What is PESA Act?
The Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act was enacted in 1996 on the recommendation of the Duleep Singh Bhuriya Committee. Because the provision of Part 9 of the Constitution, related to panchayats, does not apply to the fifth schedule areas. The central government enacted this act to promote self-governance in the Scheduled Areas through Gram Sabha.
The provision of panchayat extension to the scheduled area is commonly known as the PESA Act, 1996.
Currently, there are 10 states with 5th schedule areas – Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Telangana. All 10 states have enacted essential compliance legislation by amending the Panchayati Raj Act.
Features of PESA Act 1996
The following are the features of the Panchayat (extension schedule areas) Act:
- The state legislation shall be in congruence with panchayats in scheduled areas with the tribal customary law, their social and religious practices, and traditional management practices of social welfare.
- The ordinary people of a village live in a group of habitations, hamlets, or groups of hamlets and manage the affairs of their community in congruence with their customs and traditions.
- There will be an electoral roll for every Gram Sabha consisting of the names of the eligible people in every village.
- It is the responsibility of every Gram Sabha to safeguard and preserve the people’s customs, traditions, and cultural identity.
- Every Gram Sabha is responsible for approving plans, programs, and projects for social and economic development before the panchayat can take them up for implementation at the village level.
- Gram Sabha will also be responsible for identifying the beneficiaries under the poverty alleviation and other programs.
- A certification of Gram Sabha is needed for the utilization of funds in every panchayat at the village level for the above plans, programs, and projects.
- In every panchayat, the reservation of seats shall be in proportion to the community of the population in the scheduled area, and the reservation will be given under part 9 of the constitution. The reservations must account for at least one-half of the total number of seats reserved for the scheduled tribes. At all levels, all chairmanships shall be reserved for the scheduled tribe.
- The scheduled tribe with no representation in a panchayat at the intermediate level or a panchayat at the district level may be nominated by the state government, the condition being that such nomination shall not exceed one-tenth of the total members to be elected in the panchayat.
- The nature of the recommendation for granting a concession for the exploitation of minor minerals by auction and granting of prospecting license or mining lease for minor minerals in scheduled areas is mandatory by the Gram Sabha.
What are the Issues Related to PESA?
Partial Implementation: The state governments are supposed to enact state laws for their Scheduled Areas in consonance with this national law. This has resulted in the partially implemented PESA. The partial implementation has worsened self-governance in Adivasi areas, like in Jharkhand.
Administrative Hurdles: Many experts have asserted that PESA did not deliver due to the lack of clarity, legal infirmity, bureaucratic apathy, absence of political will, resistance to change in the hierarchy of power, and so on.
Followed in Letter Rather than Spirit: Social audits conducted across the state have also pointed out that in reality different developmental schemes were being approved on paper by Gram Sabha, without actually having any meeting for discussion and decision-making.