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June 26 @ 7:00 am - 11:30 pm


A recent study has investigated the connection between political representation and forest conservation in India’s Scheduled Areas. The focus is on the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) and its impact on forest management by Scheduled Tribes (STs). 

About the Study 

Objective: To analyze how PESA has influenced forest conservation. 


  • Conducted a data-driven study on PESA. 
  • Compared villages with mandated ST representation to those without it. 
  • Examined villages that adopted PESA earlier versus those that adopted it later. 
  • Used a “difference-in-differences” framework to isolate PESA’s impact on forest cover. 
  • Analyzed satellite data on forestation changes from 2001 to 2017. 

Key Findings of the Study 

  • Greater Political Representation: PESA has given STs more political representation, allowing them to have a say in forest management. 
  • Resistance to Commercial Activities: Strengthened STs’ ability to resist large-scale commercial activities, such as mining, that cause deforestation. Resulted in a greater reduction in deforestation in PESA villages near mines. 
  • Increased Conflict: The introduction of PESA increased conflicts around mining activities. 
  • Improved Tree Canopy: PESA led to an average increase in tree canopy by 3% per year. Reduced the rate of deforestation. 
  • Economic Incentives: 
  • Provided economic incentives to ST communities for protecting forests, particularly through non-timber forest products (e.g., medicinal plants, fruits). Enhanced food security for ST communities. 
  • Forest Rights Act: 
  • The study found no additional conservation impacts from the Forest Rights Act, 2006 beyond those caused by PESA. 
  • Single Institution Advocacy: Advocated for a single institution to balance conservation and development objectives. 
  • This institution would better navigate the complexities of balancing local economic interests with sustainable conservation practices. 

What is the PESA Act? 


  • Enactment: Enacted on 24th December 1996 to ensure self-governance for people in tribal areas, known as Scheduled Areas, through traditional village assemblies (Gram Sabhas). 
  • Extension: Extended provisions of Panchayats to provide self-tribal rule in Fifth Schedule states. 


Scheduled Areas: 

  • Defined in Article 244(1) of the Indian Constitution. 
  • Areas designated by the President as predominantly inhabited by tribal communities. 

States with Fifth Schedule Areas: 

  • Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana. 

Significant Provisions 

  • Gram Sabha: Establishes Gram Sabha as a forum for community participation in the development process. Responsible for identifying development projects, preparing plans, and implementing them. 
  • Village-level Institutions: Mandates the establishment of institutions like Gram Panchayat, Gram Sabha, and Panchayat Samiti. These institutions carry out development activities and provide basic services. 
  • Powers and Functions: Grants significant powers and functions related to managing natural resources and regulating economic activities to Gram Sabha and Gram Panchayat. 
  • Consultation: Requires consultation with Gram Sabha before any development projects or activities are undertaken in Scheduled Areas. 
  • Funds: Provides for the transfer of funds to Gram Panchayat to enable effective functioning. 
  • Land Rights: Protects land rights of tribal communities, requiring their consent before any land acquisition or transfer. 
  • Cultural and Social Practices: Safeguards cultural and social practices of tribal communities, prohibiting interference. 

Provisions Related to Scheduled Tribes in India 


  • The Constitution does not define criteria for recognizing STs. 
  • As per Census 1931, STs were termed as “backward tribes” living in “Excluded” and “Partially Excluded” areas. 
  • The Government of India Act of 1935 called for representatives of “backward tribes” in provincial assemblies. 

Constitutional Provisions 

  • Article 243D: Mandates reservation of seats for STs in Panchayats. 
  • Article 330: Provides reservation of seats for SC and STs in the House of the People (Lok Sabha). 
  • Article 332: Reserves seats for SC and STs in the Legislative Assemblies of the States. 
  • Articles 341 & 342: Define STs and empower the President to identify them through public notifications for each State/Union Territory. 

Statutory Provisions 

Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955: 

  • Prohibits untouchability. 
  • Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989: 
  • Prevents atrocities against SCs and STs. 

Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996: 

  • Extends provisions of Panchayats to Scheduled Areas for self-governance. 
  • Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006: 
  • Recognizes forest rights of STs and other traditional forest dwellers. 

Tribal Panchsheel Policy: 

  • Outlines policies for the development and welfare of tribal communities. 


The study highlights the significant impact of providing political representation and decision-making power to STs through PESA on forest conservation.  

It underscores the importance of empowering local communities in managing natural resources and protecting their cultural and social practices.  

The findings advocate for a balanced approach that integrates conservation with development, ensuring sustainable livelihoods for tribal communities. 

Mains question: 

  1. Describe the impact of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) on forest conservation and tribal communities in India’s Scheduled Areas, highlighting its implications for sustainable development and governance. (150 WORDS)


June 26
7:00 am - 11:30 pm
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