Source: Outlook Magazine
NEW DELHI, INDIA, December 20, 2000: The government has secretly initiated a move to open up tribal-owned properties for acquisition and commercial exploitation, according to a report in the leftist "Outlook" magazine. The Union ministry of mines has put up a note marked "secret" -- No16/48/97-M.VI -- for the committee of secretaries to encourage an amendment to the constitution's fifth schedule which covers tribal land. The amendment would circumvent a Supreme Court ruling of 1997 that any lease or license to non-tribals as "absolutely void and impermissible." The move has set off angry reactions and threats of protest in Jharkhand and several states which will be affected. De-reservation of tribal land and rehabilitation of those displaced has always been a tricky issue. By official estimates only one-fourth of all tribals displaced between 1951 and 1990 by government projects, in the name of "national interest," have been resettled. It is feared that once tribal land is opened up to mining companies, large-scale displacement of people will occur.