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Limitations and issues

The objective behind the PESA Act was to protect the tribal population
from making Gram Sabhas centres of excellence. In other words, it aimed
at decentralization of power and empowering the areas which were

outside the reach of governments (both Central and State)

Since its inception, PESA Act has been a mere mirage for the local
governance. It has been apparent that this act is nothing but a caged tiger.
There are many loopholes which are being used to satisfy the whims and
egos of the bureaucrats. The situation has worsened to this extent, that
the very mechanism which was designed to prevent the exploitation of the

tribal people is being used to exploit them.

To sum up the implementation issues related to the PESA Act, we will have
a dissected view from three perspectives, namely Central, State and Local.
There is a lot of ambiguity when it comes to the rights offered under
this Act. We have the definition of the village wherein the Act is
enforced, but the limit of jurisdiction is not clearly defined. This
creates an environment where there is no accountability.
The Ministry of Rural development which brought this law has a
clear role set for itself. But the scope of responsibilities to be shared
by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Ministry of Panchayat Raj are not
defined to ensure a smooth cross functioning of these agencies.
The integral reason for not giving teeth to these amendments is the
power struggle between bureaucrats and the local governance.
Bureaucrats are not ready to part with the power and authority
which they hold so dearly, let alone losing it to one of the elected
members who belonged to the local areas.
Theres one incident which showcases that how PESA Act is just an
on paper act. During a Gram Sabha meeting in a tribal village in
Odisha, when the then Union Rural Development Minister Jairam
Ramesh interacted with the tribals in Kalahandi, it was shocking to
see that nobody from the village knew what PESA Act was, or what
are the rights which are granted to them under it.
The unit of measurement is also an ambiguous term. As per the
original Act, a village should be considered as the unit for Gram
Sabha. Instead, all state governments use Panchayat as the unit. As

a result, resources located outside the boundary of the Panchayat

fall under jurisdiction of the State Government which can be easily
transferred to the deep pocketed corporates on the name of
development and incentives to boost GDP.
But what can be called as glaring example of the shortcomings of
PESA Act is the definition of Minor Forest Produce (MFP). Even today,
when majority of the tribal population is dependent on their forest
resources for their livelihood, bureaucrats have the audacity of
snatching their rights from them and using the resources to attract
large corporates.
What makes the situation worse is that only handful states had tried
to implement the PESA Act in the first place. Only 9 states had tried
to implement the PESA Act through the state legislation Even these
states are not taking the Act in its true spirit. Only 4 states have
framed rules for PESA implementation, namely Andhra Pradesh,
Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
Another argument against the effectiveness of PESA Act is the lack
of inclusion. Though targeted at the tribal community as a whole,
there are no provisions to protect the rights of women and other
tribal leaders under the Act.
On one hand, numerous responsibilities have been given to the
Panchayats and other local governing bodies, but on the other hand,
the authority to exercise those powers stay with either the central
or the state government.
A solution was thought of in the form of Samata Judgement. But it
also didnt stick through. Had it gained momentum, PESA Act

wouldnt have been in such a bad shape today.

In an overview, it can be said that PESA Act was not thought through
properly. Many loopholes still exist and will keep hounding the dream of a
self-dependent rural India till it is not taken care of.