States Round Up Issue-01 July to September 2010 Index Page
Full version of the report

Tripura



I. Highlight: Tribals being denied forest rights

The tribals, who constituted about 31% of the population of Tripura according to 2001 census, [1] were being denied rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006. As of 30 September 2010, a total of 1,75,492 claims, including 1,75,215 individual and 277 community, were received in Tripura. Of these, 1,17,404 titles were distributed. The total extent of forest land distributed were 4,16,555.58 acres, including 4,16,498.79 for individual and 56.79 for community for 1,16,100 titles. However, the state government had rejected 56,665 claims. [2]

The rights were being denied because of the illegal actions of the District Level Committee (DLC).

The survey of the land and the demarcation of its boundaries was conducted by District Level Committee instead of the Gram Sabha/Forest Rights Committees which are the statutory authorities mandated to do so. [3]

On 27 September 2010, the Union Minister of Tribal Affairs in a letter to the Chief Minister of Tripura requested to (a) launch special campaign for generating wide-spread awareness to invite and facilitate collection of more community rights claims; (b) take action for convergence of Government programmes for the development and welfare of tribals; (c) take action for diversion of forest land for development activities as provided under Section 3(2) of the Forest Rights Act, 2006; (d) take action for determination and notification of critical wildlife habitats in the National Parks and Sanctuaries as provided under Section 2(b) of the Forest Rights Act, 2006; and (e) take action for conversion of forest villages into revenue villages as provided under Section 3(1)(h) of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. [4]

The official apathy and corruption further deprived welfare benefits to the tribals. The Tribal Welfare Department of Tripura has been implementing rubber plantation scheme for the benefit of the tribals. But the tribals were deprived of the benefits due to misappropriation of funds meant for the scheme by officials. For example, 93 tribal beneficiaries in the Taraban Colony
area and 90 tribal families in Pancharatan Gaonsabha in Dambur Nagar Block under Gandhacherra Sub-Division in Dhalai district could not avail the benefit due to embezzlement of funds meant for the scheme by Abhilash Sarkar, Block Advisory Committee Chairman of Dambur Nagar Block. Abhilash Sarkar had reportedly embezzled Rs 23 lakhs in 2008 but as of September 2010 the authorities failed to conduct a proper investigation into the case. [5]

II. Abuses by the armed opposition groups

Over 8,200 tribal insurgents have surrendered to the authorities since 1993 according to the State government. [6] Though violence has reduced, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was extended for six months in Tripura in September 2010. The AFSPA will be in full force in 34 police stations and partially in six police stations across Tripura. [7]

The banned National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) were responsible for many abuses including abduction for ransoms.

During July-September 2010, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) documented a number of cases of abduction for ransoms.

On 22 September 2010, Chandramani Tripura, son of Goyendra Tripura, was kidnapped by suspected cadres of NLFT (B) at Chandra Kumar Para under Raishyabari police station in Dhalai district. The victim was kidnapped as the villagers allegedly failed to pay extortion demand. Fearing reprisal, the villagers started fleeing the village. [8]

On the night of 16 September 2010, three tribals identified as Pramode Bikash Tripura, (45 years), Jagat Tripura (31 years) and Kanti Tripura (30 years) were kidnapped at gunpoint by alleged members of the NLFT from Desharaipara village in Dhalai district. [9]

On the night of 29 August 2010, five tribal villagers were abducted by alleged cadres of the NLFT from Boalkhali in Dhalai district. The NLFT demanded Rs. 1000 from each household in the village having a population of 250 families for their release. The victims, all jhum cultivators, were guarding their “jhum” crops when they were kidnapped at gunpoint. The victims were identified as Beful Tripura (42), Herendra Tripura (42), Jaharam Tripura (26), Surjoy Tripura (42) and Laisensa Tripura (43). [10]

On 2 August 2010, two persons (names unknown) were kidnapped by suspected armed outfit from Ratiabari in Chawmanu police station in Dhalai district. [11]

III. Violations of women’s rights

Women are becoming increasingly unsafe in Tripura. Crimes including rape and domestic violence were on the rise.  On 11 September 2010, National Commission for Women (NCW) member Wansuk Syiem expressed concern over increasing number of domestic violence incidents against women in the state. According to official statistics, as many as 485 cases of domestic violence against women and 173 dowry-related deaths were registered during 2009-10. [12] On 5 June 2010, a 30-year-old tribal woman was tortured and paraded naked allegedly as per the directions of the Panchayat at Jayanti Bazar village in Dhalai district on the allegation of sexual misconduct. The state government ordered an investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department into the matter. [13]

The ACHR documented the following cases in July-September 2010.

On 21 July 2010, seven persons were arrested for the torture of two women at Champaknagar near Agartala. Both the victims were paraded naked, beaten with sticks and their heads shaved off after a kangaroo court held them guilty of sexual misconduct a week earlier. The accused had threatened the victims and their families that they would be killed if they inform the police about the incident. Some of the accused were reported to be members of ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist. [14]

On 29 August 2010, two women were tortured by two persons allegedly belonging to the ruling political party in two different places in Sonamura subdivision in West Tripura district. In the first incident, Baralaxmi Debbarma of Anandapur village was beaten by one Manish Debbarma over a dispute with regard to NREGA scheme wages. In the other incident, one Farida Begum of Bijoynagar village was beaten by two persons when she refused to pay them money. Despite filing a complaint, the police allegedly did not act on the complaint. [15]

On 27 September 2010, a tribal woman identified as Ms. Gayeswari Debbarma (45 years), wife of Yugesh Debbarma, was raped and killed by a non-tribal identified as Subal Das at Sipahipara village under Sadar Sub-Division in West Tripura district. The victim was on her way to a bank in Kamalghat market to collect her money for the NREGA work when she was attacked by the accused. [16]

IV. Violations of the ESCRs

a. Violations of the right to health

On 1 August 2010, State Health Minister, Mr Tapan Chakraborty stated that at least 33 per cent of the population in the state lack basic health care facility. [17] Non-availability of medical facilities in remote tribal areas remained one of the reasons for heavy death toll among the tribals.

In August 2010, nine tribals, including seven children, reportedly died of malaria and meningitis at remote Rajdhar, Malidhar and Gobindabari villages in Dhalai district. [18] The people of the affected remote villages had to travel about 25km to access Chhawmanu Primary Health Centre in Dhalai district. The hilly terrain and lack of proper roads connecting the villages exacerbate the problem. [19]

b. Violations of the right to education

The children continue to be denied the right to education due to huge shortage of schoolteachers and unplanned upgrading of schools. [20]

At the end of July 2010, there were a total of 4,287 schools, including 311 higher secondary schools in the state. According to the Department of School Education, there was a shortage of 14,875 teachers cutting across all categories of schools. It was reported that despite of the sanction by the Finance Department the School Education Department failed to appoint adequate number of teachers. For example, there was a shortage of 8,707 graduate teachers but the School Education Department had issued orders for appointment of only 4,856 teachers. Posts of 4,951 undergraduate teachers and 1,217 post-graduate teachers were lying vacant in the state. [21]

The state government of Tripura upgraded many schools without adequate number of teachers and basic infrastructure in those schools. In 2009, out of 2,378 junior basic schools, 205 had been upgraded to senior basic level while 43 out of 1,139 senior basic schools, mostly in hilly and interior areas, had been upgraded to high schools. Besides lack of adequate number of teachers, many schools were without proper toilets and other essential facilities. In most cases, schools were upgraded in response to local demands without creating facilities. [22]

Though the state government has been implementing the Mid-Day Meal scheme with the aim to enhance enrollment, retention and attendance and simultaneously improving nutritional levels among children, [23] there were allegations of embezzlement of mid-day meal funds from Gandacherra, Dharmanagar, Udaipur, Teliamura and Khowai sub-divisions. Following increase in the number of allegations, the State Education Department constituted a Grievance Redressal Cell to be functional from 6 September 2010. [24]

The school authorities in Khowai Sub Division were reportedly siphoning off the mid-day meal funds by submitting false attendance report to the Inspector of Schools showing 100 per cent attendance of students in the schools while the attendance was an average of around 65 per cent in a year in most schools. As a result, an estimated amount of nearly Rs 76,000 per year was being embezzled in every school in the Khowai Sub-division. [25] Similarly, there were allegations of embezzlement of mid-day meal scheme funds by management committees of many schools in Ambassa Sub-division in Dhalai district. Apart from these, there was also report of poor quality of food being provided to children in Ghantacherra Senior Basic schools under Ambassa RD block. Despite repeated complaints, the authorities failed to take any step as on 31 August 2010. [26]

The occupation of schools by the security forces further hampered education of the students. In September 2010, the state government asked the security forces to vacate schools occupied by them at the earliest. According to official estimates, there were about five to six school premises which were being used by the security forces in Tripura as of 5 September 2010. [27]

c. Violations of the right to work

According to the Performance Evaluation Report of the Union Ministry of Rural Development released in July 2010, Tripura achieved an average of 82 days out of promised 100 days of waged employment to the people residing in the rural areas under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). This was higher than the national average of 54 days. [28]

However, Tripura was worst among the north eastern states in terms of completion rate of work under the NREGA. During a Performance Review Committee meeting organized by Ministry of Rural Development on 16 July 2010 it was found that Tripura fared worst among the States of the region with a completion rate of only 14.8 per cent. [29]

There was also allegation of gross anomaly and embezzlement of NREGA funds. In Moharcherra Gram Panchayat in Teliamura Sub-division in West Tripura district, two government officials were accused of embezzlement of funds meant for construction of drains and roads in different wards of Moharcherra area. In some project works there were irregularities, while in some project work order passed in 2009 were non-existent in the area as on 12 September 2010. [30]

On 6 September 2010, several villagers gheraoed the Block Development Officer at Dukli Block in West Tripura district demanding payment of wages under the NREGA. The villagers alleged that they had not received their wages for the last three months which they alleged were embezzled by the Hapaniya Gaon Sabha. [31]

d. Violations of the right to adequate housing

The government of India launched the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), the flagship programme for rural housing to meet the shortage of housing in rural areas by building or upgrading homes for below poverty line families.

The state government of Tripura failed to fully implement the IAY. Tripura’s performance was recorded at 32.29 per cent as against the national average of 83.52 per cent in 2009-10.[32]

According to the 2009-10 Annual Report of the Ministry of Rural Development, the target was fixed at 21,182 under the IAY in Tripura during fiscal year 2009-10.
However, only 8,079 houses were completed/ allotted and 1,151 houses were under construction at the end of 2009. [33]

Endnotes:
1. Data Highlights: The Scheduled Tribes, Census of India 2001
2. Status report on implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 [for the period ending 30th September, 2010], Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India
3. “Summary Report on Implementation of the Forest Rights Act” prepared by the Council for Social Development, New Delhi, September 2010
4. Status report on implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 [for the period ending 30th September, 2010], Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India
5. Rubber plantation scam probe disappear, Tripura India, 26 September 2010
6. AFSPA extended for six months in Tripura, The Hindustan Times, 29 September 2010
7. Ibid
8. Villagers started fleeing in NLFT menace, Tripura India, 23 September 2010
9. Militants kidnap three Tripura villagers, The Asian Age, 16 September 2010
10. Five tribal villagers kidnapped in Tripura, The Shillong Times, 2 September 2010
11. Militants kidnap three Tripura villagers, The Asian Age, 16 September 2010
12. NCW concerned over domestic violence against women in Tripura, Sinlung News, 12 September 2010
13. Complaint of Asian Centre for Human Rights to National Human Rights Commission, 8 June 2010
14. 7 held for caning naked women, Nagaland Post, 21 July 2010
15. Two women tortured in Sonamura alleged, neindia.com, 29 August 2010
16. Complaint of Asian Centre for Human Rights to National Human Rights Commission, 4 October 2010
17. 33% population out of health cover, Tripura India, 1 August 2010
18. Meningitis, malaria claim 7 kids - Altogether 9 die in Tripura, The Telegraph, 20 August 2010
18. Ibid
19. Tripura faces teacher crunch - School upgrade without infrastructure adds to woes, The Telegraph, 27 July 2010
20. Ibid
21. Ibid
22. Karnataka, Guj among top states in utilising mid-day meal foodgrains, Deccan Herald, 16 September 2010 
23. Redressal body for mid day meal corruption allegations soon, Tripura India, 4 September 2010, available at: http://www.tripuraindia.com/ 
24. Gross anomalies in mid day meal funds, Tripura India, 22 September 2010
25. Massive anomaly in mid day meal funds alleged, Tripura India, 31 August 2010 
26. Troopers in Tripura to vacate schools, Yahoo News, 5 September 2010
27. Tripura notches up top position in MGNREGA in India, The Sentinel, 22 July 2010 
28. State lags behind in rural schemes, The Assam Tribune, 17 July 2010 
29. NREGA, nagar panchayat crumbles under anomalies, Tripura India, 12 September 2010
30. Corruption in NREGA funds: BDO gheraoed, Tripura Times, 6 September 2010
31. Tripura notches up top position in MGNREGA in India, The Sentinel, 22 July 2010
32. 2009-10 Annual Report of Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India
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