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 What is PESA?

  • PESA ACT 1996 (Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas Act)

  • PESA extends local government councils to Scheduled Areas. 

  • Under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, regions with predominantly tribal populations are categorised as ‘Scheduled Areas’, a territorial designation that recognises the customary rights of the Scheduled Tribes (ST).

  • Though the 73rd Amendment, passed in 1992, formalised local self-government through the three-tier Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) in the non-Scheduled Areas, it did so without “mandated representation for STs”.

  • Bhuria Committee Recommendation of 1995: resulted in PESA Act 1996 for ensuring tribal self rule for people living in scheduled areas of India.

  • PESA, however, took it a step further. 

  • It “introduced an electoral quota that requires all chairperson positions, as well as at least half the seats on each local government councils to be reserved for ST individuals.” 

  • Incidentally, in States where PESA has not been implemented well, as in Gujarat, for instance, the most common failure has been the absence of mandated ST representation in gram sabha committees.

How the PESA has boosted forest conservation in India

  • In recent study, tracking the increase and decrease of tree and vegetation cover over time and across the forested areas around different sets of villages, they found that “boosting formal representation for ST led to an average increase in tree canopy by 3% per year as well as a reduction in the rate of deforestation.” 

  • The effects were also larger for areas that had more forest cover at the start of the study period

  • The study also showed that the rise in tree canopy and fall in deforestation only began to happen “after the introduction of PESA elections that mandate quotas for ST.” 

  • This was not a case of correlation but causation

  • When empowered as political actors, the STs had an economic incentive to protect trees, which they needed for their livelihoods centred on sale of non-timber forest produce and daily caloric intake — a dependency that made them hostile to commercial timber and mining, two deadly drivers of deforestation. 

  • As the authors sum up, “under PESA, ST are able to better pursue their economic interests which in turn leads to better forest conservation, a mechanism we call ‘forest stewardship’.

  • The paper also provides qualitative and quantitative evidence for a second mechanism instrumental for improvement of overall forest health: opposition to mining interests, “where the increase to ST representation enables ST communities to resist mining and other large-scale commercial operation.” 

  • The paper finds that prior to PESA, areas close to mines experienced higher rates of deforestation.

  • But the introduction of PESA elections led “to a greater reduction in deforestation for PESA villages close to mines”

  • Interestingly, they provide evidence that the introduction of PESA also “increased the incidence of conflict around mining”.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: PESA UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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