(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
August 25 , 2013
Truth behind Gujarat Model of Adivasi Development
ADIVASI organisations in Gujarat recently called for a bandh against the state government. Their contention was that the state government had not spent the Rs 41,000 crore that it had got as central assistance for the tribal sub-plan since 2008. They also said the government had failed to implement the constitutional guarantees provided to the adivasis, and accused the state government of aiding the non-adivasis in taking over the adivasi lands and assisting in corporate land acquisition in the adivasi areas.
This description of the condition of adivasis under Narendra Modi’s rule exposes the tall claims of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that the Gujarat model of development addresses the problems of social injustice. Claims like these are also used by the BJP to justify the prime ministerial ambitions of Modi.
CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEES DILUTED
The scheduled tribes constitute 14.8 per cent of the population of Gujarat and are largely concentrated in Surat, Bharuch, Narmada, Dangs, Tapi, Navsari and Valsad districts in south Gujarat. These are the fifth schedule areas where the Tribal Adivsory Council is headed by the chief minister. However, the council’s meetings are held only scarcely, the last recorded one being in November 2011. Further, the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act has been implemented only in letter and not in spirit. The Gujarat model of PESA Act circumvents the centre’s model act and dilutes its content by giving the power of decision making to the taluk panch rather than the gram sabha. In a Niyamgiri case type of situation, this means that the right of informed consent lies not with the gram sabha but with the taluka panch. As several studies have pointed out, many of the taluk panchas are not always adivasis, and the state government does not implement ST reservations in the sarpanch elections diligently. This has serious implications for the manner in which land is acquired and resources are controlled in adivasi regions.
Another aspect of the dilution of constitutional positions is the half-hearted implementation of the centrally assisted tribal sub-plan schemes. Reports of the Planning Commission and the union tribal ministry show that the state government has not reported the utilisation of any central funds since 2008. The percentage of allocation of funds for the tribal sub-plan has also declined from 13.8 per cent of the total budget in 2011-12 to 12.4 per cent in 2012-13. This allocation is much lower than the total percentage of adivasi population (14.8 per cent) in the state. Such a reduced allocation violates constitutional provisions, and also lays the foundation of the private sector’s penetration into adivasi development.
In 2008 the Gujarat government declared that the tribal sub-plan strategy of the central government was not suited to the state and that it would have its own Gujarat pattern of fund allocations for adivasi areas. The chief minister launched his 10 point Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana, a programme that largely works on the public-private partnership (PPP) model. In a true neo-liberal spirit, it assumes that wealth creation can take place only through corporate participation and sets up specific systems for this purpose. Many of these projects prefer to work through corporate houses and through non-government organisations (NGOs) which have partnerships with private sector companies who work in education and agricultural diversification.
PROMOTING CORPORATE FARMING AND PRIVATE SCHOOL EDUCATION
Two specific programmes are to be noted in this regard. The first is the Project Sunshine that was launched in 2007 in order to produce hybrid maize seed for the Monsanto seeds company. A 2010 evaluation report of the projects showed that the benefits to most of the adivasi farmers were dependent on the technological inputs coming from the Monsanto. These inputs were bought through NGOs and sold to farmers. Some 51 per cent of the adivasi farmers surveyed reported that they had to borrow money in order to buy inputs for their farming. Further, though the productivity per acre registered a marginal increase in some of the lands, income from non-farm occupations like animal husbandry and poultry declined. Thus the programme is clearly weighed against the interests of the landless people. Most importantly, this government sponsored evaluation report provided ample evidence to show that the strategy cannot lift the adivasi farmers from poverty. Rather it is one among the way to further the interests of corporate led contract farming.
The second evidence of this corporate driven strategy is in the tribal school education programme. Though the Eklavya Model residential schools are not exclusive to Gujarat, the PPP model implemented in Gujarat is instructive. The policy aims to hand over the “existing schools to professionally managed urban residential schools on a full cost reimbursement basis and encourage the socially conscious private industry to develop new quality schools in ITDP areas.” (ITDP stands for Institute for Transport and Development Policy.) This is the most blatant policy for privatisation of education that a government can articulate in a marginalised region. The schools are run through educational NGOs and trusts that have vested interests in an expansion of private education like the Mahatma Gandhi Global Schools Foundation (Singapore) or the Zee Learning Education Society. Some of these, like the Utthan Sewa Trust from Modi’s own constituency Maninagar, are also known to be close to the Sangh Parivar. The aim of these educational and training institutions is to provide skilled human resources for industry. Hence the projects of the ITDP partner with private educational institutions, and indeed subsidise them in order to train and enskill labour for their own corporate enterprises.
THE HINDUTVA CULTURAL PROJECT
In this sense the Gujarat model is designed to open up the adivasi areas to private corporate capital, both in terms of its material resources as well as its social fabric. This is also accompanied by a hegemonic Hindutva project whose social basis lies in the support it gets from small and big businesses. It is well known that the Sangh Parivar considers the adivasis to be ‘Hindus’ and has always attempted to manipulate them for their own political ends. This is the end to which all the BJP strongholds in Central India have run ghar vapsi (return home) and reconversion programmes. It has also used its social welfare activities (through a network of NGOs) to spread its tentacles and create a communal divide within the adivasi society. This was clearly evident in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom when the adivasis were mobilised to execute the riots.
In 2003 the Modi government brought in an anti-conversion law which was aimed at curbing the activities of the Christian missions. As always, the Sangh has claimed that these missionaries indulge in forcible conversions. For the first time the law required a person to give prior information about conversion, thus opening the process to intimidation by district officials. This law was clearly aimed at the scheduled castes and tribes who sought to escape the caste oppression by working with the missions and who were opposing Hindu fundamentalists in the region.
The intent became still clearer in 2006 when amendments were proposed. The term ‘Hindu’ included Jains, Buddhists and animists, attracting protest from various minority groups. It also stated that conversion from one denomination of ‘Hindus’ (including Jains, Buddhists and animists) to another would be excluded from the purview of the bill. Prior permission had to be sought for any conversion. The act was passed by the assembly amidst much protest in 2008, and was challenged in court through a public interest litigation (PIL). However, by proposing such amendments, the Modi government has paved the way for legitimising an intensification of the ghar vapsi or reconversion programme of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Sangh Parivar. They hold Shabri Kumbh and have mass reconversion programmes, the last one recorded in August 2012. A myth is spread that Christian missions are taking over the whole Dangs district, while in fact only five per cent of the adivasis in Dangs are Christian. The fact that this process has intensified after 2006 shows that the Modi government is interested in creating a broad coalition against the minorities in order to polarise public opinion.
In sum, it is clear that the Gujarat model of adivasi development is part of a larger alliance between Hindutva and corporate capital. This trend can be fought only politically and ideologically if the democratic movement and its organisations intensify their struggles in the region. By doing this, they will also help to build a democratic adivasi consciousness that is essential to counter both Hindutva and corporate capitalism.