1. Give a brief comment on the various provisions in constitution targeted at the scheduled tribes
2. What are the reasons for their continued backwardness?
3. What solutions would you offer to address their ongoing issues?
India being a welfare state, aims to ensure the economic and social prosperity of all sections of the society. Recognizing the special needs of STs, the Constitution of India made certain special safeguards to protect these communities from all the possible exploitation and thus ensure social justice.
The reason for special provisions for the Scheduled Tribe are exemplified in the five fundamental principles for tribal development (Tribal Panchsheel). It aims to uplift tribal people through a slow process of their ―modernization, even while their culture had to be preserved.
1. Non-imposition:- People should develop along the lines of their own genius, and the imposition of alien values should be avoided.
2. Tribal rights in land and forest should be respected.
3. Teams of tribals should be trained in the work of administration and development. Introducing too many outsiders into tribal territory should be avoided.
4. Tribal areas should not be over administered or overwhelmed with a multiplicity of schemes
5. Results should be judged not by statistics or the amount of money spent, but by the human character that is evolved.
Following are the special provisions for the Scheduled Tribes in the constitution-
1. Fundamental Rights- Article 14 confers equal rights and opportunities to all, Article 15 prohibits discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of sex, religion, race, caste etc; Article 15(4) enjoins upon the State to make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes; Article 16(4) empowers the State to make provisions for reservation in appointments or posts in favor of any backward class of citizens, which in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.
2. DPSP– Article 46 enjoins upon the State to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and, in particular, the STs and promises to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
3. Article 275(1) promises grant-in-aid for promoting the welfare of STs and for raising the level of administration of the Scheduled Areas, Articles 330, 332 and 335 stipulate reservation of seats for STs in the Lok Sabha and in the State Legislative Assemblies and in services.
4. Finally, the Constitution also empowers the State to appoint a Commission to investigate the conditions of the socially and educationally backward classes (Article 340) and to specify those Tribes or Tribal Communities deemed to be as STs (Article 342).
5. The Fifth Schedule to the Constitution lays down certain prescriptions about the Scheduled Areas as well as the Scheduled Tribes and setting up of Tribal Advisory Councils to advise on matters pertaining to the welfare and advancement of the STs (Article 244(1)).
6. Likewise, the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution also refers to the administration of Tribal Areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram by designating certain tribal areas as Autonomous Districts and Autonomous Regions and also by constituting District Councils and Regional Councils (Article 244(2)).
Tribal communities continue to be vulnerable even today, the vulnerability arises from their inability to negotiate and cope with the consequences of their integration with the mainstream economy, society, cultural and political systems. As a result, there remains ‘Unresolved Issues’ and ‘Persisting Problems’, which was highlighted in XAXA committee report-
1. Displacement or forced/voluntary eviction of tribals from their land and their natural habitats and subsequent rehabilitation has been a serious problem that remains to be addressed by the Government
2. Land is not only the most important productive resource base for the tribals. However, over a period of time, this resource base of the tribal communities has tended to get eroded not only through acquisition for public purposes but also through fraudulent transfers, forcible eviction, mortgages, leases, and encroachments.
3. The problem of indebtedness amongst tribals is not only an indication of their poverty but also reflects the wider economic malaise, i.e., lack of education, low purchasing/bargaining power and lack of resources for engaging in gainful activity and meeting emergent expenditure.
4. Tribals continue to struggle for mere survival as they face formidable problems and displacement due to the development of national parks and wild-life sanctuaries and other environmental restoration projects, lack of development in forest villages, etc.
5. Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) PESA Ac t, 1996, are landmark achievements in conferring powers and authority to the Panchayats and Gram Sabhas. But, unfortunately, the same is not being enforced in the right spirit.
6. The model of development imposed on tribals has been questioned. Massive push to this development agenda with economic liberalization and the entry of private corporations into tribal areas, has been met with considerable resistance by tribal communities.
7. Laws and rules that provide protection to tribes are being routinely manipulated and subverted to accommodate corporate interests.
8. The Tribal Sub Plan funds were to be non-divertible and non-lapsable. But, most of the funds meant for TSP had been diverted to other sectors and purposes, and some of them had also been lapsed due to their improper utilization or failure of administrative machinery.
Recommendations made by XAXA committees are as follows-
1. Funds available to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs for giving grants to States under Article 275 (1) of the Constitution should be substantially enhanced so as to enable the Ministry to provide larger support to the States for strengthening of institutions and up-gradation of administration in tribal areas.
2. There is an urgent need for extending the pattern of the Sixth Schedule in the form of Autonomous Councils in the Fifth Schedule areas as has been provided for in the Provisions of Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.
3. Serious effort is required by the State to minimize displacement. There should be a rights-based approach to comprehensive rehabilitation.
4. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, is progressive in the sense. However, the definition of “public purpose” in the new law is very wide and will only lead to greater acquisition and displacement in Scheduled Areas.
5. Tribal Health Assembly and Tribal Health Councils should be constituted by including elected representatives, NGOs, experts, and government officers for the purpose of planning and monitoring programs.
6. Schemes like Ashram School, Eklavya Model School, and Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya should be promoted on a large scale.
The tribal communities face disregard for their values and culture, breach of protective legislation, serious material and social deprivation, and aggressive resource alienation. The need of hour is to promote the right to preservation of their language, culture, and traditions, and to protect themselves against the loss of identity, must be recognized, protected, documented and allowed to thrive as a dynamic living culture.