PESA ACT (Syllabus: GS Paper 2- Polity & Governance)

News-CRUX-10     3rd August 2023        

Context: The Department of Panchayati Raj under the Jharkhand government recently published the draft rules for wide-ranging public consultation for implementing the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act of 1996 or PESA in the state. 

Key provisions of the draft

  • People living in Scheduled Areas in Jharkhand will be able to self-govern through Gram Sabhas. 
  • Gram Sabhas will be able to form committees on their own for education, health, agriculture, public property, village defence, infrastructure, among others. 
  • The rights for use of forest land, minor water bodies, minor minerals, intoxicants and natural resources have also been defined under the PESA Act.
  • This will mean Gram Sabhas could make plans for minor minerals like soil, stone, sand, moram etc. and use them. 
  • It will be the operator of the “sand ghat” (where sand is mined), or can use it for local needs at its own level. 
  • Permission from Gram Sabhas will also be mandatory for mining of any mineral, meaning no mining lease or opencast mining permit for minor minerals will be issued without prior consultation with it. 
  • All residents shall have equal rights to fish and collect resources like fox nuts in natural water resources like ponds. 
  • The Sabhas can also reject rules  by the central and state governments that harm traditional customs and practices of the areas under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. 
  • Any tribal land can be acquired only after the Gram Sabha gives its permission.

Forest (Conservation) Amendment Billl vs PESA Act

  • The PESA Act has been implemented in Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra out of the 10 states under the Fifth Schedule, but Odisha and Jharkhand are still out of its purview. 
  • However, the Rajya Sabha passed the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023, according to which the permission of the Gram Sabha will no longer be necessary for any kind of construction or development work in non-notified forest areas. 
  • If the government passes and implements the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, there will be no coordination between its own two laws.
  • The flow of money will be affected too. 
  • Not a square inch of land in Fifth Schedule regions belongs to state or central governments.