National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)

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National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), a constitutional body in India, embodies the nation’s commitment to ensuring the welfare and empowerment of the Scheduled Tribes. It stands as a guardian of equity and inclusion, dedicated to uplifting the marginalized and underserved sections of society. This article of Next IAS aims to study in detail the National Commission for STs, including its evolution, composition, functions, powers, and other related aspects.

  • The National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes (NCST) is a constitutional body in India.
  • It has been established with a view to provide safeguards against the exploitation of the Scheduled Tribes as well as to protect their social, economic, educational, and cultural interests.
  • The Headquarters of NCST is in New Delhi.
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
– According to Article 366(25) of the Indian Constitution, “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 of the Indian Constitution says that “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”.
– These Scheduled Tribes are spread largely in forest and hilly regions throughout the country.
– The essential characteristics of these communities are:-
A. Primitive traits,
B. Geographical isolation,
C. Distinct culture,
D. The shyness of contact with the community at large,
E. Social, Educational & Economic backwardness.
– According to the 2011 Census, the Scheduled Tribes represent 8.6% of the country’s population.
– There are over 700 tribes that have been notified under Article 342 of the Indian Constitution. All these tribes are spread across different States and Union Territories.
– According to the 2011 Census, the largest number of tribal communities are found in Madhya Pradesh followed by Odisha.
– Moreover, there are no Scheduled Tribes in the states of Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi, and Puducherry.
  • Article 338-A of the Indian Constitution deals with the provisions related to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).

The National Commission for Schedule Tribes (NCST), in its present form, has evolved through a series of developments as shown below:

  • Originally, Article 338 of the Constitution provided for the appointment of a Special Officer for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  • The Special Officer was designated as the Commissioner for SCs and STs.
  • The primary task of the Commissioner for SCs and STs was to investigate all matters relating to the constitutional safeguards for the SCs and STs and to report to the President on their workings.
  • It amended Article 338 of the Indian Constitution and provided for the establishment of a high-level multi-member National Commission for SCs and STs.
  • This constitutional body replaced the Commissioner for SCs and STs.
  • It further amended Article 338 and inserted a new Article 338-A in the Constitution.
  • As a result of this amendment, the National Commission for SCs and STs was bifurcated into two separate bodies:
    • National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) – Article 338.
    • National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) – Article 338-A.
  • The separate National Commission for SCs was finally established in 2004.
Note: In 1999, a new Ministry of Tribal Affairs was created to provide a sharp focus on the welfare and development of the Scheduled Tribes.
  • It consists of a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson, and three other members.
  • They are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
  • Their conditions of service and tenure of office are determined by the President.

As per the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, and Members (Conditions of Service and Tenure) Rules of 2004:

  • The Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson, and other Members of the National Commission for STs shall hold office for a term of three years from the date on which he/she assumes such office.
  • The Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson, and other Members shall not be eligible for appointment for more than two terms.

The major functions of the National Commission for STs include:

  • To investigate and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and other legal safeguards for the Scheduled Tribes and to evaluate their working.
  • To inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Scheduled Tribes.
  • To participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of the Scheduled Tribes and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union or a State.
  • To present to the President, annually and at such other times as it may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards.
  • To make recommendations as to the measures that should be taken by the Union or a State for the effective implementation of those safeguards and other measures for the protection, welfare, and socio-economic development of the Scheduled Tribes.
  • To discharge such other functions in relation to the protection, welfare, development, and advancement of the Scheduled Tribes as the President may specify.

In 2005, the President specified the following other functions of the Commission in relation to the protection, welfare, development, and advancement of STs:

  • Measures to be taken over conferring ownership rights in respect of minor forest produce to STs living in the forest areas.
  • Measures to be taken to safeguard the rights of tribal communities over mineral resources, water resources, etc as per law.
  • Measures are to be taken for the development of tribals and to work for more viable livelihood strategies.
  • Measures to be taken to improve the efficacy of relief and rehabilitation measures for tribal groups displaced by development projects.
  • Measures to be taken to prevent alienation of tribal people from land and to effectively rehabilitate such people in whose case alienation has already taken place.
  • Measures to be taken to elicit maximum cooperation and involvement of tribal communities for protecting forests and undertaking social afforestation.
  • Measures to be taken to ensure full implementation of the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act of 1996.
  • Measures to be taken to reduce and ultimately eliminate the practice of shifting cultivation by tribals that leads to their continuous disempowerment and degradation of land and environment.
  • The Commission is vested with the power to regulate its own procedure.
  • While investigating any matter or inquiring into any complaint, it has all the powers of a Civil Court, viz.
    • Summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath,
    • Requiring the discovery and production of any document,
    • Receiving evidence on affidavits,
    • Requisitioning any public record from any court or office,
    • Issuing summons for the examination of witnesses and documents,
    • Any other matter which the President may determine.
  • The Central Government and the State Governments are required to consult the Commission on all major policy matters affecting the Scheduled Tribes.
  • The Commission presents reports to the President annually or at such other times as it may deem fit.
  • The President places all such reports before the Parliament, along with a memorandum explaining the action taken on the recommendations made by the Commission.
    • The memorandum also contains the reasons for the non-acceptance of any of such recommendations.
  • The President also forwards any report of the Commission pertaining to a State Government to the concerned State Governor.
    • The Governor places it before the State Legislature, along with a memorandum explaining the action taken on the recommendations of the Commission.
    • The memorandum also contains the reasons for the non-acceptance of any of such recommendations.

In conclusion, the National Commission for STs (NCST) plays a vital role in India’s ongoing pursuit of a truly inclusive society. By effectively safeguarding rights, promoting development initiatives, and advocating for policy changes, the commission can empower the STs and create a more equitable future. As India progresses towards inclusive growth and social justice, the NCST remains a crucial institution.

Article 244(1) – The provisions of the Fifth Schedule shall apply to the administration and control of the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in any State other than the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

Article 244(2) – The provisions of the Sixth Schedule shall apply to the administration of the tribal areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.

Article 275(1) – This Article of the Indian Constitution guarantees grants-in-aid from the Consolidated Fund of India each year for promoting the welfare of Scheduled Tribes.

Article 330 – Reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in Lok Sabha.

Article 332 – Reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in State Legislatures.
Protection of Civil Rights Act of 1955: It aims to eradicate untouchability and caste-based discrimination in India.

Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989: It aims to prevent atrocities against Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in India.

Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996: It aims to extend the institution of Panchayats to Scheduled Areas, predominantly inhabited by tribal communities.

Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006: It provides legal recognition to the rights of Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers over forest land and resources.

Is the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes a Statutory or Constitutional body?

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes is a Constitutional body.

Who can declare a tribe as a Scheduled Tribe?

The President can declare a tribe as a Scheduled Tribe.

What is Article 338 A?

Article 338A of the Indian Constitution deals with the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. It outlines the establishment, composition, powers, and functions of this commission, which is tasked with protecting the interests of Scheduled Tribes in India.

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