Procedure for the inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes list

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    In the News

    • Recently, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs responded to a question in the Rajya Sabha, which raised concerns about the need for a revision in the criteria and procedure for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes list.

    Who are Scheduled Tribes?

    • The framers of the Constitution took note of the fact that certain communities in the country were suffering from extreme social, educational, and economic backwardness on account of primitive agricultural practices, lack of infrastructure facilities, and geographical isolation. 
    • The Constitution of India in Article 366 (25) prescribes that Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 of the Constitution to be Scheduled Tribes.
      • 342(1) Scheduled Tribes — the President may with respect to any State or Union Territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by 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 as the case may be.  
      • (2) Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Tribes specified in a notification issued under clause (1) any tribe or tribal community or part of or group within any tribe or tribal community, but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification.

    The current procedure and criteria for inclusion

    • According to the modalities, for inclusion first framed in 1999, the proposal for inclusion must originate from the respective State or Union Territory government
      • Following this, the proposal is sent to the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry, which sends it to the Office of the Registrar General of India (ORGI). 
    • If the ORGI approves the inclusion, the proposal is forwarded to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. 
      • the ORGI continues to follow the criteria set out by the Lokur Committee in 1965 to decide whether a community can be included in the ST list.
        • These criteria include indications of primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness of contact with the community at large, and backwardness.
    • Only after the concurrence of these institutions, will the proposal go forward to the Cabinet to bring in the appropriate amendment to the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950. 
    • The final decision rests with the President’s office issuing a notification specifying the changes under powers vested in it from Articles 341 and 342.

    Benefits of Inclusion in ST List / Constitutional Safeguards

    • Reservation in educational institutions has been provided in Article 15(4) of the constitution while reservation in posts and services has been provided in Article 16(4), 16(4A) and 16(4B) of the Constitution.
    • Specific safeguards have been provided in Article 244 read with the provisions contained in the Fifth and Sixth Schedules to the Constitution.
    • Article 243D provides reservation of Seats for Scheduled Tribes in Panchayats.
    • Article 330 provides reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha.

    Criticism 

    • Both the procedure and criteria for the inclusion of communities had been strongly criticised by an internal government task force formed in February 2014, for being “obsolete”, “condescending”, “dogmatic” and “rigid”. 
    • The committee, led by then-Tribal Affairs Secretary Hrusikesh Panda had also said that the procedure as it was being followed was “cumbersome” and “defeats the Constitutional agenda for affirmative action and inclusion”.
    •  The task force had concluded that these criteria and procedures were resulting in the exclusion of or delays in the inclusion of nearly 40 communities across the country. 

    Government Stands 

    • The Tribal Affairs Ministry insisted that the current procedure for inclusion of communities in the Scheduled Tribes list was “adequate”. 

    Supreme Court’s Observations

    • In March 2022, the Supreme Court said it wanted to fix fool-proof parameters to determine if a person belongs to a Scheduled Tribe. It referred this matter to a larger bench.

    How many Scheduled Tribes are there officially?

    • According to the Scheduled Tribes in India as revealed in Census 2011, there are said to be 705 ethnic groups listed as Scheduled Tribes under Article 342. 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:TH