Tribes in News

Move to change procedure for inclusion on ST list is put on hold


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Scheduled Tribes

Mains level: Read the attached story

The Union Government has put on hold a proposal to change the procedure for scheduling new communities as Scheduled Tribes, which has been in the pipeline for more than eight years.

Why in news?

  • The proposal to change the procedure was based on the recommendations of a government task force constituted in February 2014, headed by then-Tribal Affairs Secretary Hrusikesh Panda.
  • It called the existing procedure:
  1. Cumbersome and time-consuming
  2. Defeats the Constitutional agenda for affirmative action and inclusion

Who are the Scheduled Tribes?

  • The term ‘Scheduled Tribes’ first appeared in the Constitution of India.
  • Article 366 (25) defined scheduled tribes as “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 prescribes procedure to be followed in the matter of specification of scheduled tribes.
  • Among the tribal groups, several have adapted to modern life but there are tribal groups who are more vulnerable.
  • The Dhebar Commission (1973) created a separate category “Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs)” which was renamed in 2006 as “Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)”.

How are STs notified?

  • As per the current procedure, each proposal for the scheduling of a new community as ST has to originate from the relevant State Government.
  • It is then sent to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which sends it to the Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI).
  • Once approved by the Office of the RGI, it is sent to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), and only after its approval is it sent to the Cabinet.

Status of STs in India

  • The Census 2011 has revealed that there are said to be 705 ethnic groups notified as Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  • Over 10 crore Indians are notified as STs, of which 1.04 crore live in urban areas.
  • The STs constitute 8.6% of the population and 11.3% of the rural population.

Issues with the procedure of ST notification

The Panda committee had explained that there were multiple obstacles unnecessarily preventing at least 40 communities from being listed as ST.

  1. Exclusion over name: Several tribes pronounced or spelt their community’s name in different ways; some communities were split when new States were created, leaving them as ST in one State and not in the other;
  2. Migration led exclusion: Some tribespeople were forcefully taken as indentured labour to other States where they were left out of the ST list.
  3. No ethnographic study: The modalities not only lacked sufficient anthropologists and sociologists to comment on proposals for exclusion or inclusion.

Recommendations to change the procedure

The Panda committee recommends-

  • Once a proposal is received from a State Government, it should be circulated simultaneously to the NCST.
  • The Office of the RGI and the Anthropological Survey of India, each of which would have six months to give their opinions.
  • A special Committee on scheduling would then consider the proposal and the opinions of the above-mentioned authorities and make a final recommendation within one month.
  • The Committee would consist of the Tribal Affairs Secretary, and representatives of the NCST, Office of the RGI, Anthropological Survey of India, State Government and the concerned State tribal research institute.


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