Rahul promises caste census, economic survey in tribal-dominated Nandurbar

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said his party's government would carry out a caste census and an economic and financial survey, and also strengthen the Forest Rights Act that was `weakened' under the BJP regime.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi

Mumbai | Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said his party's government would carry out a caste census and an economic and financial survey, and also strengthen the Forest Rights Act that was `weakened' under the BJP regime.

Speaking in tribal-dominated Nandurbar district of Maharashtra as his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra entered the state from Gujarat in its last leg, he said tribals make up eight per cent of India's population, and the Congress would ensure that they get a proportionate stake in development.

His party's government will include villages with more than 50 per cent tribal population in the "sixth schedule" (of the Constitution) so that local-level decisions can not be implemented without tribals' consent, he said, addressing a gathering.

"Once we come to power, the Congress will carry out a caste census and an economic and financial survey across the country. It will be a revolutionary step...we will have the exact data of each caste and its representation in the population," Gandhi said.

The Congress leader also promised to introduce a legislation to provide guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farm and forest produce.

"The BJP weakened Acts like the Forest Rights Act or Land Acquisition Act. We will not only strengthen them but ensure that tribals' claims are settled within one year," he said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party's governments have wrongly rejected thousands of claims under the Forest Rights Act and denied the tribals access to the jungles, Gandhi alleged.

The ruling party uses the word `vanvasi' (forest-dwellers) for the Adivasi or tribal population in India to deny the fact of their existence before the arrival of people of other races, the Congress leader said.

"`Adivasi' means you are the original owners of this land, water and the forest. The word `vanvasi' does not come with such inheritance. The BJP keeps calling you `vanvasi' but destroys your forests and gives them to Adanis.

Your share in the population is around eight per cent, but do you have any representation in major corporate houses or at senior management levels in these private companies? Out of 90 IAS officers who allocate the country's budget, only one officer is tribal. Of every Rs 100 spent in the budget, the tribal officer can decide about the utilisation of only 10 paise," Gandhi further said.

Talking about the things he learnt when the yatra was passing through Gujarat, he said, "Twenty-five per cent of the land acquired by the government in Gujarat belongs to the tribals, Dalits and backward communities. What sort of development is taking place by taking away your land?"

The Narendra Modi government at the Centre wrote off the debt of select corporate houses, but no such relief was given to tribals, he claimed.

"The Modi government has written off corporate loans of Rs 16 lakh crore. It is equivalent to the outlay for MNREGA (rural employment scheme) for 24 years. In one year, Rs 65,000 crore are spent on MNREGA," Gandhi said.

The net worth of 20-25 people in the country including the Ambanis and Adanis is equivalent to the collective net worth of 70 crore people, he claimed.

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