What is the full form of PESA?

What is the full form of PESA?
Posted on 14-07-2023

What is the full form of PESA?

The full form of PESA is the "Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act." Enacted by the Parliament of India in 1996, PESA is a legislation that extends the provisions of the Panchayati Raj system to the Scheduled Areas of certain states in India. In this article, I will provide an in-depth exploration of the PESA Act, its objectives, key provisions, and its significance in empowering local self-governance in Scheduled Areas.


Introduction to PESA:

The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, commonly known as PESA, is an important legislation enacted by the Indian Parliament to address the specific governance needs of Scheduled Areas in India. Scheduled Areas are regions identified and designated under the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Indian Constitution, primarily inhabited by tribal communities. These areas are characterized by socio-economic vulnerabilities and distinct cultural identities.


Objectives of PESA:

The main objectives of PESA are as follows:

  1. Empowerment of Tribal Communities: PESA seeks to empower the tribal communities residing in Scheduled Areas by providing them the right to self-governance, decision-making, and control over their natural resources. It aims to safeguard and promote their traditional rights, customs, and cultural practices.

  2. Strengthening Local Self-Governance: PESA aims to strengthen the existing Panchayati Raj system by extending its provisions to Scheduled Areas. It emphasizes the need for decentralized governance, participatory decision-making, and effective delivery of public services at the grassroots level.

  3. Protection of Tribal Land and Natural Resources: PESA places significant importance on the protection and management of tribal land, forests, water bodies, and other natural resources. It recognizes the customary rights and traditional practices of tribal communities in relation to these resources and seeks to prevent their alienation or exploitation.


Key Provisions of PESA:

  1. Gram Sabha Empowerment: PESA places Gram Sabha, the village assembly, at the center of decision-making in Scheduled Areas. It empowers the Gram Sabha with significant authority, including the power to approve plans, schemes, and projects; control natural resources; and manage funds allocated for development.

  2. Recognition of Customary Laws and Practices: The Act acknowledges and respects the customary laws, traditions, and cultural practices of the tribal communities in Scheduled Areas. It provides for the application of customary law in matters related to land disputes, social customs, and community governance.

  3. Election of Representatives: PESA mandates the direct election of representatives to the Panchayats in Scheduled Areas. It ensures that tribal communities have the right to elect their own representatives, who are familiar with their customs, language, and specific needs.

  4. Powers and Functions of Panchayats: The Act grants Panchayats in Scheduled Areas significant powers and functions, including the preparation of plans for economic development and social justice, the implementation of schemes and programs, and the management of funds received from various sources.

  5. Control over Natural Resources: PESA recognizes the rights of tribal communities over their land, water, forests, and other natural resources. It emphasizes the need for the prior consent of the Gram Sabha before acquiring land or using natural resources for development projects in Scheduled Areas.

  6. Dispute Resolution: The Act provides mechanisms for the resolution of disputes in Scheduled Areas. It encourages the settlement of disputes through customary practices, local traditions, and arbitration by Gram Sabha and other village-level institutions.


Significance of PESA:

  1. Empowerment of Tribal Communities: PESA is significant as it recognizes the distinct identity, culture, and socio-economic needs of tribal communities residing in Scheduled Areas. It provides them with a platform for self-governance, decision-making, and the preservation of their traditional rights and customs.

  2. Strengthening Grassroots Democracy: By empowering the Gram Sabha and Panchayats in Scheduled Areas, PESA strengthens the principles of grassroots democracy. It ensures that local communities have a say in matters concerning their development, resource management, and the delivery of public services.

  3. Preservation of Natural Resources and Environment: PESA's provisions related to the control and management of natural resources contribute to the preservation of the environment in Scheduled Areas. It recognizes the traditional knowledge and sustainable practices of tribal communities in resource management.

  4. Promoting Social Justice and Inclusivity: PESA aims to promote social justice by addressing the specific needs and vulnerabilities of tribal communities. It mandates the reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes and other marginalized sections, ensuring their representation and participation in local governance.

  5. Protecting Tribal Land and Rights: The Act plays a crucial role in safeguarding the land and resources of tribal communities from encroachment, exploitation, and alienation. It recognizes the rights of tribal communities over their ancestral lands and aims to prevent their displacement or dispossession.


Challenges and Limitations:

While PESA has made significant strides in empowering tribal communities in Scheduled Areas, several challenges and limitations persist:

  1. Lack of Awareness and Implementation: A significant challenge is the lack of awareness among tribal communities about their rights and provisions under PESA. Many communities remain unaware of the Act's provisions, resulting in limited participation and the potential for exploitation.

  2. Inadequate Devolution of Powers and Resources: The complete devolution of powers and resources to Panchayats in Scheduled Areas, as mandated by PESA, is often not fully realized. State governments may retain control over key functions, limiting the autonomy and effectiveness of local self-governance.

  3. Weak Capacity and Financial Constraints: Panchayats in Scheduled Areas often face capacity and financial constraints, hindering their ability to effectively carry out their functions. Limited resources and inadequate training impede their capacity to plan, implement, and monitor development initiatives.

  4. Conflict with Other Laws and Regulations: There can be conflicts between the provisions of PESA and other laws, regulations, and development projects. In some instances, developmental initiatives may encroach upon tribal lands or disregard the consent of the Gram Sabha, leading to conflicts and legal challenges.



The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) is a critical legislation aimed at empowering tribal communities and strengthening local self-governance in Scheduled Areas of India. PESA recognizes the rights and customs of tribal communities, grants significant powers to Gram Sabhas and Panchayats, and emphasizes the protection of natural resources and social justice. While challenges exist in its implementation, PESA represents a significant step towards ensuring the inclusion, participation, and empowerment of tribal communities in the governance and development processes of Scheduled Areas.

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