[Answered] What are the major legal initiatives by India since Independence addressing discrimination against Scheduled Tribes (STs)?

Demand of the question Introduction. Contextual introduction. Body. Discuss various Constitutional and legal safeguards since Independence addressing discrimination against Scheduled Tribes. Conclusion. Way forward.

The scheduled castes and scheduled tribes have faced historical discrimination based on caste and tribe lines. They are educationally backward and neglected due to lack of awareness among the groups. The Constitution of India has several provisions to prevent discrimination against people belonging to Scheduled Tribes and to protect their rights. Indian government has been working in the direction of their upliftment since independence.

Constitutional safeguards:  

  1. Provisions to prohibit discrimination: Article 15 prohibit discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Similarly under Article 17 of the Indian constitution untouchability is abolished.
  2. Equal opportunities: Article 16 pertains to equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. Article 46 promotes educational and economic interests of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other weaker sections.
  3. Safeguard of Tribal Interests: Under Article 19 (5), while the rights of free movement and residence throughout the territory of India and of acquisition and disposition of property are guaranteed to every citizen, special restrictions may be imposed by the state for the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe. For example state may impose restrictions on owning property by non tribals in tribal areas.
  4. Minister in-charge of tribal welfare:Article 164 It provides for a Minister-in-charge of tribal welfare in the states of MP, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand. These states have substantial tribal populations and special provision of a Minister looking after tribal welfare is an evidence of the concern of the framers of the constitution for safeguarding the interests of Scheduled Tribes.
  5. National Commission for Scheduled Tribes: As per Article 338-A of the Constitution of India, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has been set-up to, inter-alia, investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Tribes under the Constitution or under any other law. It also inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Scheduled Tribes.  

Major legal initiatives for addressing discrimination against Scheduled Tribes:

  1. Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955: In order to stop practice of untouchability the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 has been enacted. This Act provides assistance to the States and Union Territories for the implementation of the constitutional provisions for the Scheduled Tribes. It also provides funding for the states to assist victims of atrocities and for the provision of incentives for the creation of special courts, inter-caste marriages and awareness generation.
  2. Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989: This act was enacted in order to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. The act provides for Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offences and for matters connected.
  3. Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996: It was enacted in order to provide for the extension of the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the Panchayats to the Scheduled Areas. 
  4. Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006:The act was enacted to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forests for generations.

Government has adopted a multi-pronged strategy for overall development and mainstreaming of tribal people in the country, which includes support for education, health, sanitation, water supply, skill development, livelihood, infrastructure, etc. Major part of infrastructure development and provision of basic amenities in tribal areas in the country is carried out through various schemes of Central Ministries and the State Governments concerned.

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