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The Hindu
The Hindu
Shubhomoy Sikdar

At Bastar poll rally, Kejriwal talks of Jal, Jungle, Zameen rights

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on September 16 promised to implement the Panchayat (Extension of the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 or PESA within one month if voted to power in Chhattisgarh. 

At a rally in the Jagdalpur, the headquarter of the southern tribal belt of Bastar, the Aam Aadmi Party national convenor said the law was needed to ensure the ownership of Jal, Jungle, Zameen (water, forest and land) remained with the tribals. 

Also Read | Leaving past drubbings behind, AAP hopes to be third-time lucky in Chhattisgarh

“The PESA law says that the Gram Sabha will take all decisions, even the Prime Minister cannot reverse the decision taken by the Gram Sabha. It is written in the PESA law that the Gram Sabha is supreme. Till date governments of all parties have come and no one has implemented it. Why? Their intentions were bad, their eyes were on your water, forest, land and minerals. Our intention is clear, within one month of the formation of the government we will implement the PESA Act and give all powers to the Gram Sabha,” he said. 

The Panchayat (Extension of the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 or PESA, came into existence 27 years ago as a measure to grant rights of self-governance to people living in scheduled areas by restoring more powers in the hands of gram sabhas, or village assemblies. 

And while the Congress Government in the State notified PESA rules last year, activists such as Alok Shukla, the convenor of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, that the rules framed by the State Government had weakened many provisions of the central law.

Also Read | The change in the AAP’s messaging

“What is needed is strict implementation of the PESA law according to its original spirit. If this has been already implemented here, why are people protesting in Hasdeo [in Sarguja, the northern tribal belt of Chhattisgarh] forests,” said Mr. Shukla.   

Meanwhile, at the rally, Mr. Kejriwal reiterated his earlier poll guarantees, including unemployment allowance of ₹3,000 and ₹1,000 monthly allowance for women, free power up to 300 units, besides improved healthcare and education. Taking a dig at the One Nation One Election idea mooted by the Centre, he said the country should talk about “one nation one education” and one nation one swaasthya (healthcare)”.  

The Delhi CM also slammed the Prime Minister over the ongoing India-Bharat controversy. “Ever since 28 parties of the country have formed the INDIA [Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance] alliance to fight against the BJP, the BJP Government has been trying to change the name of the country. But this country does not belong to anyone’s father. It is a country of 140 crore people and India resides in everyone’s heart. People love India,” he said. 

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