Jharkhand issues PESA draft rules for consultations

Context: Jharkhand government published draft rules for wide-ranging public consultation for implementing The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act.

Draft Jharkhand Panchayat Provisions (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Rules, 2022

  • Gram Sabhas (GS) will have responsibility of maintaining peace and order in their area of jurisdiction, keeping in view the Constitution, and the rules framed by the government.
  • Dispute Resolution: The GS will be able to hear the issues mentioned in Parishisht-1 (Appendix) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
    • In view of “serious crime-related issues”, GS will immediately inform the nearest police station in-charge.
    • GS will resolve traditional and family disputes.
  • Standing committees: Rules mandated eight standing committees, including for Education and Social Justice, to be working under the GS.
    • which will have at least 50% women and a minimum of 40% people from Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities.
    • Some of which will work for Scheduled Castes, ST as well as weaker sections of society such as specially abled and primitive tribes, providing protection from social injustice.
  • Tradition and Customs: GS shall maintain the customary law, social and religious practices of the ST communities residing in its area and will take necessary steps for the protection of the same.
  • Limitation on state government: State Government rules issued in relation to the rights and responsibilities of the Panchayats will be in accordance with the social, religious and traditional management practices of the STs.
  • Sand Ghat: The GS concerned will be the operator of the “sand ghat” (where sand is mined) or can use it for local needs at its own level.

Issues with the rules 

  • It is not clear from the draft rules what the issues under relevant IPC sections are that the GS may or may not hear.
  • The rules consider ‘tribals’ as a homogeneous entity but Jharkhand has many tribal groups with different political systems.
    • ‘Parha Raja System’ in Munda and Oraon tribe dominated in Chhota Nagpur region
    • ‘Munda Manki System’ in Ho tribe dominated in Kolhan region
  • Maintaining peace and order will be challenging as GS is not given significant financial and administrative authority in the rules.  
  • The Rules do not provide for any mechanism to resolve conflicts arising out of the sand mafia and Gram Sabha. 
  • The formation of standing committees and increasing their ambit of operation to other sections may dilute PESA’s effectiveness in addressing tribal issues.

Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA)

The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act or PESA, enacted in 1996 on the recommendation of Bhuria Committee to ensure self-governance through gram sabhas for people living in Scheduled Areas. It proclaims to establish self-governance, participatory democracy and empowerment of the local community.

Power and Function of Gram Sabha

  • Protection of traditional belief, the culture of the tribal communities
  • Resolution of the local disputes
  • Prevention of land alienation
  • Management and protection of the common properties based on their traditions
  • Management of village markets
  • Right to control production, distillation, and prohibition of liquor
  • Exercise of control over moneylending
  • Any other rights involving the Scheduled Tribes.

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