Excerpt from President of India K.R. Narayanan's Address to the Nation on Republic Day January 25, 2001

"....The awakening of the women and the youth of India is something that gives us hope. But the march of development is having different kinds of impact on different sections of our people. It tends to widen the existing inequalities and create new inequalities. The already marginalised sections, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, are the greatest sufferers in this process. Referring to the tribals, Dr. Ambedkar had said: “Civilizing the aborigines means adopting them as our own, living in their midst and cultivating fellow feeling, in short loving them”. But the developmental path we have adopted is hurting them and threatening their very existence. It is well known how the large river valley projects are uprooting the tribals and causing them untold misery. The mining that is taking place in the forest areas are threatening the livelihood and the survival of many tribes. It is through enlightened developmental policies that we can resolve such dilemmas of development. One pre-condition for the success of developmental projects in our extensive tribal areas is that we should take into confidence the tribals and their representatives, explain the benefits of the projects to them, and consult them in regard to the protection of their livelihood and their unique cultures. When they have to be displaced the resettlement schemes should be discussed with them and implemented with sincerity. This could avoid many critical situations, and we will be able to carry the tribals with us. We have laws that are enlightened and which prohibit the transfer of the tribal lands to non-tribals, private bodies and corporations. The Supreme Court has upheld these provisions through its judgments. We cannot ignore the social commitments enshrined in our Constitution. In eastern India, the exploitation of minerals like bauxite and iron ore are causing destruction of forests and sources of water. While the nation must benefit from the exploitation of these mineral resources, we will have also to take into consideration questions of environmental protection and the rights of tribals. Let it not be said by future generations that the Indian Republic has been built on the destruction of the green earth and the innocent tribals who have been living there for centuries. A great Socialist leader has once said that a great man in a hurry to change the world who knocks down a child commits a crime.

Let it not be said of India that this great Republic in a hurry to develop itself is devastating the green mother earth and uprooting our tribal populations. We can show the world that there is room for everybody to live in this country of tolerance and compassion...."

Communities Command Over Natural Resources