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The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA Act)

  • IASbaba
  • August 10, 2022
  • 0
Governance
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In News: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) declared a six-point “guarantee” for tribals in Gujarat’s Chhota Udepur district, including the “strict implementation” of The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA Act).

  • The PESA Act was enacted in 1996 “to provide for the extension of the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the Panchayats to the Scheduled Areas”.
  • Under the PESA Act, Scheduled Areas are those referred to in Article 244(1), which says that the provisions of the Fifth Schedule shall apply to the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in states other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram

How is the PESA Act, 1996 supposed to work?

  • The PESA Act was enacted to ensure self-governance through Gram Sabhas (village assemblies) for people living in the Scheduled Areas.
  • It recognises the right of tribal communities, who are residents of the Scheduled Areas, to govern themselves through their own systems of self-government, and also acknowledges their traditional rights over natural resources.
  • In pursuance of this objective, the Act empowers Gram Sabhas to play a key role in approving development plans and controlling all social sectors.
  • This includes the processes and personnel who implement policies, exercising control over minor (non-timber) forest resources, minor water bodies and minor minerals, managing local markets, preventing land alienation and regulating intoxicants among other things.
  • State governments are expected to amend their respective Panchayati Raj Acts without making any law that would be inconsistent with the mandate of PESA.
  • After the PESA Act was enacted, the central Ministry of Panchayati Raj circulated model PESA Rules. So far, six states have notified these Rules, including Gujarat.

What is the issue in Gujarat?

  • Gujarat notified the State PESA Rules in January 2017, and made them applicable in 4,503 gram sabhas under 2,584 village panchayats in 50 tribal talukas in eight districts of the state.
  • However, while the provisions of the law deem the Gram Sabhas as “most competent” to deal with matters related to their territories for safeguarding their customs, traditions as well as the natural resources in the tribal areas, the Act has not been enforced in letter and spirit,.

PESA Act 1996:

  • To promote local self-governance in rural India, the 73rd constitutional amendment was made in 1992.
  • Through this amendment, a three-tier Panchayati Raj Institution was made into a law.
  • However, its application to the scheduled and tribal areas under Article 243(M) was restricted.
  • After the Bhuria Committee recommendations in 1995, PESA Act 1996 came into existence for ensuring tribal self-rule for people living in scheduled areas of India.

Role of State Government:

  • PESA, was enacted by the Centre to ensure self-governance through gram sabhas (village assemblies) for people living in scheduled areas.
  • State governments were required to amend their respective Panchayat Raj Acts without making any law that would be inconsistent with the mandate of PESA.
  • Objective: It legally recognises the right of tribal communities, residents of the scheduled areas, to govern themselves through their own systems of self-government.
  • It acknowledges their traditional rights over natural resources.

Importance of Gram Sabha in PESA Act:

Democratic Decentralisation

  • PESA empowers gram sabhas to play a key role in approving development plans and controlling all social sectors.

This includes management of

  • Resources over jal, jangal, zameen (water, forest and land)
  • Minor forest produce
  • Human resources: Processes and personnel who implement policies
  • Managing local markets
  • Preventing land alienation
  • Regulating intoxicants among other things

Preserving Identity

  • The powers of gram sabhas include maintenance of cultural identity and tradition, control over schemes affecting the tribals, and control over natural resources within the area of a village.

Conflict Resolution

  • The PESA Act thus enables gram sabhas to maintain a safety net over their rights and surroundings against external or internal conflicts.

Public Watchdog

  • The gram sabha would have the powers to monitor and prohibit the manufacturing, transport, sale and consumption of intoxicants within their village limits.

Source: Indian Express

Previous Year Question

Q.1) The Government enacted the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act in 1996.Which one of the following is not identified as its objective? (2013)

  1. To provide self-governance
  2. To recognize traditional rights
  3. To create autonomous regions in tribal areas
  4. To free tribal people from exploitation

 

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