According to the census of 2011, Adivasis account for 9.34% of the total population in Telangana.

Is the Telangana govt violating the Constitutional rights of adivasis with district reorganizationFile photo: PTI
Voices Opinion Sunday, November 13, 2016 - 11:32

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government has reorganised and added new districts in the state, increasing the number of districts in Telangana from 11 to 31. Ostensibly, this was done to improve the administration of the newly formed state. But what exactly lies beneath this objective is possibly a shrewd plan to consolidate the party’s support base. This is clearly explained in this article here by senior journalist Kingshuk Nag. But more importantly this exercise by the TRS government will have a massive impact on the adivasi population of Telangana. 

Telangana has a large adivasi population. According to the census of 2011, they account for 9.34% of the total population in the new state of Telangana, which is more than the 6.99% in the old undivided state of Andhra Pradesh. They are largely concentrated in the old districts of Khammam, Adilabad and Warangal. Other old districts where they are largely spread are Mahbubnagar, Karimnagar and Nalgonda. Take a look at the map below. 

(The old districts: Image Source)

These areas, where adivasis are resident, have been included in the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which expressly provides them protection from alienation of their lands and natural resources to non-adivasis. And the reorganisation of these adivasi Fifth Schedule areas has the potential to undermine the constitutional safeguard provided to the adivasis. 

Consider the old Adilabad district shown in the map above. The predominantly adivasi areas of Kerameri mandal and Asifabad divisions have been cut out and made part of the new district called Komaram Bheem district.

It is laudable to have a district named after the legendary adivasi fighter, but the reorganization has been done in such a way that the district is now predominantly non-adivasi. The irony is that the village where Komaram Bheem fought his last battle, Jodeghat in Kerameri mandal, is far away from Mancherial, located in the plains and is headquarters of the Komaram Bheem district and is predominantly non-adivasi. This is shown in the map below.

(Image - Namasthe Telangana)

In fact, the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) is located in Utnoor, Adilabad district. It would have made more sense to integrate these mandals into a new adivasi district with Utnoor as its headquarters. This would have been in the right spirit of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. 

Again, consider the Fifth Schedule mandals in the old Warangal district — Eturnagarm, Mangapet, Tadwai, Govindraopet and Mulug. These have been cut out and added into a new district called K Jayashankar, which is predominantly non-adivasi, with Bhupalpalle as its headquarters — which is again located in the plains.

The situation is similar with the new district of Mahbubabad. This is predominantly non-adivasi district which consists of Fifth Schedule mandals - Bayyaram and Garla from the old Khammam district and Gudur and Kothagudem from old Warangal district. 

The Constitution clearly recognises adivasis and their unique culture, history, traditions, dispute resolutions systems and way of life. The provisions of the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution clearly prescribe the protection of areas having adivasi majority population to ensure their socioeconomic development.

The Tribal Sub-plan has, among others, one major objective to provide physical and financial security against all types of exploitation and oppression. And this reorganisation essentially undermines this objective by disregarding the basic logic of having the Scheduled areas and Tribal Sub-paln areas as coterminous.  

Provisions of the PESA (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act gives substantive powers of autonomy, self-governance and administration to the tribal communities living in these scheduled areas. Instead of bringing together the scheduled areas and Tribal Sub-plan areas together to form adivasi districts, the TRS government is reorganising these scheduled areas into predominantly new non-adivasi districts, with headquarters located far away in the plains. The adivasi’s right to self-rule, constitutionally safeguarded by Schedule 5 and PESA Act, is being violated in both letter and spirit. 



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