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The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
Highlights

The Government shall focus a multi-pronged strategy for overall development of tribal people across the country which includes support for education,...

The Government shall focus a multi-pronged strategy for overall development of tribal people across the country which includes support for education, health, sanitation, water supply, livelihood, preservation of cultural heritage, etc.

Educational development is a steppingstone to economic and social development, and is also the most effective instrument for empowering the Tribals. They shall experience inclusive principle for Socio-economic and overall development in the country.

The population of the Scheduled Tribes in the country is 10.45 crore as per Census 2011 constituting 8.6% of the total population of the country. The essential characteristics a community to be identified as Scheduled Tribes are:
1. Indications of primitive traits;
2. Distinctive culture;
3. Shyness of contact with the community at large;
4. Geographical isolation; and
5. Backwardness.

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 arising out of age-old practice of untouchability and certain others on account of this primitive agricultural practices, lack of infrastructure facilities and geographical isolation, and who need special consideration for safeguarding their interests and for their accelerated socio-economic development.

These communities were notified as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as per provisions contained in Clause 1 of Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution respectively.

Scheduled Tribes:
Article 366 (25) of the Constitution of India refers to Scheduled Tribes as those communities, who are scheduled in accordance with Article 342 of the Constitution. This Article says that only those communities who have been declared as such by the President through an initial public notification or through a subsequent amending Act of Parliament will be considered to be Scheduled Tribes.

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003. By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely…

(i) The National Commission for
Scheduled Castes (NCSC),
(ii) The National Commission for
Scheduled Tribes (NCST) w.e.f. 19 Feb, 2004.

Article 338A of the Constitution, also, mandates the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes to present to the President annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports on the working of the safeguards extended to the members of Scheduled Tribes and to make in such reports recommendations as to the measures that should be taken by the Union or any State for effective implementation of those safeguards and other measures for protection, welfare and socio-economic development of the Scheduled Tribes and need to achieve inclusive growth of tribal population in the county.

The term of office of Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and each member is three years from the date of assumption of charge.

The Chairperson has been given the rank of Union Cabinet Minister, and the Vice-Chairperson that of a Minister of State and other Members have the ranks of a Secretary to the Government of India.

The first National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST
The first National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was constituted in March, 2004 and comprised Shri Kunwar Singh, Chairperson (who assumed office on 15.3.2004), Shri Tapir Gao, Vice-Chairperson (who assumed office on 3.3.2004.

Functions of the Commission (Under Clause (5)of Art. 338A)
1) To investigate & Monitor matters relating to Safeguards provided for STs under the Constitution or under other laws or under Govt. Order, to evaluate the working of such Safeguards.

2) To inquire into specific complaints relating to Rights & Safeguards of STs;

3) To participate and Advise in the Planning Process relating to Socio-economic development of STs, and to Evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State;

4) To submit report to the President annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, upon/ working of Safeguards, Measures required for effective implementation of Programmers/
Schemes relating to Welfare and Socio-economic development of STs;

5) To discharge such other functions in relation to STs as the President may, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, by rule specify;

6) The Commission would also discharge the following other functions in relation to the protection, welfare and development & advancement of the Scheduled Tribes, namely:-

a. Measures that need to be taken over conferring ownership rights in respect of minor forest produce to the Scheduled Tribes living in forest areas.

b. Measures to be taken to safeguard rights to the Tribal Communities over mineral resources, water resources etc. as per law.

c. Measures to be taken for the development of tribals and to work for move viable livelihood strategies.

d. Measures to be taken to improve the efficacy of relief and rehabilitation measures for tribal groups displaced by development projects.

e. Measures to be taken to prevent alienation of tribal people from land and to effectively rehabilitate such people in whose case alienation has already taken place.

f. Measures to be taken to elicit maximum cooperation and involvement of Tribal Communities for protecting forests and undertaking social afforestation.

g. Measures to be taken to ensure full implementation of the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (40 of 1996).

h. Measures to be taken to reduce and ultimately eliminate the practice of shifting cultivation by Tribals that lead to their continuous disempowerment and degradation of land and the environment.

Powers of the Commission (Under Clause (8) of Art. 338A)

For Investigation and Inquiry, the Commission is vested with powers of a civil court having authority to:
1. Summon and enforce attendance of any person and examine on oath;

2. Discovery & production of any documents;

3. Receive evidence on affidavits;

4. Requisition any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;

5. Issue Commissions for examination of witnesses and documents; and

6. Any matter which President, by rule, may determine.
Statutes and Legislations

n The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955
n The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes
(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

n The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition)Act, 1993.

n Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

n Acts and regulations in force in different States to prevent alienation of land belonging to SCs/STs. In some States such provision exists in the Land Revenue Code.

n Acts in different States for restoration of alienated land to SCs &STs.

The Government shall provide the following safeguards
a) Protection of Rights
b) Economic Development
c) Social Empowerment
d) Education
e) Health
f) Promotion of Culture Craft, Heritage, Crops
g) Housing
h) Connectivity
i) Promotion of Sport
j) Sanitation
k) Drinking Water
l) Irrigation
m) Integration
Socio-economic Development of Scheduled Tribes
For the Socio-economic and overall development of the Tribal people, special provisions and safeguards have been provided in the Constitution of India and some initiative have also been taken by the Government of India, including Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) strategy.

The Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) strategy was aimed for the rapid socio-economic development of tribal people. The funds provided under the Tribal Sub Plan of the State have to be at least equal in proportion to the ST population of each State or UTs.

Central Ministries/Departments are also required to make policy, planning and coordination of programmes of development for the Scheduled Tribes.

The Tribal Sub Plan funds are to be non-divertible and non-lapsable. The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes is vested with the duty to participate and advise in the planning process of socio-economic development of STs, and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State.

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs committed to overall development of the people belonging to Scheduled Tribes and to project the rights of such people and preserve and promote tribal culture and heritage.

The advantages of Scheduled Areas are
(a) The Governor of a State, which has Scheduled Areas, is empower to make regulations in respect of the following:
(i) Prohibit or restrict transfer of land from tribals;
(ii) Regulate the business of money lending to the members of Scheduled Tribes
The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, vide which the provisions of Panchayats, contained in Part IX of the Constitution, were extended to Scheduled
Areas, also contains special provisions for the benefit of Scheduled Tribes

(i) (a) Every Gram Sabha shall approve of the plans, programmes and projects for social and economic development before such plans, programmes and projects are taken up for implementation by the Panchayat at the village level.
(b) Every Gram Sabha shall be responsible for the identification or selection of persons as beneficiaries under the poverty alleviation and other programmes.

(i) Every Panchayat at the village level shall be required to obtain from the Gram Sabha a certification of utilization of funds by that Panchayat for the plans, programmes and projects.

(iii) The Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be consulted before making the acquisition of land in the Scheduled Areas for development projects and before re-settling or rehabilitating persons affected by such projects in the Scheduled Areas.

(iv) The recommendations of the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be made mandatory prior to grant of prospecting license or mining lease for minor minerals in the Scheduled Areas.

(v) The State Legislature shall endeavor to follow the pattern of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution while designing the administrative arrangements in the Panchayats at district levels in the Scheduled Areas.

(i) safeguarding and preserving the traditions
and customs of the tribal people,
(ii) planning and management of miner water
bodies in the Scheduled Areas.

The State Legislature is required to ensure that the Panchayats at appropriate level and the Gram Sabha are endowed specifically with the power-

(i) to enforce prohibition or to regulate or restrict the sale and consumption of any intoxicant,

(ii) to grant the ownership of minor forest produce,

(iii) to prevent the alienation of land in the Scheduled Areas and to take appropriate action to restore any unlawfully alienated land to a Scheduled Tribe,

(iv) to manage village markets,

(v) to exercise control over money lending to Scheduled Tribes,

(vi) to exercise control over institutions and functionaries in social sectors and,

(vii) to exercise control over local plans and resources for such plans including tribal-sub plans.

Scheduling and de-scheduling of Tribes:
Empowered by Clause (1) of Article 342, the President may, with respect to any State or Union Territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the governor thereof, notify tribes or tribal communities or parts of these as Scheduled Tribes. This confers on the tribe or part of it a Constitutional status for availing the rights and safeguards provided for the Scheduled Tribes in the Constitution, in their respective State/UT.

Clause (2) of the Article empowers the Parliament to pass a law to include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Tribes, any tribe or tribal community or parts of these.

Criteria for specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe:
The criteria is not spelt out in the Constitution but has become well established.

It takes into account the definitions in the 1931 Census, the reports of the first Backward Classes Commission (Kalelkar) 1955, the Advisory Committee on Revision of SC/ST lists (Lokur Committee) 1965 and the Joint Committee of Parliament on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 1967 (Chanda Committee) 1969.

(a) Indication of primitive traits,
(b) Distinctive culture,
(c) Geographical isolation,
(d) Shyness of contact with the community at large, and
(e) Backwardness.
Procedure for inclusion in or exclusion from the list of
Scheduled Tribes
In June, 1999, the Government approved modalities for deciding claims for inclusion in or exclusion from the lists of Scheduled Tribes.

According to these approved guidelines, only those claims that have been agreed to by the concerned State Government, the Registrar General of India and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes will be taken up for consideration.

Whenever representations are received in the Ministry of Tribal Affairs for inclusion of any community in the list of Scheduled Tribes of a State/UT, the Ministry forwards that representation to the concerned State Government/U.T.

Administration for recommendation as required under Article 342 of the Constitution. If the concerned State Government recommends the proposal, then the same is sent to the Registrar General of India (RGI).

The RGI, if satisfied with recommendation of the State Government, recommends the proposal to the Central Government. Thereafter, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs refers the proposal to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for their recommendation.

If the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes also recommends the case, the matter is processed for the decision of the Cabinet after consulting the concerned administrative Ministries.

Thereafter the matter is put up before the Parliament in the form of a Bill to amend the Presidential Order.

Authorities Competent to Issue Scheduled Tribe certificates:
(i) District Magistrate/Additional District Magistrate/ Collector/ Deputy Commissioner/Additional Deputy Commissioner/Deputy Collector/ Ist Class Stipendiary Magistrate/ City Magistrate/ Sub Divisional Magistrate/ Taluka Magistrate/Executive Magistrate/ Extra Assistant Commissioner. [not below the rank of Ist Class Stipendiary Magistrate]

(ii) Chief Presidency Magistrate/Additional Chief Presidency Magistrate/ Presidency Magistrate

(iii) Revenue Officers not below the rank of Tehsildar

(iv) Sub- Divisional Officer of the Area where the candidate and/ or his family normally resides

(v) Administrator/ Secretary to the Administrator/ Development Officer [LakshadweepIslands]

Scheduled Tribe claims after marriage and status of their children
The guiding principle is that no person who was not a Scheduled Tribe by birth will be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Tribe merely because he or she has married a person belonging to a Scheduled Tribe.

Similarly a person who is a member of a Scheduled Tribe would continue to be a member of that Scheduled Tribe, even after his or her marriage with a person who does not belong to a Scheduled Tribes.

However, status of the children born out of such marriages would depend on the particular caste status of the father.
Constitutional Safeguards for ST`s

I. Educational & Cultural Safeguards
Art. 15(4):- Special provisions for advancement of other backward classes(which cludes STs);

Art. 29:- Protection of Interests of Minorities (which cludes STs);
Art. 46:- The State shall promote, with special care, the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes, and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

Art. 350:- Right to conserve distinct Language, Script or Culture;
Art. 350:- Instruction in Mother Tongue.
II.Social Safeguard

Art. 23:- Prohibition of traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar form of forced labour;
Art. 24:- Forbidding Child Labour.

III. Economic Safeguards
Art.244:- Clause(1) Provisions of Fifth Schedule shall apply to the administration & control of the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in any State other than the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura which are covered under Sixth Schedule, under Clause (2) of this Article.

Art. 275:- Grants in-Aid to specified States (STs&SAs) covered under Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution.
IV. Political Safeguards

Art.164(1):- Provides for Tribal Affairs Ministers in Bihar, MP and Orissa;
Art. 330:- Reservation of seats for STs in LokSabha;
Art. 337- Reservation of seats for STs in State Legislatures;
Art. 334:- 10 years period for reservation (Amended several times to extend the period.);
Art. 243:- Reservation of seats in Panchayats.
Art. 371:- Special provisions in respect of NE States and Sikkim
V. Service Safeguards
(Under Art.16(4),16(4A),164(B) Art.335, and Art. 320(40)

Safeguards under various Laws
(1) The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the Rules 1995 framed there under.

(2) Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 (in respect of Scheduled Tribes);

(3) The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act1986;

(4) States Acts & Regulations concerning alienation & restoration of land belonging to STs;

(5) Forest Conservation Act 1980;

(6) Panchayatiraj (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996;

(7) Minimum Wages Act 1948.

(8) The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015 (Published on 6th Jan 2016)

(A writer is Director, Sadhguru IAS Academy, Hyderabad)

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