[Yojana July Summary] Policies on Scheduled Tribes – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

At the time of Independence, the framers of the Constitution noted that certain tribal communities in India were suffering from extreme social, educational and economic backwardness. The backwardness was on account of the primitive agricultural practices, lack of infrastructure facilities and geographical isolation. In order to uplift such communities, robust provisions were made in the Constitution of India. Later on successive governments formulated several policies on Scheduled Tribes (STs) and took various steps for improving their position. These policies and initiatives have helped in improving their situation but certain challenges still impede their development and needs adequate redressal.

About the Scheduled Tribes (STs)

The word ‘tribe’ was originally a Latin word tribus, meaning ‘the poor’, later used to specify the masses. Traditionally, Scheduled Tribes enjoyed total autonomy over the governance of their affairs. This system of autonomy was dismantled during the British Raj in India.

Tribal communities in India were viewed with derision by the British and various legislations were brought to alienate them from their ancestral rights and further criminalized upon demanding their rights. However, this perception was completely shunned by Constitution makers who inserted many provisions for uplifting the tribal communities.

The Constitution of India in Article 366 (25) prescribes that the Scheduled Tribes mean such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 of the Constitution to be Scheduled Tribes. The Article 342 states that the President may specify the tribes or tribal communities which shall be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State or Union Territory.

Scheduled Tribes (ST) constitute approximately 8.6% of the population of India numbering around 10.4 crores. There are over 705 Scheduled tribes notified under article 342 of the Constitution of India.

What are the key features of the tribal communities?

The tribal communities have certain unique features that distinguish them from others; (a) Identification with nature; their inseparability with nature in body, mind and spirit; (b) Coexistence, amity and empathy with other living beings; (c) Collective living or collective subsistence and the principle of ‘sharing’. They believe in sharing the food, land and forest resources, sharing the seeds, labour and hardship, sharing the misfortunes and risks in living in mountains and forests, and so on; (d) Non-accumulation of personal property or wealth or in other words, sustainable and simple living; (e) Restraint and resolving disputes by withdrawal. The tribal people never encroach; rather they generally withdraw, and avoid conflicts.

What Constitutional Safeguards have been provided to the Scheduled Tribes?

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 has been abolished.

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.

Safeguarding Tribal Interests: Under, Article 19 (5), special restrictions may be imposed by the State on freedom of movement and residence for the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe.

Article 330 and 332: It reserves seats for STs in Schedule areas, thus granting them representation to safeguard their rights and interests.

Areas where Schedule Tribes are numerically dominant, two distinct administrative arrangements have been provided for them in the Constitution in the form of the Fifth and Sixth Schedules.

The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution deals with the administration and control of Scheduled Areas as well as of Scheduled Tribes residing in any State other than the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. It provides for establishment of a Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) in any State having Scheduled Areas. The States with Fifth Schedule Areas are Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Telangana.

The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution provides for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram to safeguard the rights of the tribal population in these states. The Sixth Schedule provides for autonomy in the administration of these areas through Autonomous District Councils (ADCs).

Fifth and Sixth Schedule Areas Schedule Tribes UPSC

Minister in-charge of tribal welfare: Article 164 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 was desired for safeguarding the interests of Scheduled Tribes.

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes: Article 338-A calls for establishing the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. Role of commission include: (a) Investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Tribes under the Constitution or under any other law; (b) Inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the STs; (c) Participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of the STs and evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State.

What Legal Acts and Policies have been enacted for the welfare of the Scheduled Tribes?

Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955: This was enacted to stop the practice of untouchability. 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.

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.

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. 

Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006: It recognises and vests forest rights and occupation on forest land to STs. The right to ownership to land farmed by tribals or forest dwellers is granted subject to a maximum of 4 hectares. Under the Act various rights including title rights, use rights, relief and development rights etc. are given.

What are the problems faced by the Scheduled Tribes?

Resource exploitation: The rapid technological advancement and globalization have created favorable conditions for the evasion and extraction of natural resources from the ecologically fragile territories of tribal people.

Displacement: From time to time, the tribals have faced displacement and deprivation to facilitate various developmental projects such as setting up of industrial operations, construction of dams, etc..

Cultural Deprivation: A common expectation from them is to follow the mainstream culture for their own growth. This hinders their beliefs and practices, thus erasing their identities under pre-established systems.

Poor Health Conditions: The percentage of underweight ST children is around 40% in 2015-16. Tribal constitutes 8% of India’s total population but they have 30% of all cases of Malaria. Prevalence of TB in the rest of India is 256 per 100,000 cases but in tribals, it is 703 cases per 100,000 almost three times.

Which schemes have been launched for the welfare of the Scheduled Tribes?

Janjatiya Gaurav Divas: It is dedicated in the memory of brave tribal freedom fighters so that coming generations could know about their sacrifices for the country.

Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS): It are model residential schools for Scheduled Tribes across India. It aims to impart quality education to ST children in remote areas.

Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana: The Ministry of Tribal Affairs launched it in 2018, under the Forest Rights Act of 2005. It aims to provide remunerative and fair prices to tribal gatherers of their Minor Forest Produces. It could be almost 3 times higher than what would be available to them from the middlemen.

Adi Prashikshan Portal: It aims to act as a central repository for information on all training programmes conducted by Tribal institutions across the country under Adi Prashikshan-Training for Tribals initiative.

Panchsheel for the Development of the STs

Conclusion

Tribals with their organic lifestyle and beliefs challenge the modern way of reckless living and development needs. Their sustainable living provides lessons to the world struggling with pressing issues like climate change and environmental issues. Our country is making efforts towards restoring the legacy of the tribal communities, their identity and inheritance. It is therefore imperative that the policymakers continue to safeguard the tribal rights so as to ensure inclusive development of the society.

Syllabus: GS II, Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Source: Yojana July 2022

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