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Proposed Inclusion of Communities in Jammu and Kashmir’s Scheduled Tribes (ST) List

Context:

The Indian government has introduced the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023, aiming to include four communities in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list in Jammu and Kashmir.

  • The proposed inclusion of the “Gadda Brahmin,” “Koli,” “Paddari Tribe,” and “Pahari Ethnic Group” has sparked apprehensions regarding the distribution of reservation benefits.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Criteria for Inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) List
  2. Process of Adding a Community to the Scheduled Tribe (ST) List
  3. Who are the Scheduled Tribes?
  4. Constitutional Provisions regarding STs

Criteria for Inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) List:

The inclusion of a community in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list is determined based on several criteria to establish its tribal identity and distinct cultural characteristics.

  • Ethnological Traits: The community’s distinct and identifiable ethnological traits are considered to determine its tribal identity.
  • Traditional Practices and Customs: The community’s traditional practices, customs, and way of life are examined to assess their adherence to tribal culture.
  • Unique Culture: The presence of a unique and distinctive culture that sets the community apart from other groups is taken into account.
  • Geographical Isolation: The community’s historical and continuous presence in specific regions, along with its geographical isolation, is considered.
  • Socio-economic Backwardness: The level of socio-economic backwardness faced by the community is also evaluated.
  • Lack of Defined Criteria: Notably, the Constitution of India does not provide a specific definition or set criteria for the recognition of Scheduled Tribes. The determination is made based on a combination of the above factors.

Process of Adding a Community to the Scheduled Tribe (ST) List:

  • State/UT Level: The process begins at the State or Union Territory level, where the concerned government or administration recommends the inclusion of a specific community in the ST list.
  • Union Ministry Examination: The proposal from the State/UT government is sent to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs for examination and further deliberations.
  • Ministry’s Deliberation: The Ministry of Tribal Affairs examines the proposal and, after its own deliberations, forwards it to the Registrar General of India (RGI).
  • RGI Approval: The proposal is reviewed and approved by the Registrar General of India.
  • National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST): The approved proposal is then sent to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes for further consideration.
  • Back to Union Government: After scrutiny by the NCST, the proposal is sent back to the Union government.
  • President’s Assent: The inclusion of the community in the Scheduled Tribes list is finalized when the President of India gives assent to a Bill that amends the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, after it is passed in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

Who are the Scheduled Tribes?

The Constitution does not define the criteria for recognition of Scheduled Tribes.

  • However, Article 366(25) of the Constitution only provides 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): The President may with respect to any State or Union Territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor, 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.
  • The Dhebar Commission (1973) created a separate category “Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs)” which was renamed in 2006 as “Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)”.

Constitutional Provisions regarding STs

  • Art. 15(4): Special provisions for advancement of other backward classes (which includes STs);
  • Art. 23: Prohibition of traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar form of forced labour;
  • Art. 24: Forbidding Child Labour.
  • Art. 29: Protection of Interests of Minorities (which includes STs);
  • Art. 46: The State shall promote, with special care, the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes, and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
  • Art.164(1): Provides for Tribal Affairs Ministers in Bihar, MP and Orissa;
  • Art. 243: Reservation of seats in Panchayats.
  • Art.244: Clause (1) Provisions of Fifth Schedule shall apply to the administration & control of the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in any State other than the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura which are covered under Sixth Schedule, under Clause (2) of this Article.
  • Art. 275: Grants in-Aid to specified States (STs&SAs) covered under Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution.
  • Art. 330: Reservation of seats for STs in Lok Sabha;
  • Art. 337- Reservation of seats for STs in State Legislatures;
  • Art. 334: 10 years period for reservation (Amended several times to extend the period);
  • Art. 350: Right to conserve distinct Language, Script or Culture;
  • Art. 350: Instruction in Mother Tongue.
  • Art. 371: Special provisions in respect of NE States and Sikkim.
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.

-Source: The Hindu


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