The Centre would "fight" Naxals through welfare and empowerment schemes and protect tribals from being used as shields by the ultras, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh today said.
"In the name of forest dwellers, Maoists have created an atmosphere of fear (in the society). Our fight against Maoists is continuing. Through schemes for tribal welfare and women empowerment, with a strong political willpower, we will defeat their design," he told a meeting of Adivasi Adhikar Samavesa at Narla in Odisha's Kalahandi district.
Stating that Maoists were using tribals as shields, Ramesh said the Naxal issue can be tackled by strengthening Gram Sabhas and accelerating political processes and greater participation among forest dwellers.
As promised, the UPA government had undertaken several developmental schemes for uplift of tribals and many more were in the offing, Ramesh said.
Union Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo, who also attended the function, said tribals remained deprived as benefits of developmental schemes failed to percolate to them and they should be brought into the social mainstream.
A large number of tribal representatives from different parts of Kalahandi and adjoining districts drew the attention of the two union ministers to various problems, including the issue of fake caste certificates.
In a major step to empower forest dwellers, Jamguda in tribal dominated Kalahandi became the first village in Odisha and second in the country to exercise its community right to harvest bamboo under the Forest Rights Act.
With transit passes given to gram sabha, residents of Jamguda are now free to harvest and sell bamboo and not wait wait for the government's special permission.