The Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA), a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliate working in tribal areas, has compiled a ‘vision document’ that it will present to top Union ministers and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders on Monday to spread awareness about issues confronting the country’s tribal population.
In the past two years, VKA has vocally disagreed with the policies of the Narendra Modi government more than once. It had opposed amendments proposed to the Land Bill of 2013. It is now bracing to protest the increasing privatisation and commercialisation of education, which it believes is against the interests of the tribal people.
However, VKA, prodded by the RSS, hopes to first reach out to the topmost leaders of the government as well as the BJP to correct their scant awareness of issues confronting tribals. The vision document will be released in Delhi on Monday in the presence of BJP president Amit Shah, RSS number two Suresh ‘Bhaiyaji’ Joshi, rural development minister Chaudhary Birender Singh, tribal affairs minister Jual Oram, environment and forests minister Prakash Javadekar and minister of state for development of northeastern states Jitender Singh.
Sources in VKA said the document was the result of three-year-long consultations. It presents a review of the Constitution and legal framework for the welfare of tribals, non-implementation of constitutional provisions and legislation related to tribal areas, land alienation among tribals, etc.
The document has recommended that governors of states become protectors of Scheduled Tribes in their respective states, and that separate ‘janjati’, or tribal cells, be set up in their offices manned by people drawn from a specially trained ‘janjati cadre’ of officials. It has also demanded that displacement of tribals from their traditional lands be minimised and demanded the implementation of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act and the Forest Rights Act.
There is important political subtext to the exercise, which comes in the wake of a similar effort by the Sangh Parivar to reach out to the Dalits. Apart from 84 seats in the Lok Sabha reserved for Scheduled Castes, there are 47 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes. Of these 131 seats, the BJP had won 66 in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections – the best performance ever by a party on reserved seats since 1991.
VKA, if it helps those in the party and government understand tribal issues better, would not only enable programmes and policies that are more attuned to the welfare of the tribals, but also help BJP consolidate its sway on these seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
WHAT IS VANAVASI KALYAN ASHRAM
RSS affiliate founded in 1952 to work in tribal areas
Objective is to “eliminate the chasm between the Hindu community and its tribal brethren”; also tries to wean away tribals from the influence of Christianity
Claims to have centres in 323 districts (of a total of 634 districts in India) with tribal population
Runs 4,500 schools in tribal areas, 223 hostels for 12,000 students, medical camps in 3,500 tribal villages
- 2,500 women self-help groups