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- Mains – GS 1(Society) and GS 2 (Governance)
Context: Recently, government has approved the inclusion of certain communities in the lists of Scheduled Tribes in Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, fulfilling long-pending demands from these states which led to debates in the Parliament.
- Some MPs sought clarity from the government about the list of communities that were recommended in 2014 for inclusion in the ST lists on a priority by a government appointed Panda Task Force.
- Of the Taskforce recommended communities, nine are in Odisha, 26 are part of the tea tribes in Assam, eight are in Chhattisgarh, and a few are in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
About newly added tribal groups:
Narikoravan and Kurivikkaran (Tamil Nadu): Nomadic tribes like the Narikuravas and Kuruvikaras (jackal catchers and bird eaters) pride themselves on their traditional occupations of hunting and gathering.
Gond Community (Uttar Pradesh): The Cabinet approved a proposal to bring the Gond community residing in 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh, under the ST list from the Scheduled Caste list.
- This includes the five subcategories of the Gond community (Dhuria, Nayak, Ojha, Pathari, and Rajgond).
‘Betta-Kuruba’ (Karnataka): The ST status granted to the Betta-Kuruba community as a synonym of Kadu Kuruba of Karnataka.
- Betta-Kuruba community has been demanding to include in the ST category for the last 30 years.
Hatti Tribe (Himachal Pradesh): The Hattis are a close-knit community who got their name from their tradition of selling homegrown vegetables, crops, meat and wool etc. at small markets called ‘haat’ in towns.
- The community has been making the demand since 1967, when tribal status was accorded to people living in the Jaunsar Bawar area of Uttarakhand, which shares a border with Sirmaur district.
- Their demand for tribal status gained strength because of resolutions passed at various maha Khumblis over the years.
Binjhia (Chhattisgarh): The Binjhia in Chhattisgarh were listed as ST in Jharkhand and Odisha but not in Chhattisgarh.
- The Binjhia are non-vegetarians and agriculture is the mainstay of their economy. They do not eat beef and pork but consume alcoholic drinks including the handia (rice beer).
Process of inclusion in the ST list:
- The process to include tribes in the ST list begins with the recommendation from the respective State governments, which are then sent to the Tribal Affairs Ministry, which reviews and sends them to the Registrar General of India for approval.
- This is followed by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes’ approval before the list is sent to the Cabinet for a final decision.
Status of Scheduled Tribes in India
- As per 1931 Census, Schedule tribes are termed as “backward tribes” living in the “Excluded” and “Partially Excluded” areas.
- There is no defined criteria in the Constitution for recognition of Scheduled Tribes and hence the 1931 Census definition was used in the initial years after independence.
- Article 366(25) of the Constitution provides a process to define Scheduled Tribes—“Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 to be Scheduled Tribes for the purposes of this Constitution.”
- Article 342(1) empowers the President of India (in consultation with Governor of the state) to notify tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups as a Scheduled Tribe in relation to that State or Union Territory.
- The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution lays out provision for Administration and Control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in states other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
- The Sixth Schedule deals with the administration of the tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
- Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 provides protection against preaching and practice of Untouchability in tribal groups.
- Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 counters the caste discrimination practices in tribal communities.
- Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 empowers the tribal communities through political autonomy at Gram Panchayat level.
- Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 recognizes rights of locals and tribal people on the minor forest produce.
Recommendations by the Panda Task force: The Taskforce identified the specific communities based on many factors such as
- A few of them being subsets of communities already categorized as ST and few being phonetic variations of existing tribes.
- Some were left out when States were bifurcated and some were omitted inexplicably such as the Pulayan community of Tamilnadu and Konda Kumari community of Andhra Pradesh.
- A few more were lost out on categorisation because they were forcibly taken away from their homelands as indentured labour to other States or were displaced due to industrialisation.
- Kandha Kumbhar, Jodia, Chuktia Bhunjia, Saara, Mankidia, Porja, Banda Paraja, Durua, and Paharia communities are the ones in Odisha.
- Based on the principle that ‘indentured labourers’ are not the same as ‘voluntary migration’ and recommended 26 tea tribes of Assam who were forcibly taken as indentured labourers from states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha.
- These communities are Mal Paharia, Bedia, Saora, Shabar, Kharia, Gond, Munda, Bonda, Mahli, Paraja, Chik Baraik, Kol, Khond (Kandha), Chero, Koya, Birhor, Bhumji, Halba, Majwar, Dhanwar, Baiga, Lodha, Nagasia, Bhil, Oraon, and Santal.
- Similarly, it recommended for inclusion tribal communities of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh that had been displaced on account of the Narmada Dam Project.
- Inclusion of various Devnagri versions of tribes in the ST list of Chhattisgarh, such as Bharia, Pando, Gadaba, Bhuihar, Nagasia, Dhangad and Kond.
Major issues involved with the recognition new communities as STs:
- Cumbersome and time-consuming process of inclusion:
- The process of inclusion of communities into STs is cumbersome and time-consuming which delays it for years.
- Even the Panda task force flagged the current procedure and criteria for inclusion in ST lists and had recommended changes to both.
- Strict Criteria of identification:
- Currently, the criteria for defining communities as STs based on their characteristic traits which have been followed since the 1960s is quite strict and obsolete.
- Political reasons:
- Political reasons have always been a hurdle and defeated the Constitutional agenda for affirmative action and inclusion of communities.
- For example– The Union government has not notified communities into ST list even after the State government recommended to include as many as 160 communities in Odisha’s ST list since the 1970s.
There is need to bring a comprehensive Bill to include all eligible communities into the ST list that had been left out of ST lists over the years. Need to Revisit the procedure and criteria of inclusion of the communities into the ST lists and make changes based on more rational methods and present circumstances.
Source: The Hindu