PESA Act 1996

25-03-2023

GS II

Sub-Categories:

Polity Notes for UPSC

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Prelims:  Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.

Mains:    Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure, Devolution of Powers and Finances up to Local Levels and Challenges Therein.

 

What is PESA Act 1996, and why was it enacted?

The Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act 1996 was brought in as a response to the long-standing demands of the tribal communities in India for greater autonomy and control over their own affairs. 

  • PESA Act was enacted on 24 December 1996 to enable tribal self-rule in fifth schedule areas. The Act extended the provisions of Panchayats to the tribal areas of Fifth Schedule states. 
  • Historically, the tribal communities in India have been marginalized and excluded from the mainstream political and economic systems and have faced numerous challenges such as displacement, loss of land and resources, and cultural erosion.
  • The PESA act drew inspiration from the provisions of the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Indian constitution. It aimed to provide greater autonomy to the Scheduled areas, which are predominantly tribal in nature, and protect their rights over land and forest.
  • The PESA Act gives special powers to the Gram Sabhas in Scheduled Areas, especially for managing natural resources. The main rationale behind the Act is to preserve the tribal population from exploitation with the active involvement of the Gram Sabha. 

 

What are the significant provisions of the PESA Act?

The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) is a law that applies to the Scheduled Areas of India, which are areas notified by the President as predominantly inhabited by tribal communities. Some of the major provisions of the PESA Act are as follows:

  1. Gram Sabha: The PESA Act establishes the Gram Sabha, a forum for the participation of the community in the development process. The Gram Sabha is responsible for the identification of development projects, the preparation of development plans, and the implementation of these plans.
  2. Village-level institutions: The Act provides for establishing village-level institutions to carry out development activities and provide basic services to the community. These institutions include the Gram Panchayat, the Gram Sabha, and the Panchayat Samiti.
  3. Powers and functions: The PESA legislation gives the Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat significant powers and functions in relation to the management of natural resources, the protection of the environment, and the regulation of economic activities.
  4. Consultation: According to the Act requires that the Gram Sabha be consulted before any development projects or activities are undertaken in the Scheduled Areas.
  5. Funds: The Act allows transferring funds to the Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat to enable them to perform their functions.
  6. Land: The Act provides for the protection of the land rights of the tribal communities in the Scheduled Areas and requires that their consent be obtained before any land is acquired or transferred.
  7. Cultural and social practices: The Act protects the cultural and social practices of the tribal communities in the Scheduled Areas and prohibits any interference in these practices.

 

What are the outcomes of the PESA Act?

Since its inception, the PESA Act has made several achievements in empowering tribal communities and promoting their participation in the development process. Some of them are as follows:

  1. Empowerment of tribal communities: The Act has contributed to the empowerment of tribal communities by giving them a greater say in the development process through the Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat. 
  2. Protection of land rights: It requires that the consent of the Gram Sabha be obtained before any land is acquired or transferred, which has helped to prevent the exploitation of tribal communities by outsiders.
  3. Preservation of cultural and social practices: The PESA Act has contributed to the preservation of the cultural and social practices of tribal communities in the Scheduled Areas to protect the traditions and way of life of tribal communities.
  4. Promotion of decentralization: The Act has promoted decentralization by giving more powers and functions to the Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat.
  5. Improved access to basic services: The PESA Act has contributed to the improvement of access to basic services, such as education, healthcare, and drinking water, in the Scheduled Areas. 

 

What are the limitations of the PESA Act?

Despite its goals, the PESA Act has faced several challenges in its implementation. Some of these challenges are as follows:

  1. Limited coverage: Tribal communities in non-scheduled areas of the country are not covered by the Act and do not have access to its provisions.
  2. Lack of awareness: Many tribal communities in the Scheduled Areas are not aware of the rights and entitlements of the PESA Act.
  3. Limited resources: Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat often do not have sufficient resources to carry out their functions effectively.
  4. Lack of trained personnel: Many Gram Sabhas and Gram Panchayats lack trained personnel to carry out their functions effectively.
  5. Political interference: requires that the Gram Sabha be consulted, but the decisions of the Gram Sabha are often not respected and are subject to political interference.
  6. Conflicts with other laws: The PESA Act can sometimes be in conflict with other laws, such as the Forest Rights Act and the Wildlife Protection Act, which can hinder its implementation.

 

Case Studies of successful implementation of PESA Act

  • Chhattisgarh: 
    • The state government has implemented the Act in several tribal-dominated districts and has seen positive results regarding community empowerment and sustainable development. 
    • For example, in the district of Sarguja, gram sabhas (village councils) have been given the power to manage and conserve forest resources. They have been able to implement afforestation and eco-restoration projects successfully. 
    • Implementation of PESA has led to increased forest cover and the regeneration of traditional forests, as well as improved livelihoods for the local communities.
  • Andhra Pradesh: 
    • The state government has set up a PESA Cell to monitor the implementation of the Act and to provide technical and financial support to the Gram Sabhas. 

The proper implementation of PESA will revitalize the struggling self-governance system in tribal regions and address shortcomings in the traditional governance system. Thus, PESA holds great potential to improve the lives of tribal people residing in Scheduled Areas by legally recognizing their rights to natural resources.

 

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Previous Year Questions:

Prelims

 

Q) 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)

(a) To provide self-governance

(b) To recognize traditional rights

(c) To create autonomous regions in tribal areas

(d) To free tribal people from exploitation

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

Q) How many States with Fifth Schedule Areas are covered under PESA? 

A total of ten States are covered under PESA. These States are Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Telangana.

 

Q)Where is Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act applicable?

Out of the ten PESA States, eight States, namely; Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Telangana, have framed and notified their State PESA Rules under their respective State Panchayati Raj Acts.