According to a parliamentary committee’s recent report, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has been dysfunctional for the last four years and has not delivered a single report to Parliament.
About National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
- The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes is a constitutional body
- It was established by the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003.
- The Commission is an authority working for the economic development of Scheduled Tribes in India.
- The NCST is dealt with Article 338.
- Earlier, there was only one commission, which was for both the scheduled tribes and scheduled castes. In 2004, after the 89th Constitutional Amendment Act, the NCST was established by bifurcating the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes into the NCST and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
- This amendment replaced the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes with two distinct commissions which are:
- National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC)
- National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
REASON BEHIND SEPARATE COMMISSION FOR SEPARATE COMMISSION
- Though upon passing of the 65th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1990, the National Commission for STs came into being with the National Commission for SCs under Article 338 of the Constitution to effectively monitor the safeguards provided for SCs and STs.
- Geographically and culturally, the STs are different from the SCs and their problems are also different from those of SCs. Thus in 1999, a new Ministry of Tribal Affairs was created to provide a sharp focus to the welfare and development of the STs. It was felt necessary that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs should coordinate all activities relating to the STs as it would not be administratively feasible for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to perform this role.
- Hence, in order to safeguard the interests of the STs more effectively, it was proposed to set up a separate National Commission for STs by bifurcating the existing combined National Commission for SCs and STs.
- By passing the 89th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2003, it further amended the Article 338 and inserted a new Article 338-A in the Constitution. The separate National Commission for STs came into existence in 2004.
Scheduled Tribes in India
According to the 2011 Census, the Scheduled Tribes account for 104 million representing 8.6% of the country’s population. These Scheduled Tribes are spread throughout the country largely in forest and hilly regions.
- The essential characteristics of these communities are:-
- Primitive Traits
- Geographical isolation
- Distinct culture
- Shy of contact with the community at large
- Economically backwards
- As in the case of the SCs, the Plan objective of empowering the tribals is being achieved through a three-pronged strategy of social empowerment, economic empowerment, and social justice. READ MORE..
Composition of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
The NCST consists of one chairperson, one vice-chairperson and three full-time members. Out of the three members, there should compulsorily be one lady member. All the members of the Commission have a tenure of 3 years.
Functions of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
- NCST investigates and monitors all matters related to safeguarding the provisions for Scheduled Tribes under the Constitution and evaluating the working of those safeguards.
- NCST will inquire into specific complaints concerned with the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the STs.
- The commission participates and advises on the planning process for the socio-economic development of the STs and also evaluates the progress of the various developmental activities.
- The President will be presented with an annual report of the working of those safeguards. Apart from annual reports, other reports also will be submitted to the President as and when necessary.
- The Commission will also give reports on what measures are to be taken by both the central and various state governments for effective execution of the measures and safeguards for the protection, development and welfare of the STs.
- Other functions of NCST are related to welfare, protection, development & advancement of the STs.
ISSUES WITH NCSC & NCST’S
- The Data received under the RTI Act, points out the pile of complaints on issues related to atrocities in public places and ‘Service Atrocities’.
- NCRB data shows a spike in the number of cases filed under SC/ST prevention of atrocities act which shows the discrimination and atrocities are only increasing.
- The incidents like Dalit lynching in Una, Gujarat; caste related honour killings in Haryana shows that the commission has been ineffective in bringing behavioral change in the society.
- The case of Rohith Vemula reflect that the discrimination is not only due to backwardness, illiteracy, awareness in the society but is omnipotent and is practiced in best of the best universities and workplace. The commission has been ineffective in preventing the same.
- The issue of SC/STs are seen as exaggerated even by the apex court, this reflects the Commission mandate to bring awareness has failed even to reach the most enlightened office in the country.
- NCST was helpless and ineffective in stopping the eviction of tribals in the name of development which deprived them of their basic human rights. E.g.
- The supreme court order of eviction more than one million forest dwelling people went against the spirit of Forest rights act.
- The commission was unable to safeguard the tribal rights of Dongria Kondh community of Odisha who faced eviction on a Vedanta development project.
- The rights of tribals over natural resources have been reduced over the years through the concepts of protected forests etc.,
- Tribal culture and identity has been declining. As per a report by People’s Linguistic Survey of India, as much as 250 tribal languages have disappeared. NCST has failed to arrest the phenomenon.
Recommendations of the Panel
- The vacancies should be immediately filled as there should be no reason now for any further delay since the recruitment rules have been suitably revised.
- The budgetary allocation for the Commission needs to be reviewed so that its functioning is not made to suffer for lack of funds.
What is the Status of Scheduled Tribes in India?
- As per Census-1931, Schedule tribes are termed as “backward tribes” living in the “Excluded” and “Partially Excluded” areas. The Government of India Act of 1935 called for the first time for representatives of “backward tribes” in provincial assemblies.
- The Constitution does not define the criteria for recognition of Scheduled Tribes and hence the definition contained in 1931 Census was used in the initial years after independence.
- However, Article 366(25) of the Constitution only provides process to define Scheduled Tribes: “Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 to be Scheduled Tribes for the purposes of this Constitution.”
- 342(1): The President may with respect to any State or Union Territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor, by a 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.
- There are over 705 tribes which have been notified. The largest number of tribal communities are found in Odisha.
- Legal Provisions:
- Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 against Untouchability.
- Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
- Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996
- Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006
- Related Initiatives:
- Digital Transformation of Tribal Schools
- Development of PVTGs
- Related Committees:
- Xaxa Committee (2013)
- Bhuria Commission (2002-2004)
- Lokur Committee (1965)
Source: The Hindu