pittance of what is required.


The issue of a MSP for MFP is urgent and essential. According to the Planning Commission’s own estimates around 275 million people depend on MFP earnings. While 20-40 per cent of the income of forest dwellers depends on MFP, it is estimated that fifty per cent of adivasis are dependent on MFP for a livelihood. The value of the trade is put at over 6000 crores a year, but the actual gatherers get dismal rates while the profits are grabbed by middlemen and business companies. AARM decided to take up these issues and organise a widespread campaign on the demand for an effective commission with adequate allocations.




The meeting discussed on the hypocritical stand of the central government on tourism in tiger reserves and the changing stand of the Supreme Court. This is geared not towards the implementation of existing legislation like the FRA or the Wildlife Protection Act (amended) but only to protect the interests of the resort owners and tourist related big businesses. In July 2012, the Supreme Court banned all tourist related activity in the entire tiger reserve. In October 2012 in the same case, the Supreme Court lifted the ban pending the final judgment and accepted the guidelines for eco-tourism in the tiger reserves as issued by the central government through the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in June 2011. The government and the Supreme Court have protected the interests of the tourism industry. But forest dwellers are being forcibly relocated, being paid a sum of ten lakh rupees. In some areas because of lack of so-called evidence, even this compensation is being denied.


The Supreme Court has also so far not commented on the clauses in the guidelines which state that in all eco-tourist projects, local communities must be given priority in employment. The rights of forest dwellers to full access including for livelihood requirements to the areas must be guaranteed. There can be no forcible relocation. The provisions of FRA and WLPA regarding classification, recognition of rights, relocation must be fully implemented.




The Parliamentary standing committee in its recommendations has mentioned the memorandum of the AARM in relation to its conclusions in six clauses and accepted some of the suggestions of the organisation. Significantly, it has suggested that consultation is not enough; consent is required from Gram Sabhas. It has also recommended that no central Act should be exempted from the LARR. It has also accepted our demand that the special provisions for SCs and STs should be reflected in the main part of the Bill. It has also recommended that the Bill should not allow for acquisition or alienation of land in Schedule 5 and 6 areas and if unavoidable there should be increased compensation. However, on the issue of mining, including coal mining, the standing committee has negatively brought it into the definition of ‘public purpose’ as infrastructure, thus not requiring any consent. This will prove detrimental to the rights of the adivasis over mineral resources. Several suggestions made by AARM have been accepted either partially or substantially by the standing committee. However, in response, the government in its recent draft of the official Bill retains all the main obnoxious and anti-tribal provisions. AARM will popularise our objections and launch struggles to protect adivasi rights.




The meeting noted with concern the continuing violence in Kokhrajar district and adjoining areas of the BTAD. The Congress government utterly failed to intervene in time, leading to the death of around 100 persons, the burning of houses, loot of property and displacement in the first instance of around 3 lakh people, the bulk of who belong to the minority communities. Even today there are over 1.5 lakh Muslims in the relief camps, while majority of the Bodo displaced families have been able to return home. The developments in Assam point to the danger of narrow identity politics which subverts the protection given to tribal communities under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution. AARM rejected the propaganda that all the Bengali Muslims in the region are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Historical circumstances starting from a century ago have led to the settlement of different communities, including Bengali Muslims in the region. While the rights of the Bodo communities must be protected under the Sixth Schedule, it cannot be by forcibly driving out other communities. The meeting condemned the effort of the RSS-BJP as well as right wing Muslim organisations to communalise the situation. Extremist elements from both communities have to be fought back and isolated. Those still in the relief camps must be protected and helped to return to their homes without any conditions. AARM also demands that the Assam Accord be implemented, the Indo-Bangladesh border sealed, the National population register must be speedily updated and the distribution of photo identity cards to all citizens based on the electoral rolls of 1971.




The members from different states enumerated the spate of successful struggles on important issues. In Jharkhand, our struggles ensured that arrears of around 1.2 lakh rupees was given to adivasi workers in Dumka district. Successful struggles were held against land acquisition wherein in Ranchi the acquisition of 256 acres for Housing Board could be stopped and in Jamtara over 500 acres were returned to adivasis. Struggles against giving away 5000 acres to Reliance in Hazaribagh and 1100 acres to Electro Steel were launched. The struggles by the Girijana Sangham in Andhra Pradesh have led to the tribal affairs ministry cancelling the licenses of Jindal and a Dubai based company for bauxite mining. The united front of over 140 organisations of SC/STs forced the government in AP to set up a sub committee to look into implementation of the sub plan and a special session of the assembly has been agreed upon. In Bengal even amidst extreme violence and attacks on democratic functioning, struggles have been launched on issue of forest rights, food security, ST old age pension, against illegal quarrying and stone-crushing units, unauthorised contracts to open cast coal mines etc. Struggles in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh on PDS, corruption in MNREGS, Odisha struggle for land in Gajapati district wherein a notice to grant four acres to all adivasis has been issued after a movement that spread to 300 villages are all very inspiring. The stay on eviction of 1500 families under the Kuldiha National Park in Balasore district is also a significant gain. Tamilnadu witnessed huge protests against eviction of 3000 families in Ambasamudram for a Tiger Sanctuary. There were protests against the government order banning house-site pattas and land pattas in Hill areas. The government agreed to provision of 90 per cent of the value of trees planted in tribal areas to the tribal people as opposed to the earlier provision that Forest Department will have to get 40 per cent of the value. Kerala has seen massive mobilisation for land rights to adivasis and against police atrocities. In Maharashtra struggles for Forest Rights, on PDS and effective intervention against diversion of foodgrains by local politicians have taken place. Rajasthan has witnessed protests in Udaipur against illegal evictions with thousands participating and launched a campaign against unjust land acquisition in Dungarpur for railway project as well as against eviction of adivasis from Kumbalgarh Tiger Reserve. In Assam, the organisation intervened seeking government intervention to stop the violence in BTAD region and provide speedy rehabilitation.


Jitender Choudhury, minister in the LF government gave a detailed report on the policies towards adivasis in Tripura which was inspiring. In Tripura, the intervention of the Gana Mukti Parishad and Kisan Sabha as well as the Left Front government has ensured the per capita fund flow under MNREGS (wages paid as well as infrastructure created) is as high as Rs 2833.86 in the state while it is as low as Rs 41.16 in MP and Rs 63.90 in Gujarat. The Left Front government has also strived to develop the land given under FRA with agro-forestry, horticultural crops, irrigation and extension of MNREGS under a project to enhance economic viability of these lands. Pension rights to tribals are guaranteed. All efforts are on to ensure the overwhelming victory of the Left Front in the forthcoming assembly election.


Struggles under the aegis of the AARM and its affiliates are continuing and it is also being accompanied by education of cadre and organisation building. AARM will move on to further intensification of struggles and consolidate organisationally in tribal areas as a fighting organisation of adivasis. This is the message of the Ranchi meeting.