Jual Oram is enthroned as the Tribal Minister of the country for the second time. Known for his clear stand for the tribal development from a tribal’s perspective, the minister urges to understand the tribal way of life. While he supports industrialisation, he forcefully argues for a proper consultative mechanism to reckon the wishes of people.
In a direct conversation with Rashmi Ranjan Parida, Editor-in-Chief, OdishaDiary (www.orissdiary.com ), Union Minister Jual Oram narrates his views on his priorities for tribal development.
Orissa Diary: Congratulations for being the Tribal Affair Minister for the second time! What are your priorities for the next five years?
Jual Oram: Thank you! I have five priorities for five years.
The first priority is Education. Education is very important for tribals. Model schools and quality education will be promoted. Upgrading the model schools up to intermediate level and then graduation level are our priorities. In addition, there is plan for Tribal University. Health is the second priority. There are no doctors in many parts in tribal areas. The hospitals are sometimes run by the nurses and compounders. Increasing health infrastructure is the main challenge for us.
Modern facilities in terms of electricity, internet, mobile infrastructures are very necessary for tribal areas. Students need to have them for their studies and other use in order to come up and be part of the mainstream. We must try to provide solar facilities where there is no electric power.
Next priority is transport facilities. Connectivity is very essential for tribal for empowerment. Transport will help them to access the market and sale their products and earn livelihood.
And, the last one, irrigation and livelihood programme. Tribals should get the mimimum support price (MSP) for their minor forest produce through cooperatives and other facilities. Irrigation is necessary as many tribes are now depending on agriculture. It will promote their livelihood.
Besides this, the cultural preservation, empowerment and awareness among tribals are also other areas which we need to emphasise.
OD: What will be your contribution to Osisha as a tribal minister?
JO: I am the minister who will work for the entire nation. The livelihood issues and cultural preservation are the most priorities. I will do my best for my home state along with other states. State government’s cooperation is very essential to bring out the successful development in our state.
OD: What is your vision of tribal development during the time when the government is aggressively pursuing industrialisation?
JO: I am not against industrialisation. I will see the tribal benefits first along side the industrialisation. Large scale displacement in the name of industrialisation is not encouraged. You must make sure that there should be minimum displacement or “zero” displacement in any development initiative which must be in consultation with the tribals. Government should not spend money on police to fight the tribals rather the same money should be spent on rehabilitation.
OD: Recently you said that naxalism needs to be dealt with sensitivity. What do you mean by this and how are you going to approach the problem?
JO: Apart from many causes, naxalism arises partly because tribals lost their faith on administration which was supposed to win their hearts and minds. The forest department, administration should be empathetic and sensitive. Tribals are silent in their nature and they need empathetic approach.
OD: The State Government has been demanding special category status for Odisha. Will your Government consider it favourably?
JO: We must first know what benefit the special category will bring. I think special categories does not help rather special packages are important for the state.
OD: Are you happy with BJP’s performance in Odiha in this election?
JO: Not too much. But, yes to certain extent. There is 130 % increase in vote share. However in terms of seat we did not achieve much.
OD: Post election, BJD had tacitly shown its interest to comeback to the NDA’s fold. What would be centre’s relation with the state now that BJD has returned to power in Odisha?
JO: This is not my area to speak. This is a political issue that will be dealt with by our national leaders.
OD: You had been very critical of the POSCO and other mining projects, Will you maintain the same stand?
JO: Yes, I will maintain the same status. As I said already, displacement is a major problem. Tribals are mainly depending on agriculture and forest. Land and the ecosystem they grow in are very dear to them from livelihood, cultural, psychological and spiritual point of view. Generation after generation will benefit from the land. Compensation in terms of money will be for one generation or less. What will they do after that? We must understand their level of skills and their way of life.
OD: Thank you and all the best for success of your government!
JO: Thank you!