Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 13 January 2023
- Tribal Scheduling Criteria: An ‘Obsolete’ in Modern Times
- Preterm Births and Stillbirths Must Be Reduced
Tribal Scheduling Criteria: An ‘Obsolete’ in Modern Times
A Right to Information Act request revealed that the Office of the Registrar-General of India (RGI) is adhering to the set of criteria established by the Lokur Committee nearly 60 years ago to define any new community as a Scheduled Tribe.
GS Paper-1: Indian Society— Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
GS Paper-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors; Welfare of vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States; mechanisms, laws.
Give an account of the procedure for including communities in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) and the issues that arise as a result. Also, write about any two communities that have recently been added to ST lists. (250 words)
- According to the procedure for scheduling tribes, the approval of the Office of the RGI is required for the inclusion of any community in Scheduled Tribe (ST) lists.
- In 2017, the Indian government insisted in Parliament that it was considering changing the criteria for classifying new communities as STs.
- It proposed the new criteria based on the report of an internal task force which had called the older criteria “obsolete”, “condescending”, “dogmatic”, and “rigid”.
STs Provisions in the Constitution
- Although the term “Scheduled Tribes” is mentioned in the Indian Constitution, the Constitution does not define the criteria for Scheduled Tribes recognition.
- Article 366(25) of the Constitution defines Scheduled Tribes as “such tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed to be Scheduled Tribes for the purposes of this Constitution under Article 342.”
- Article 342(1) authorises the President of India (in consultation with the Governor of the state) to designate tribes, tribal communities, or parts of or groups as Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State or Union Territory.
- The Constitution’s Fifth Schedule contains provisions for the administration and control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in states other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
- The Sixth Schedule governs tribal administration in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
- As a result, during the early years following independence, the definition contained in the 1931 Census was used to classify Schedule Tribes.
- According to the 1931 Census, Schedule tribes are classified as “backward tribes” living in “Excluded” and “Partially Excluded” areas.
- Against this backdrop, the Government of India established the Lokur Committee, also known as the Advisory Committee on the Revision of Lists of Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribes, in 1965.
The Lokur Committee
- One of the committee’s mandates was to rationally and scientifically revise the list of SCs and STs.
- The Lokur Committee’s criteria included the following characteristics:
- Signs of primitive characteristics.
- A distinct culture.
- Geographical seclusion.
- Fear of making contact with the larger community.
What is the current method for determining STs?
- First, state or union territory governments forward the proposal to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which, after careful consideration, forwards it to the Registrar General of India (RGI).
- Following approval by the RGI, the proposal is sent to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes or National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and then to the Union government, which, following inter-ministerial deliberations, introduces it to the Cabinet for final approval.
- Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution grant the President’s office final decision-making authority.
- After both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha pass a Bill amending the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, the President assents to it.
Problems with the RGI’s current procedure
- The RGI Office relies on census publications dating back to 1891, as well as materials provided by the nodal Union ministry and state governments.
- It decides whether a community can be classified as ST based on the Lokur Committee criteria after reviewing various resources and scrutiny.
- Census records from that far back have inconsistencies, according to experts.
- For example, tribes were defined in the 1891 census as people who practised tribal religion.
- They were classified as tribal animists in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, but hill and forest tribes in 1921.
- They were classified as “primitive tribes” in 1931, then “tribes” in 1941, before moving to the Constitutional term of “Scheduled Tribes” in 1951.
- The RGI Office lacks sufficient anthropologists and sociologists to make sound decisions, as well as the necessary data.
Lokur Committee Criticism Criteria
- Outdated criteria
- Because the Lokur Committee established these criteria in 1965, they may have become obsolete due to the process of transition and acculturation over time.
- The criteria are condescending.
- Terms like primitive and the requirement of primitivity as a Scheduled Tribe characteristic indicate a condescending (superior) attitude by outsiders.
- What we consider primitive is not considered primitive by tribals.
- Sophisticated but unfinished classification
- The classification and identification of tribes are very complex because the committee used a “rigid and dogmatic approach” in establishing the criteria. o For example, experts question how communities can remain geographically isolated if infrastructure development continues across the country, and they question the geographical isolation criterion.
Government initiatives to establish new criteria
- In February 2014, the government formed a task force on Tribal Scheduling under the leadership of the then-Tribal Affairs Secretary.
- After the Task Force recommended changes to the criteria in May, the Tribal Affairs Ministry prepared a draught Cabinet note in June 2014 to overhaul the criteria and procedure for scheduling new communities as STs.
- The new criteria under consideration included socioeconomic factors such as educational attainment and backwardness in comparison to the rest of the state’s population.
- Geographic isolation in the past that may or may not exist today.
- A distinct language or dialect.
- The presence of a core culture associated with the life cycle, marriage, songs, dance, paintings, and folklore.
- Endogamy, or in the case of exogamy, a marital relationship with other STs (This criterion is for scheduling of a community as ST and not for determining ST status of an individual).
- Communities that have adopted a ‘Hindu’ way of life will not be ineligible solely on this basis, according to the draught Cabinet note.
- It also suggested that the new community’s population be compared to the State’s existing ST population, and that all of these criteria be considered holistically, with no one taking precedence over another.
The Way Forward
- Introduce a comprehensive bill to include all eligible communities that have been left off ST lists over the years.
- It is necessary to revisit the procedure and criteria for including communities on ST lists and make changes based on more rational methods and current circumstances
Preterm Births and Stillbirths Must Be Reduced
- The United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) recently published reports on Child Mortality and Stillbirths.
- The report prompts us to consider whether India is doing enough to ensure the health and survival of all children.
GS Paper-2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
Stillbirths and preterm births are highly sensitive ‘tracer indicators’ of the quality of maternal and child health care in particular, and overall health care in general. Discuss. (150 words)
Key Highlights from the Reports
- The UNIGME’s report on child mortality, Levels and Trends in Child Mortality, estimates that five million children will die before reaching the age of five (under-five mortality) in 2021.
- More than half of these (2.7 million) occurred in children aged one to 59 months, with the remainder (2.3 million) occurring in the first month of life (neonatal deaths).
- India’s contribution to these child deaths was estimated to be 7,09,366 under-five deaths, 5,86,787 infant deaths (death before first birthday), and 4,41,801 neonatal deaths. Many of these can be avoided.
Inter-State variations in child mortality in India
- The Sample Registration System (SRS), which was released in September 2022, revealed significant inter-state variations in child mortality in India.
- The infant mortality rate in Madhya Pradesh was six times that of Kerala for every 1,000 live births.
- Children in rural areas have much higher mortality rates than their urban counterparts in any age subgroup.
Neglected issues: the source of child deaths
- Preterm births: The first challenge is that children are “born too early” (preterm births), which means they are born alive before the 37th week of pregnancy.
- This is a challenge because ‘preterm babies’ are two to four times more likely to die after birth than those born after 37 weeks of gestation.
- Worldwide, one out of every ten births is premature; in India, one out of every six to seven births is premature.
- Because India has a high rate of preterm births, newborns in the country are at a higher risk of complications and death.
- Preterm births are responsible for one out of every six deaths among children under the age of five, according to research.
- However, three out of every four deaths caused by preterm birth complications are avoidable.
- Stillbirths: o The second challenge is stillbirths, the subject of the second report titled ‘Never Forgotten’, also by the UNIGME.
- A stillborn baby is one who dies after 22 weeks of pregnancy but before or during the birth.
- In 2021, an estimated 1.9 million stillbirths will occur worldwide.
- In 2021, the absolute estimated number of stillbirths in India (2,86,482) was higher than the death rate among children aged 1 to 59 months (2,67,565).
Reasons for Preterm Births and Stillbirths
- One reason for preterm births and stillbirths not receiving adequate attention is a lack of granular and reliable data.
- Despite the fact that countries have improved their mechanisms for tracking child mortality over the years, data on stillbirths and preterm births are scarce.
- Even on a global scale, the first-ever report on stillbirths will be released in October 2020.
- In India, the SRS report on stillbirths fails the’smell test.’ Its stillbirth estimates are lower than the lower end of the confidence interval by all other reliable estimates, including a recent peer-reviewed analysis using government data from the Health Management Information System.
- The problem, according to experts, is a lack of timely, granular data on stillbirths from the block, district, and state levels.
Preventing Stillbirths and Preterm Births: Known and Proven Solutions
- The majority of stillbirths and preterm births can be avoided by increasing the use of well-established interventions and improving the quality of health-care services. To reduce both stillbirths and preterm births, the emphasis must be on
- increasing access to family planning services; o improving antepartum services such as health and nutrition;
- including pregnant mothers’ intake of iron folic acid; o providing counselling on the importance of a healthy diet; and o optimising nutrition.
- Identifying and managing risk factors.
- •Preventing, detecting, and managing diseases that put mothers at risk, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and infections, will also help reduce preterm births and stillbirths.
- It is possible to reduce future neurological complications for preterm babies by ensuring Kangaroo mother care and initiation of exclusive breastfeeding at an early age, among other things.
- Half of stillbirths occur prior to delivery due to antepartum causes, with the remainder occurring during delivery (intrapartum). Stillbirths can be avoided by closely monitoring labour and functional referral links, as well as improving the quality of healthcare services.
- However, the interventions will be more effective if data on preterm births and stillbirths is better collected and reported.
- The guidelines for maternal and perinatal deaths must be effectively implemented, and the International Classification of Diseases definition for perinatal mortality must be adopted.
- Using this classification will assist in standardising the causes of stillbirth reporting.
- Along with this, India must identify hotspot clusters of stillbirths and preterm births in order to implement local and targeted interventions.
The Health Sector’s Share of Indian Government Spending:
- The government committed to investing 2.5% of GDP in health by 2025 in its 2017 National Health Policy.
- In the six years since then, the government’s allocation for health has only marginally increased.
- According to the best estimates, it is around 1.5% of GDP. The Indian government’s investment in health is among the world’s lowest.
Why does India’s health-care system require more government funding?
- Children are still dying from preventable causes.
- Pregnant women are not given adequate care.
- Aggregate mortality conceals inequities in health outcomes, with the poorest and most marginalised families bearing the brunt of those inequities.
- The primary care system is severely underfunded.
- Some cosmetic changes, for example, are insufficient to improve health outcomes.
- •The two recent reports serve as reminders that it is past time for the government to increase health-care funding, beginning with the upcoming Budget.
- In India, the rates and number of both preterm births and stillbirths are unacceptably high, driving up neonatal, infant, and child mortalities. As a result, they require immediate intervention.
- Stillbirths and preterm births are highly sensitive ‘tracer indicators’ of the quality of maternal and child health care in particular, and overall health care in general.
- In mid-2022, the Foundation for People-Centric Health Systems, a Delhi-based non-profit, drafted a report emphasising the importance of multi-stakeholder collaboration and highlighting the need for better data.
- It is time for all stakeholders to collaborate, and for health policymakers to recognise and address these challenges.