Amarkantak: Stressing that development as well as security of citizens in tribal areas deserve equal priority, President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday said tribals should be made to become equal partners in nation building.
Speaking at the first convocation of the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University here in Anuppur district, he also denounced the Maoist attack on a convoy of Congress leaders in Bastar in Chhattisgarh saying the nation would not be intimidated by such attempts.
"To my mind, to debate whether development should come first or security, is a futile exercise. The two must go hand in hand. The safety and security of our citizens in tribal areas must be ensured. They must be enabled to become equal participants in the nation building process," he said.
"At the same time, the nation as a whole must make clear that incidents such as the recent attack by Maoists in Chhattisgarh on a convoy of vehicles leading to heavy loss of life is not acceptable. Violence has no place whatsoever in our democratic polity. Our nation will neither be overawed nor intimidated by such efforts to terrorise the public," he said.
Mukherjee further said that the tribal population in India is 104 million and accounts for 8.6 per cent of the total population but they suffer from geographical and cultural seclusion and inadequate physical infrastructure.
"The dilemma in preparing any policy for the Scheduled Tribes in India is how to strike the right balance between preservation of tribal identity, culture and values, while ensuring their access to mainstream education, healthcare and income generation so that the quality of their life is improved," he said.
Mukherjee said that tribals have a strong relationship with forest but their rights over traditional land holdings in the forests often come under dispute.
Poor land record systems coupled with illiteracy, poverty and ignorance have led to transfer of resources from tribals to non-tribals in many parts of the country, he said.
Diminishing access to natural resources has led to impoverishment of tribals often reducing them to the status of migrant labour, the President said.
"Non-empowerment of tribal communities remains one of the critical factors responsible for the less than desired outcomes in all interventions, monetary or otherwise, meant for their development.
"There is urgent need for sustained and focused attention by state and central governments on the protection of rights and enhancement of welfare of the tribals. The fruits of development must reach the most under privileged communities of India," he said.
He also spoke in favour of educating girls saying it would serve as the best antidote to many social problems like infant mortality, maternal mortality, health of the family etc.