Eventually, it may turn out, the Courts decision may not be based on these oral remarks, but on the larger question of whether or not the gram sabha has the right to decide on whether mining should be allowed. While the Centre argues the gram sabha has this right, the Orissa government has argued that since there is no habitation on the top of the mountainwhere the mining is to take placeno gram sabha clearance is required.
The questions raised, however, are important and, in the long run, need to be answered in order to get a fix on what Indias policy is going to be towards improving the living standards of tribal peoples. Analysis of income levels from the NCAER all-India survey of 2004-05, for instance, finds that, at an all-India level, tribal people living in rural areas had an average annual household income of R37,615 and this rose to R60,929 as tribals moved to small towns with less than 5 lakh population, and to R85,023 as tribals migrated to big cities with more than a million people. So, an illiterate tribal household in a rural area earned R22,396 but this rose to R35,751 as the tribal moved to large towns. In the case of tribal households with at least one graduate, those in villages earned just R79,167 per annum as compared to R1,29,423 in big cities. In the case of those doing manual work, salaries doubled as they moved from villages to big cities; as they graduated from manual labour to salaried jobs, even within rural settings, annual incomes rose from R22,396 to R79,167. None of this, naturally, is exclusive to tribal people, it applies to everyone. If tribal people are not going to benefit from what is available to other citizens, how does the government plan to compensate them for this