Raipur: Thousands of tribals from across Chhattisgarh on Sunday took out a foot march here for the withdrawal of forest conservation rules introduced recently by the Centre and demanding a 32 per cent reservation in the state.
Among other demands, they want the state government to take back the rules under the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act or PESA.
To mark the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, tribals from various parts of the state, mainly from Bastar, Surguja and Rajnandgaon districts, met at Gondwana Bhavan in the morning to hold a 'Gram Sabhao ka Mahasammelan' (convention of gram sabha), said Alok Shukla, leader of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (CBA).
They were led by different tribal organisations.
The tribals discussed multiple issues related to 'jal, jungle, and zameen' (water, forest and land), Shukla said.
The Gram Swaraj rally was taken out from Gondwana Bhavan to Azad Chowk, a distance of 7 km, before handing a memorandum addressed to the President, Chhattisgarh Governor and the Chief Minister, to an official here.
Surju Tekam, a tribal leader from Rajnandgaon district, said around 5,000 people took part in the rally to protest against the recently-formed rules under the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act framed by the state government and amendment made by the Centre in the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 in June this year.
The state government has given all rights to collectors instead of gram sabhas under the PESA rules which is weakening the spirit of the Act. Similarly, the Centre's new forest conservation rules amended the provisions of granting permission to activities in forest areas which would affect the rights of the Gram Sabha, Tekam said.
The memorandum demanded that the state government take back PESA rules and enact fresh rules as per the Constitution and the PESA Act.
They also demanded to quash the amendment made by the Centre to the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980.
The tribals said the Chhattisgarh government had earlier made a provision for 32 per cent reservation for Scheduled Tribes but it was set aside recently after the Chhattisgarh High Court's decision.
Therefore, the state government should take the necessary initiative to ensure that the tribal get 32 per cent reservation in the state, it added.