Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao of “diluting the Tribal Rights Act to the detriment of forest dwellers.
Addressing an election meeting at Bhoopalpally in the tribal belt of Telangana, he promised reservations in government jobs and admissions to state-run educational institutions for Scheduled Tribe candidates proportionate to their population in the state.
“Prime Minister Modi weakened Adivasi Bill (Tribal Bill) at the centre and KCR diluted it at the state. As soon as we form our government in Telangana we will ensure that you (tribals) get back your land. We have mentioned this in our manifesto also.
“We will give reservations too that will be proportionate to your population,” Gandhi told the rally.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act was passed in 2006 when the UPA was in power. It is variously referred to as Forest Rights Act, the Tribal Rights Act, Tribal Bill, and Tribal Land Act. The law concerns the rights of forest-dwelling communities.
The opposition has been alleging that the Modi dispensation diluted various provisions of the law including the condition of “free informed consent” from gram sabhas for any government plans to remove tribals from forests and for resettlement or rehabilitation packages. It is alleged that the law was diluted to favour mining companies and industrialists.
Gandhi said the previous UPA government brought the law which gave immense benefits to tribals.
The Telangana government has been accused of diluting the Act by outlawing traditional methods of forest land cultivation.
The Congress president said tribals could not reap full benefit of the law in Telangana because of dilution of its provisions.
Gandhi assured that contract workers of Singareni Collieries would be regularised if the Congress-led alliance came to power in Telangana and the cases of employees who lost their jobs for various reasons would be sympathetically examined.
He also slammed the prime minister for his “habit” of privatising public sector undertakings.
Punning on chief minister KCR’s initials, Gandhi called him “Khao Commission Rao” who promised that he would “redesign” the state but instead redesigned irrigation projects, which resulted in cost escalation and burdened the people, only to benefit members of his family and contractors.
Taking a jibe at the TRS chief’s comment that he will go home and take rest if he loses the polls, Gandhi said, “KCR will definitely take rest in a Rs 300 crore palatial bungalow after the elections. You take rest and the Congress party will fulfil the aspirations and dreams of Telangana with the help of its people.”
Addressing another rally at Armoor, he said, if the Congress came to power at the Centre, it would simplify the GST and sympathetically examine taxes on the beedi industry.
He also promised that a corpus fund of Rs 500 crore would be raised to help migrant workers in the Persian Gulf.
Targeting the prime minister over his signature mass outreach programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on All India Radio, Gandhi said,”Modi ji tells you his ‘mann ki baat’ (speaks his mind) every month. But we will listen to your (people’s) mann ki baat and run Telangana according to your wishes.”
The Congress president said while Modi and KCR always kept the doors of banks open for the rich, the Congress-led government in Telangana will waive agricultural loans of farmers up to Rs 2 lakh and raise the Minimum Support Price for as many as 17 varieties of farm produce.