Tribals arenít showpieces, says Jairam Ramesh

A Rs 300-crore package for housing and roads for vulnerable tribal groups in Orissa's backward Kalahandi district was announced on Sunday by Union Minister Jairam Ramesh, who said tribals should not be treated as "showpieces for museums".

Giving details near the bauxite-rich Niyamgiri hill, the Union Rural Development Minister said Rs 200 crore would be allocated for providing houses under Indira Awas Yojana to vulnerable tribals living in the area. The package under the IAY would benefit 2,100 families belonging to Dangaria Kandh and other tribal groups in the Niyamgiri area near here, he said, adding it was part of government's efforts to give them a better life.

"Tribals should not be treated as showpieces for museums," he said while emphasising that concrete steps were needed to ensure that benefits of the development process reached these deprived segments. As part of the drive to strengthen road links in backward areas, the Centre would provide road connectivity to villages having over 250 families in Kalahandi district ó an expenditure of Rs 100 crore under Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), he said.

Describing tribal-centric development as a key to contain Maoist menace, he said concerted efforts must be made to bring to the mainstream the red rebels who spread their influence in the name of welfare of tribals. Asking all mainstream political parties to join hands to check Naxal menace, he said unless there was serious effort by political parties, Maoists would be stronger day by day.

Poverty in Orissa, he said, could be ameliorated by increasing agricultural production and not through mining operations alone. Ramesh said unfortunately the track record of mining operations was neither environmentally sustainable nor socially beneficial be it in public sector or private sector. "Mining is not essentially a boon but a curse," he said, adding for the development of people focus should be on agricultural and rural development.

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