A.P. Jithender Reddy is the Member of Parliament has discussed about the harassment faced by Denotified and Nomadic Tribes in India even after repealing of Criminal Tribes Act
- About Denotified and Nomadic Tribes
- The Denotified Tribes are communities that were listed or notified as ‘born criminal ‘by the British under a number of laws.
- The term, ‘Denotified and Nomadic Tribes’, can be traced to the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) of 1871.
- The colonial government notified nearly 200 tribal communities to be hereditary criminals, cementing their societal identity as outcasts and subjecting them to constant harassment by the administration.
- After India gained Independence, these tribes were ‘de-notified’ from the list of Criminal Tribes.
- Why these communities were labelled ‘criminal’
- Forest laws that came into force from the mid-nineteenth century onwards deprived a large number of communities of their traditional rights of hunting and gathering. The new laws criminalised their very source of livelihood when it practiced.
- When the forests were cleared by the British for commercial use and forest communities asked to contribute to labour, some communities resisted and were declared ‘criminal’.
- The British thought that communities had lost their legitimate means of livelihood, they must have been living by indulging in criminal activities due to arrival of road and railway networks.
- Problem faced by these tribes:
- Carriers of social stigma. The label of ‘criminal’, ‘beggar’, and ‘untouchable’ is attached to them. The peasant villages consider pastoral nomads as ‘nuisance’.
- Marginalization from social and economic mainstream – The newly emerging global economic system does not allow these communities to lead their traditional life, with the result that nomadic communities have lost their livelihoods and independence.
- Low human development index and high relative deprivation index – In matters of health, livelihood, occupation, and education, their communities are lowly placed. They have long periods of hunger; they remain in debt-bondage for longer period, and are unable to pay off their loans for generations; they perpetually experience the scarcity of resources.
- Large deprivation from the gains of planned development– As a consequence of their occupational requirements, they are unable to take advantage of the development programmes; therefore, their life continues as it is.
- Lack of empowerment. The nomadic communities have been at the margin of the political system. Since they do not have a permanent residence, they have not been able to obtain an ‘identity card’, or any other proof of their being a citizen of the state.
- Post Independence Laws
- After Independence India repealed CTA and the Habitual Offenders Act (HOA) was enacted however not all States adopted it.
- Although, denotified in 1952, members of denotified tribes often find themselves restricted by the Habitual Offenders Act, 1959, which has similar provisions as the 1871 Act for restricting movement of those found to be ‘habitual offenders’.
National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT) was constituted in 2003 (Balkrishna Renke) and submitted its report in 2008.
- The NCDNT interim report and recommendations aim to address the socio-economic backwardness of the Denotified and nomadic communities and ensure their inclusion in the various lists,
- Major Recommendation:
- The NCDNT report clearly recommended repealing the various Habitual Offenders Act (HOA).
- For implementing welfare schemes for DNTs, it recommended state to prepare list of these tribes for better implementation.
- Since DNTs have not been enumerated in the census as DNTs, it is necessary that the Union Government initiate steps to enumerate DNTs in the next census due in 2011
- In order to enable the DNTs to take the benefit of various developmental schemes being implemented for the poor, separate welfare schemes must be constituted to target group irrespective of the fact whether they belong to SCs, STs or OBCs.
- They must be issued Caste Certificates expeditiously to avail reservation and benefits of central government.
- The State Governments may launch a special programme to have BPL cards issued to the eligible families belonging to DNTs to help them to qualify for the benefits of various welfare schemes meant for the weaker sections and the downtrodden.
- It is necessary that the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 be, made applicable to DNTs.
- Constitution may be amended to include “Scheduled Communities” under Article 330 and Article 332 to enable these communities to be eligible for reservation of seats in the Houses of the People and in the Legislative Assemblies of the States.
- Way Forward:
- DNT/NTs people should be assured that at least their basic needs are met with. DNT/NTs communities should be visited and their identity should be traced in order to recommend them for inclusion in SC, ST and OBC Category.
- The repeal of the HOA has to be accompanied by a slew of legal reforms to address the multitude of issues DNT communities face.
- Their unique lifestyle requires positive affirmation and development policies that cater to their long-standing and overlooked needs.
- Many communities are asking for a separate schedule called DNT/NT. Commission may also like to recommend to the govt. of India that a permanent commission may be constituted for the purpose which may take care of these communities/tribes independently on regular basis.