(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 30, 2013
AP Girijana Sangham Conferences
Highlight Tribal Issues
R Sriram Naik
THE fifth state conference of Andhra Pradesh Girijana Sangham (APGS) called for combating the vested interests who were seeking to pit one section of tribals against another in Andhra Pradesh using the plank of uneven development. It called for united struggles against central and state governments’ neo-liberal economic policies that were ruining their lives.
The 5th state conference was held in Miryalaguda of Nalgonda district on June 17 and 18, 2013. It was attended by 260 delegates from 15 districts of the state comprising non-scheduled areas. Earlier, a separate state conference for the scheduled areas was held on April 23 and 24, 2013 in Parvatipuram of Vizianagaram district. That conference was attended by 214 delegates from 8 districts. A huge rally and public meeting was held in Parvatipuram on the occasion which was addressed by Tripura state rural development and forest minister Jitendra Choudhary.
In Miryalaguda conference, Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch leader and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat was the chief guest. Addressing a big seminar attended by over 2000 people on the topic ‘Empowerment of Tribals’ on the inaugural day, she lambasted the governments for their anti-tribal policies. Successive governments at the centre have been taking away the rights of the tribal community in the name of ‘development’. After miserably failing to provide patta land to tribal families all these years, the government is throwing them out from the forests by giving out huge mining leases. The tribals are deprived of education and basic health facilities. She cited how hundreds of tribals have died in Andhra Pradesh have died due to malaria and diarrhoea without medical help. She said the situation of tribals in the state is so dire that they are forced to sell their babies in order to continue living. While this was the reality, the central government is spending crores of rupees in advertising to show the ‘great development’ of these sections of people, she lamented. The central government is keen on promoting the interests of the big corporate houses by allowing greater foreign direct investment into the country while paying lip service to the aam admi. The condition of working tribal women was miserable with no support from the governments. Karat deplored the attitude of the AP state government for not providing food for work programme for the tribals under NREGA. Professors and intellectuals from tribal communities, lawyers, teachers and many others attended the seminar which was also addressed by APGS general secretaries Dr Midiam Babu Rao and R Sriram Naik, and senior leaders of the movement Ch Tejeswara Rao and P Somaiah.
The conference took stock of the achievements and flaws of the organisation during the period since the fourth state conference was held in 2010. It also reviewed the tasks undertaken in that conference. The APGS was formed in 1999 and had been striving relentlessly for the upliftment of tribals in the state. It has attained recognition among these sections as an organisation that is continuously struggling for their rights.
As per the 2011 census, there are 59.16 lakh tribals in the state of Andhra Pradesh falling under 35 tribal sects. Among these, 28.41 lakh tribals belonging to 30 sects are living in scheduled areas while 30.77 lakh tribals of 5 sects are living in non-scheduled areas of the state. As the problems of tribals in both these areas are vastly different, the APGS has decided to have separate conferences for both the areas and separate committees were elected. Both the scheduled areas conference and the non-scheduled areas conference saw lively discussion by delegates on the general secretary reports placed by Dr M Babu Rao and R Sriram Naik respectively.
These conferences were held in the backdrop of the important victory achieved in terms of forcing the state government to enact a legislation to oversee the implementation of SC, ST Sub Plans. The APGS played a crucial role in rallying other tribal organisations and intellectuals into the Joint Action Committee. It also conducted padayatras, jeep yatras and held seminars in almost all tribal hamlets in the state taking the message of the importance of Sub Plans.
The organisation has been conducting a sustained struggle for proper implementation of 1/70 Act in order to prevent the alienation of tribal lands and to restore their lands. The police slapped cases against 17 activists who conducted this struggle in Vishakapatnam agency area and sent them to jail. The Sangham also opposed the state government decision to remove the powers of grama sabha and vest them with Mandal Revenue authorities in violation of PESA. The state government after promising to distribute 25 lakh acres to the tribals under Forest Rights Act actually distributed pattas for only 4.5 lakh acres. Claiming to have given out 10 lakh acres of land to Vana Samrakshana Samithis (VSS), the government is falsely claiming to have distributed 15 lakh acres of land to tribals!
The Sangham also militantly opposed the bauxite mining in Vishakapatnam agency area forcing the central and state governments to rethink. Although the union tribal affairs minister has written to the governor asking for scrapping the lease, the state government is dilly dallying on this issue. We also opposed Polavaram project that would submerge thousands of acres of tribal lands. In fact, we forcibly occupied and distributed to tribals 500 acres of such land. The Sangham along with progressive bodies like Jana Vignana Vedika and Sundarayya Vignana Kendram distributed medicines worth Rs 20 lakh and providing medical care to thousands of tribals in interior places who were suffering from dangerous viral fevers. This was invaluable in the face of dismal failure of the state government to come to the aid of tribals.
Agitations are going on for the last many years on the demand that the girijana thandas (tribal hamlets) in the non-scheduled areas must be recognised as grama panchayats. Successive government promise to implement that but forget the same after the elections are over. The state conference passed a resolution demanding that these panchayats must be formed immediately before the conduct of local body elections next month. There are 30.77 lakh tribals in non-scheduled areas and these people have no special rights for them. The Modified Area Development Authority or the District Tribal Development Agencies have not resulted in ensuring their development. Therefore the APGS has been demanding formation of ITDAs in those districts where there is significant population of tribals in non-scheduled areas. After much struggle the government agreed and formed a single ITDA headquartered in the state capital for the 12 districts. This has proven to be of no use with lack of funds and staff.
The status of education in tribal areas is dismal to say the least. Even in such a situation, the state government recently decided to close down the schools in tribal hamlets citing lack of sufficient student strength. It is not providing scholarships or mess charges as per the present rates. The conference passed a resolution demanding rectification of these issues by the state government.
Both the conferences unanimously elected new state committees. The scheduled area committee has a 31 member state committee with former MLA Kolaka Lakshmanamurthy as president and former MP and CPI(M) state secretariat member Dr M Babu Rao as general secretary. There are seven office bearers among them.
In the non scheduled area conference a 36 member new state committee was elected with G Dharma Naik as president and R Sriram Naik as general secretary. In this committee also there are seven office bearers.
The conferences resolved to focus on local issues of tribals and expand the organisation in the coming period to newer areas. The tribals will be rallied against the anti-people policies of the ruling classes. The attempts of the vested interests to create differences among the tribals will be defeated through united movement.