Kerala Tribal Lynching Case: Amicus Report Points Out Inherent Defects In Channelization Of Welfare Funds [Read Report]
The interim report filed by amicus curiae appointed by the High Court of Kerala in the lynching case of Tribal youth Madhu points out inherent defects in channelizing Tribal welfare funds. The report was filed by amicus Adv P Deepak, following the directions of the division bench to suggest measures for revamping welfare measures targeting Tribal people.
The division bench of Chief Justice Antony Dominic and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu had taken suo moto cognizance on the lynching of Madhu, based on a letter written by sitting HC judge Justice K Surendra Mohan. The letter by Justice Surendra Mohan expressed anguish at the fact that a Tribal youth in the most literate state of the country got killed in mob lynching on the allegation that he had stolen rice. “If the victim had been forced to steal rice because he had nothing to eat, it shows that the schemes that are being implemented are not reaching the needy,” expressed the letter. It was on February 22 that 27-year-old Tribal youth Madhu was beaten to death by a mob at Kadukumanna hamlet in Attappadi, near Palakkad.
The interim report identifies two main causes for the fall in Human Development Index in Tribal areas: the weakening of institutions meant for delivery of goods and services to Tribal population and inherent defects in the channelization of welfare funds. Though there are several projects and funds specially made for Tribal welfare, they are not effectively implemented due to the firm entrenchment of ‘a politician-contractor-bureaucrat nexus’. Resultantly, the benefits and entitlements due to the tribal population continue to be siphoned off. The pitiable condition in Attappadi is depicted in the report as follows:
In the case of Attappadi, it is clear as daylight that the several Governmental interventions aimed at improving the lives and livelihood of the Tribal communities have failed to make the intended impact. Crores have apparently been allotted and expended for providing drinking water, yet, the taps have always run dry. Millions have been expended for addressing the issue of malnutrition. Yet, infant deaths and stunted children continue to scar the face of Attappadi. Solar-generated street and community lighting which have never once flickered stand as silent totem poles dotting the perennially unpaved and boulder- strewn thoroughfares that can break the back of even a Hercules.
The report laments the fact that there is no full-time project officer for the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) for the Attappadi area. The secretary of Attappadi Grama Panchayath is doubling up as the project officer. Hence, it proposes the appointment of a full-time nodal officer for Attappadi ITDP, not below the rank of an IAS, who is to be permanently stationed in Attappadi. The practice of appointing ad-hoc and temporary officers should be done away with, and the nodal officer should be given exclusive charge.
Taking a leaf from the Supreme Court decision in Exploitation of Children in Orphanages in State of Tamil Nadu, in Re v. Union of India, the report suggests the introduction of social auditing of welfare schemes to increase public accountability. Social audits, as opposed to government-level audit, are carried out by actual beneficiaries on the basis of community-based monitoring, which will be an assessment of how well the welfare benefits are reaching the targeted populace. The report proposes that two educated Tribal youth from each of the 48 wards in the Attappadi area can be trained to evaluate particular programmes.
These trained youth will be referred to as Tribal Village Auditors (TVA) and they will conduct the social audit in the field. Each development programme that has to be social audited will be explained in detail to the TVAs. They will also be introduced to the data collection formats. After the data collection,a ‘Social Audit Public Hearing’ will be organized in each of the Panchayth wards. At this hearing, the findings of the social audit will be read out to generate discussions around problems and solutions. A detailed Social Audit Report based on the field data collection and discussions held at the public hearing will be prepared and submitted to the Panchayat, Heads of Departments concerned and also the District Administration for follow-up action. An Action Taken Report from the concerned departments will then be filed within a prescribed time frame before the Chief Secretary, who will review the social audit activities and the action taken, once every 6 months, the report suggested.Read the Report Here