Scheduled Tribes in India : Current Affairs Analysis

Topics Covered

  1. Who are Scheduled Tribes
  2. Criteria for specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe at the time of Adoption of Constitution
  3. Revised procedure for inclusion or exclusion from the list of Scheduled Tribes
  4. Distribution of Tribes
  5. Constitutional Provisions for the development of Scheduled Tribes
  6. Institutional Safeguards
  7. National Commission of Scheduled Tribes
  8. List of Tribes in Union Territories 

Who are Scheduled Tribes

  • The framers of the Constitution took note of the fact that certain communities in the country were suffering from extreme social, educational and economic backwardness on account of the primitive agricultural practices, lack of infrastructure facilities and geographical isolation. The Constitution of India in Article 366 (25) prescribe that the Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 of the Constitution to be Scheduled Tribes.

Article 342

  • 342(1) Scheduled Tribes — the President may with respect to any State or Union Territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by a public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within tribes or tribal communities as Scheduled Tribe in relation to that State or Union Territory as the case may be.  
  • (2) Parliament may be law include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Tribes specified in a notification issued under clause (1) any tribe or tribal community or part of or group within any tribe or tribal community, but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification.

Criteria for specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe at the time of Adoption of Constitution

  • While the Constitution is silent about the criteria for specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe. The words and the phrase ‘tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within tribes or tribal communities” in Article 342 have to be understood in terms of their historical background of backwardness.
  • Primitiveness, geographical isolation, shyness and social, educational & economic backwardness due to these reasons are the traits that distinguish Scheduled Tribe communities of our country from other communities.
  • It takes into account the definitions of tribal Communities adopted in the 1931 Census.
  • These facts are the basis for the provision in Article 342(1) which mandates to specify the tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within tribes or tribal communities as Scheduled Tribe in relation to that State or Union Territory as the case may be.
  • Thus the list of Scheduled Tribes is State/UT specific and a community declared as a Scheduled Tribe in a State need not be so in another State. The Presidential notifications under Clause 1 of Article 342 of the Constitution are issued as the Constitution Orders. Two Constitution Orders were initially issued in relation to two distinct categories of States as existed at the time of adoption of the Constitution of India. These are:
  • The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 (Constitution Order 22) applicable to 
    Assam, Bihar, Bombay, Madhya Pradesh, Madras, Orissa, Punjab, West Bengal, Hyderabad, Madhya Bharat, Mysore, Rajasthan, Saurashtra and Travancore-Cochin
  • The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) (Part C States) Order, 1951 (Constitution Order 33)    20.9.1951  applicable to  Ajmer, Bhopal, Coorg, Himachal Pradesh, Kutch, Manipur, Tripura and Vindhya Pradesh 

Revised procedure for inclusion in or exclusion from the list of Scheduled Tribes

  • First Backward Classes Commission (headed by Kaka Kalelkar) was setup in 1955 In view of the demands from various quarters for specification of OBCs.
  • The Kalelkar Commission submitted its report in 1956. This Commission recommended for inclusion of Scheduled Tribes also as OBCs. Besides, to look into the demand for specification of new communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes through the process of amendment of the Constitution Scheduled Tribe Orders an Advisory Committee on Revision of lists of SCs & STs (Lokur Committee) was setup in 1965.
  • Thereafter a draft Bill for amendment of the Constitution Orders introduced in Parliament was referred to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 1967 (Chanda Committee). The following essential characteristics for a community to be identified as a Scheduled Tribe were accepted:
  • (i) Primitive way of life and habitation in remote and less easily accessible areas,
  • (ii) Distinctive culture,
  • (iii) Shyness of contact with the community at large,
  • (iv) Geographical isolation, and
  • (v) General backwardness in all respects.

Keeping in view the above criteria and considering the demands for inclusion of several communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes the Constitution Orders were comprehensively amended vide the Constitution the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 1976 (No. 108 of 1976) while new Constitution Orders were also issued in respect of certain States.

Revised Procedure

  • Only those claims that have been agreed to by the concerned State Government, the Registrar General of India and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes are taken up for consideration.
  • Whenever representations are received in the Ministry for inclusion of any community in the list of Scheduled Tribes of a State/UT, the Ministry forwards that representation to the concerned State Government/UT Administration for recommendation as required under Article 342 of the Constitution.
  • If the concerned State Government recommends the proposal, the same is sent to the Registrar General of India (RGI) for their comments/views.
  • The RGI, if satisfied with recommendation of the State Government, recommends the proposal to the Central Government.
  • Thereafter, the Government refers the proposal to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes for their recommendation.
  • If the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes also recommends the case, the matter is processed for the decision of the Cabinet after consulting the concerned administrative Ministries. Thereafter the matter is put up before the Parliament in the form of a bill to amend the Presidential Order.
  • Claims for inclusion, exclusion or other modifications that neither the RGI nor the concerned State Governments have supported would not be referred to the National Commission.  These would be rejected at the level of the Ministry for Social Justice & Empowerment.
  • In case, there is disagreement between the views of the State Government and the RGI, the views of the RGI are sent to the State Government for reviewing or further justifying their recommendation.  On receipt of the further clarification from the State Government/Union Territory Administration, the proposal is again referred to the RGI for comments.  In such cases, where the RGI does not agree to the point of view of the State Government/UT Administration on a second reference, the Government of India may consider rejection of the said proposal.
  • Similarly, those cases where the State Government and the RGI favour inclusion/exclusion, but not supported by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes are also rejected.
  • Claims recommended suo-moto by the National Commission would be referred to RGI and the State Governments. Depending on their responses, they would be disposed of in accordance with the modalities indicated above as may be applicable.

Distribution of Tribes

  • The Scheduled Tribes are notified in 30 States/UTs and the number of individual ethnic groups, etc. notified as Scheduled Tribes is 705.
  • The tribal population of the country, as per 2011 census, is 10.43 crore, constituting 8.6% of the total population. 89.97% of them live in rural areas and 10.03% in urban areas. The decadal population growth of the tribal’s from Census 2001 to 2011 has been 23.66% against the 17.69% of the entire population.
  • The sex ratio for the overall population is 940 females per 1000 males and that of Scheduled Tribes 990 females per thousand males.
  • Broadly the STs inhabit two distinct geographical area – the Central India and the North- Eastern Area. More than half of the Scheduled Tribe population is concentrated in Central India, i.e., Madhya Pradesh (14.69%), Chhattisgarh (7.5%), Jharkhand (8.29%), Andhra Pradesh (5.7%), Maharashtra (10.08%), Orissa (9.2%), Gujarat (8.55%) and Rajasthan (8.86%). The other distinct area is the North East (Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh).
  • More than two-third of the ST population is concentrated only in the seven States of the country, viz. Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. There is no ST population in 3 States (Delhi NCR, Punjab and Haryana) and 2 UTs (Puducherry and Chandigarh), as no Scheduled Tribe is notified .

Constitutional Provisions for the development of Scheduled Tribes

  • Reservation in educational institution has been provided in Article 15(4) while reservation in posts and services has been provided in Article 16(4), 16(4A) and 16(4B) of the Constitution
  • Article 23 which prohibits traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar forms of forced labour has a special significance for Scheduled Tribes. In pursuance of this Article, Parliament has enacted the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.
  • Similarly, Article 24 which prohibits employment of Children below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or in any other hazards activity is also significant for Scheduled Tribes as a substantial portion of child labour engaged in these jobs belong to Scheduled Tribes. Other specific safeguards have been provided in Article 244 read with the provisions contained in Fifth and Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. 
  • Article 46 of the Constitution provides that the State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the society and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. 
  • Article 164(1) provides that in the States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa there shall be a Minister in charge of tribal welfare who may in addition be in charge of the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and backward classes or any other work.
  • Article 243D provides reservation of Seats for Scheduled Tribes in Panchayats.
  • Article 330 provides reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People.
  • Article 332 provides reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in Legislative Assemblies of the States.
  • Article 334 provides that reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha and the State Vidhan Sabhas (and the representation of the Anglo-Indian Community in the Lok Sabha and the State Vidhan Sabhas by nomination) would continue up to January, 2020.
  • Article 371A has special provisions with respect to the State of Nagaland.
  • Article 371B has special provisions with respect to the State of Assam.
  • Article 371C has special provisions with respect to the State of Manipur.
  • Article 371F has special provisions with respect to Sikkim.

Institutional Safeguards

  •  National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (Article 338 A) –   Consequent upon amendment of Article 338 the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes ceased to exist and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes was setup under the provision of amended Article 338 and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes came into existence under the provision of new Article 338A.

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes

Composition

  • The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and three other Members. At least one other Member shall be appointed from amongst women.
  • The Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and other Members of the Commission are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal. The Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson and the other Members shall hold office for a term of three years from the date on which he/ she assumes such office.

Functions and Duties

The Duties assigned to the Commission under 338A(5) are as given below:

(a)    To investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Tribes under the Constitution or under any other law for the time being in force or under any order of the Government and to evaluate the working of such safeguards;       

(b)    To inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation  of rights and safeguards of the Scheduled Tribes;       

(c)    To participate and advise in the planning process of socio-economic development of the Scheduled Tribes and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State;       

(d)    To present to the President, annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards.       

(e)    To make in such reports, recommendations as to the measures that should be taken by the Union or any State for effective implementation of those safeguards and other measures for the protection, welfare and socio-economic development of the Scheduled Tribes, and       

(f)    To discharge such other functions in relation to the protection, welfare and development and advancement of the Scheduled Tribes as the President may, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, by rule specify.    

Additional functions 

(i)  to confer  ownership  rights   in  respect of   minor  forest  produce  to STs  living  in  forest  areas.       
(ii) to safeguarding the   rights  of   the  tribal  communities  over   mineral  resources,  water   resources etc.  as laid down by  law.       
(iii) to plug  loopholes  and  to   work   more  viable  livelihood  strategies.       
(iv) to improve   the  efficacy of   relief   and  rehabilitation  measures for    tribal  groups   displaced   by  development projects.       
(v)  to prevent  alienation of   tribal   people  from land and  to   effectively  rehabilitate  such  people   in whose  case  alienation has  already  taken  place.       
(vi) to elicit maximum cooperation and involvement of tribal  communities for protecting forests and undertaking social  afforestation.       
(vii) to ensure full implementation   of the provision of Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled   Areas) Act, 1996       
(viii) to reduce and ultimately eliminate the practice of shifting  cultivation  by tribal that lead to their continuous disempowerment and  degradation of  land  and  the  environment.    

List of Tribes in Union Territories 

Union TerritoryTribes
Andaman & Nicobar Islands
1. Andamanese,
Chariar, Chari,
Kora, Tabo, Bo,
Yere, Kede, Bea,
Balawa, Bojigiyab,
Juwai, Kol
2. Jarawas
3. Nicobarese
4. Onges
5. Sentinelese
6. Shom Pens
Dadra and Nagar Haveli
1. Dhodia
2. Dubla including
Halpati
3. Kathodi
4. Kokna
5. Koli Dhor including
Kolgha
6. Naikda or Nayaka
7. Varli
Daman and Diu
Daman and Diu
Throughout the Union territory:
1. Dhodia
2. Dubla (Halpati)
3. Naikda (Talavia)
4. Siddi (Nayaka)
5. Varli
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