National Commission of Schedule Tribes (NCST)

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    National Commission of Schedule Tribes (NCST)

    • Background:
      • The NCST was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the 89th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2003.
      • By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely:
        • The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC)
        • The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
    • Composition
      • The NCST panel has one chairperson, one vice-chairperson, and three members (two out of VC, and the members should be from the ST community). At least one member should be a woman.
      • The Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson, and the other Members hold office for a term of 3 years.
      • The members are only eligible for appointments for up to two terms.
      • The President appoints the members by warrant under his hand and seal.
    • Powers and Functions
      • The Commission is vested with all the powers of a civil court while investigating any matter on the inquiry of any complaint relating to deprivation of rights and safeguards for Scheduled Tribes.
      • To investigate & monitor matters relating to Safeguards provided for STs under the Constitution or under other laws or under Govt. Order, to evaluate the working of such Safeguards.
      • 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 socioeconomic development of the Scheduled Tribes and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State.
      • To present to the President, annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards.

    Issues with NCST

    • Appointments:
      • Lack of Appointment: It just has a chairperson and one member with all other posts empty, including that of the mandatory ST member.
      • As per parliament till 31st January 2023, against the total sanctioned posts of 124, 54 posts are filled and the vacant posts are 70.
      • The Group A posts in the NCST are filled by the Ministry, while the Group B and C posts are the NCST’s responsibility.
      • Lack of Candidates: In the recruitment process, the eligibility bar is set too high and the rules are impromptu changed. 
    • Pending Reports: 
      • The commission has been dysfunctional for the last five years and has not delivered a single report to Parliament.
      • As per the Commission, in the financial year 2021-22, it has met only four times. Its rate of pendency of resolution of complaints and cases that it receives is also close to 50 percent.
    • Budgetary Constraints:
      • The Commission does not have a separate Budget Head to advance its Demand for Grants in a realistic manner.

    Way Ahead

    • The Commission needs to function as per the constitutional authority allotted to it. It should work for the welfare of STs and prevent the exploitation of Schedule tribes.
    • The pending vacancies should be immediately filled with the mandatory posts to be filled at the earliest for the smooth functioning of the commission.
    • The reports which have not been tabled in parliament needed to be tabled and their recommendations be debated.
    • The budgetary allocation to the commission needed to be reviewed accordingly so that the functioning of the constitutional body is not impacted  due to lack of funds.

                                                    Schedule Tribes

    • As per Article 342 of the Constitution, the President through a public notification can declare the tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within these tribes and tribal communities as Schedule Tribes.
    • Criteria: The Constitution is silent about the criteria for the specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe. Primitiveness, geographical isolation, shyness, and social, educational & economic backwardness are the traits that distinguish Scheduled Tribe communities from other communities.
    • There are 75 Scheduled Tribes known as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), which are characterized by:
      •  Pre-agriculture level of technology 
      •  Stagnant or declining population
      •  Extremely low literacy
      •  Subsistence level of the economy

    Related Committees

    • Xaxa Committee (2013)
    • Bhuria Commission (2002-2004)
    • Lokur Committee (1965)

    Source: The Hindu