Tribal Rights: Civil Services Mentor Magazine - October - 2015

Tribal Rights

According to D N Majumdar “A tribe is a collection of families, bearing a common name, members to which occupy the same territory, speak the same language and observe certain taboos regarding marriage profession or occupation and have developed a well assessed system of reciprocity and mutuality of obligation.” In India tribes are recognised by the Constitution of India. There are various provisions related to scheduled tribes in the Constitution of India. The Census of 1971 recorded 36,408,514 Scheduled Tribes population in India which increased to 104,545,716 in 2011 Census. Majority of Scheduled Tribes population are residing in rural areas of the country. Scheduled tribes being primitive in nature also face lots of problems. Human development indices are often poor in tribal populations. Tribal population also face various exploitations like bonded labour, indebtedness etc. Problem of inadequate infrastructure is also present among the tribal population. Tribals have been displaced in large numbers on account of various large development projects like irrigation dams, hydro-electric and thermal power plants, coal mines and mineral-based industries.Tribal population has been provided safeguards within the various articles of the constitution. Government also in order to take care of the tribal population has enacted various legislations. Schedule tribes live across India important among them are Bhil, Goudu, koya of Andhra Pradesh; Abhor, Dafla, Mishmi of Arunanchal pradesh; Chakma, Dimasa (Kachari), Garo, Hajong of Mizoram etc.

The term Scheduled Tribes apperas in the Constitution of India under Article 366 (25), which defines scheduled tribes as “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”. Article 342 says, The President may, with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a state, after consultation with the Governor there of by public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within tribes or tribal communities which shall, for the purposes of this constitution, is deemed to be scheduled tribes in relation to that state or Union Territory, as the case may be. Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled tribes specified in a notification issued under clause(1) any tribe or tribal community or part of or group within any tribe or tribal community, but save as aforesaid, a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification.

Constitution through various Articles safeguard the interest of the scheduled tribes. Under fundamental rights Article 15 and 16 protect against discrimination. Article 46 of the Directictive principles of the state policy says: 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. Artilce 330 provides for the reservation of seats for the scheduled tribes. Article 330 states: Seats shall be reserved in the House of the People for -

a. the Scheduled Castes;
b. the Scheduled Tribes except the Scheduled Tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam; and
c. the Scheduled Tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam.

Except this seats shall be reserved for the scheduled tribes in the legislative assembly of states. Seats for Scheduled tribes are also reserved in panchayati raj institutions as well as the municipalities. Along with that governor has been provided with the specials powers in administration of areas under schedule 5 and 6. 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. National commission for ST look after the issues and attrocities faced by the ST population.

In order to fullfill the objectives provided in the various provisions of the constitution parliament has legislated various legislations. Important among them includes:

  • Forest Rights Act 2006;
  • PESA 1996;
  • SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989;
  • Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955;
  • Vanbandhu kalyan yojana

Still working of these acts does not bring confidence amongst the tribal population. Second ARC report says “ for crimes committed against members of the Scheduled Tribes under the P.C.R. Act, of a total pendency of 217 cases, trials were completed in only 70 cases and only 2 cases ended in conviction in the year 2006 and as many as 145 cases were pending trial, at the end of 2006. For crimes committed against the members of the Scheduled Tribes under the provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, out of 5621 cases pending trial, 40 cases were compounded by the government, only 255 ended in conviction and as many as 4565 cases were still pending trial in the courts at the end of the year 2006.”

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