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Two tribal hamlets gear up towards establishing ‘village republics’

Udaipur : Chhali and Aada Haldu, two remote settlements inhabited by less educated tribal folks in Ambasa panchayat of Phalasiya in Jhadol tehsil which falls under the Fifth schedule area, may be backward in terms of facilities, but, villagers are taking major steps towards making themselves self reliant and progressive. Residents here are seeking implementation of PESA (Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, the most progressive law passed since Independence. On Wedensday, with the Shila Lekh i.e. stone inscriptions installation at both the villages, villagers have in a way,asserted their rights over community resources like water,land and forest. Jhadol MLA Heeralal Darangi unveiled the stone inscription.

After the implementation of PESA , in the ‘village republics’ here, from construction of a reservoir to drilling handpumps, road widening, proposals for health centers, community building etc all development works would only take place through resolutions passed by the gram sabhas. Aadiwasi Vikas Manch, an NGO working for the betterment of the tribal community have been working for a long time to create awareness among the people.

“Rajasthan government passed the PESA act in 1999 but it took 12 years to make PESA regulations which was passed in 2011” says Sarfaraz one of the volunteers associated with the organization. PESA Act makes it mandatory for the state having scheduled areas to make specific provisions for giving wide ranging powers to tribals on matters relating to decision making and development of their community. PESA legally recognizes the right of tribal communities to govern themselves through their own systems of self-government and also acknowledges their traditional rights over natural resources. PESA empowers Gram Sabhas (village assemblies) to play a key role in approving development plans, controlling all social sectors including the processes and personnel who implement policies, exercising control over minor (non-timber) forest resources, minor water bodies and minor minerals, managing local markets, preventing land alienation and regulating intoxicants among other things.

It has been for lack of awareness among the people that not many panchayats have exerted their rights effectively and now people in these villages are gradually being informed of their rights, Sarfaraz said. The organization would hold mass meetings and gram sabha would be held wherein various prominent development issues would be taken up. In past years organizations like Jan Chetana Sansthan(JCS)and Astha helped the communities to establish ‘village republics’ or ‘Gaon Ganrajya’ taking the cue from the provisions of PESA. Many villages had declared self rule by installing stone slab with new constitution inscribing on it however, nothing remarkable was achieved.

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