This case is significant for preventing the exploitation of indigenous resources for commercial interests. Even the Supreme Court acknowledged the importance of agriculture in indigenous people’s lives. The tribal people who are the most in need live in a land rich in natural riches. Tribal communities, in particular, suffer from poverty in a nation of abundance. To improve the quality of life for indigenous people, many provisions were included in the Constitution.
The majority of land invasions are carried out in the guise of economic growth. Native communities defend and secure the tribal territory. International corporations typically utilise the natural resources of the designated areas, which are rich in flora, fauna, and mineral deposits To enhance their net profits, mining companies plunder mineral reserves, not for land development, tribal cultures’ well-being, etc. Since it favoured indigenous people and safeguarded lands in the scheduled zones from illicit mining, this judgment is significant. As with any other group, the tribal people have the freedom to conduct their lives according to their own traditions, free from outside intervention or influence.
Government and commercial corporations require minerals, water, and other resources to develop the country, which is occupied by tribes. Most of the world’s coal and roughly half the world’s other minerals can be found in these locations. According to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, about 85 lakh tribal people were displaced by significant development projects between 1980 and 1990. (MTA)
As a result of “Growth,” there is a serious threat to Tribal existence. With its environmentally sustainable and tranquil lifestyle, the “new civilised culture” is now a culprit. Market pressures have exploited tribal peoples, lands, and other resources in part by supporting mining and other industrial ventures such as stainless steel and cement facilities and wildlife sanctuaries. Across the country, prominent groups are exploiting indigenous territory.
The Fifth Schedule, which forbids the conveyance of tribal lands to non-tribal countries, is the greatest danger to the Adivasis in the country today. As a result, both the federal government and many state governments are working hard to modify the Fifth Schedule and state legislation to allow private and corporate entities to control tribal and wooded areas. Privatized mining is illegal in nearly all nine states, except for Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, MP and Orissa.
Visakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh is home to hundreds of tribals who have lived there since the 1960s. Other mineral resources found in the agency include calcite (bauxite), mica (calcite), and others. The government leased vast mining pipes to companies like Birla Periclase when liberalisation began in the 1990s. As a result, it violated the Land Transfer Regulation Act, 2018, which prohibits the selling of developed land to non-tribals.
In this case, tribal lands were leased for mining and industrial uses. Andhra Pradesh awarded mining leases to numerous non-tribal individuals. Amnesty International has filed an amnesty case on behalf of aggrieved tribal people in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, alleging violations of both the Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Areas Land Transfer Regulation (1959) and the Forest Conservation Act (1980). Samatha moved to the Supreme Court of India after the High Court dismissed his plea.
According to the Supreme Court of India, government, tribal, and forested properties in the scheduled regions cannot be leased to non-tribal individuals or private corporations for mining purposes, reversing the verdict of the High Court. It was argued by the Supreme Court that all land in the scheduled regions could not be leased out regardless of the title due to the importance of agriculture as a source of income for indigenous peoples. 5(2) of the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution safeguarded these lands to defend indigenous peoples’ economic empowerment, economic fairness, and social standing and dignity.
Only the State Mineral Development Corporation or a tribe cooperative can undertake mining operations in scheduled regions, with at least 20 per cent of the earnings going to infrastructure and other social services like schools, clinics, and sanitation. Due to a breach of the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, all subsequent leases given to non-tribal individuals are void.
Because of the status of the Indian tribes, it is important to note that the UN Convention on the Rights of Development specifies that tribals have a “right to development.” With this judgement, Dr Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar’s notion of “liberal democracy” was highlighted, which recognises independence, equality and fraternity as fundamental principles of human existence. As a result of the judgement, indigenous peoples are recognised as having equal social and economic rights, and the highest constitutional guarantee for ‘Right to Life’ is recognised in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It is necessary to protect the land in the designated regions for the social and economic advancement of indigenous peoples.
In this way, Samatha’s judgement has had a tremendous impact on the preservation of scheduled regions and tribals in several states since 1997. Different states and other government organisations have tried to overturn and alter the Supreme Court’s ruling. Although many tribes in various planned countries benefited from the choice, many did not. Through the Samatha rule, the tribal people can become more aware of the numerous security rules outlined in the Constitution. We are working with an NGO in the Schedule-V states called Samatha to accomplish this objective.
No action was taken to safeguard the lands of indigenous groups even after the Supreme Court’s ruling. As well as disobeying the Court’s orders, it has also disregarded the welfare of tribal groups, which is a crime. Because tribal lands may only be protected by the tribes themselves, the Fifth Schedule is based on the principle that they should not be transferred to outsiders. They will manage and control the mining activities in such a way that it does not affect the land if the mining lease is awarded to a cooperative of indigenous peoples. As a result, environmental deterioration and invasion will be less likely. For their own amusement.
Author: Shreyas Nair,
Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur / First Year / Law