Visakhapatnam: Adivasis do not want to trade their rights for new districts

The Hansh India | Rani Devalla | 02 Feb, 2022

Visakhapatnam: Known for its pristine natural beauty, lush green plantations, and aromatic coffee, Araku is set to become Alluri Seetharamaraju district with its headquarters as Paderu if the proposed reorganisation of districts becomes a reality. The new district to be carved out will have three Assembly segments-Paderu, Araku and Rampachodavaram spreading over 12,251-sq-km with a population of 9.54 lakh.

Araku, also a Lok Sabha constituency, stands out from other constituencies as its segments are branched out to four districts Srikakulam (Palakonda), Vizianagaram (Kurupam, Saluru and Parvathipuram), Visakhapatnam (Araku and Paderu) and East Godavari (Rampachodavaram). However, once the new districts are formed, the parliament constituency will be shared by two districts instead of four. While Alluri Seetharamaraju district will have three segments, the other four fall under the ambit of another new district Manyam. Known as Ooty of Andhra Pradesh, Araku Valley is one of the major tourist destinations in the Eastern Ghats. But, the Adivasi associations raise objections against the reorganisation of districts as they opine that the proposal could not be practically implemented, especially in Araku wherein the tribal areas of the constituency are protected under the Fifth Schedule. Since provisions like the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act are enforced in Araku, tribal activists express fear that challenges may crop up in implementation of the Acts after reorganisation of districts. “In case of reorganisation of districts, it should be done based on the ITDA mapping and in a scientific manner.

After all, formation of new districts is aimed at creating ease of administration. With a distance of 283-km stretching from Rampachodavaram to Araku, how far is it going to serve the purpose of administrative convenience?” wonders Ramarao Dora, district convener of AP Adivasi Joint Action Committee. Sharing their views, representatives of AP Adivasi, JAC say, “In the process of carving new districts, there is a scope for the existing scheduled areas being merged with non-scheduled areas and vice-versa. The exercise may not only lead to dilution of rights but also invites conflicts in future.”

For decades, the tribal activists mention, 553 Adivasi villages are left without being included in the Fifth Schedule. “What is the fate of such hamlets? In the process of formation of new districts, the Adivasis’ rights should not be diluted,” emphasises K Surendra, state leader of Girijana Sangham. Meanwhile, representatives of tribal associations demand that the views of the stakeholders should be considered before the state government takes the exercise of formation of new districts forward.