HYDERABAD: Terming mining as the “greatest threat” faced by the tribal community in last two decades, Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo has asked the youths selected under an ambitious programme to create awareness among the forest dwellers about their constitutional rights over the land.

“Today the greatest threat that has come to the tribals and people living in forest areas is actually the threat of mining,” the Minister told the youths selected under the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows (PMRDF) programme.

Addressing the youths assigned to bring convergence of development and welfare initiatives and schemes by the central and state governments in the Naxal-hit districts of the country here, Deo, who is also the Minister for Panchayati Raj, noted that there are laws like Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act under which only a Scheduled Tribe members can buy or take land on lease in tribal dominated areas.

Noting that even rights of the non-tribals who own only two cents of land in the tribal areas for generations is notified, he wondered, “How then are we able to give mining leases to corporates and companies which are neither either owned by the Scheduled Tribes or controlled by the Scheduled Tribes.”

Pointing out the loopholes in the laws through which the mining companies have managed to take the land on lease in mineral-rich forest areas, Deo told the 156 youths selected for the fellowship that “there are rights which we will have to make the local people aware of.”

The Fellows will have a duration of 2 to 3 years to work with the administration of 78 Left-wing extremism affected districts in nine states including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

The Minister said though the Parliament passed Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act was passed in 1996, only Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have implemented it.

The Act extended the provisions of Panchayats to the tribal areas of seven other states including Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan. (ET) 8 Apr, 2012,