Bookmark and Share
Overview:

Constituting around 8.2% of the Indian population and occupying around 15% of the country’s area in various habitats, Scheduled Tribes (ST) refer collectively to historically disadvantaged tribes explicitly recognized by the Indian Constitution for special protections and privileges. Article 366 (25) of the Constitution defines ST 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.” 

 

The Indian government has undertaken a broad effort to promote the advancement of ST. Emanating from the 1978 Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and established in 2004, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST/the commission), under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, is a vital part of this comprehensive government effort. The commission is India’s statutory body that monitors the implementation of the various constitutional protections afforded to ST as well as other laws, policies, schemes and programs aimed toward their development. It additionally is responsible for investigations and inquires into cases of discrimination and atrocities against ST.

more
History:

Although the term “Scheduled Tribes” was first used in the Constitution, the recognition of tribal groups can be traced back further. In 1916, the Indian Legislative Council decided that “Depressed Classes” would include “criminal and wandering tribes, aboriginal tribes, and untouchables.” Sir Henry Sharp, the Educational Commissioner of India, in 1917 followed up on this decision by including aboriginal/hill tribes and criminal and wandering tribes as part of the “Depressed Classes.” In 1919, however, the Indian Franchise Committee felt the need to separately classify tribal groups. The 1931 Census therefore uses the term “Primitive Tribes” to classify tribal groups. The Government of India Act (1935) specifically mentions “Backward Tribes” as distinct to “Scheduled Castes.” Backward Tribes were “such tribes as the Governor-General may from time to time by order declare to be tribes to which a special system of representation is more appropriate.” The 1941 Census uses only “Tribes.”

 

As independent India set out to draft its constitution, the writers saw that these tribal groups required “special consideration for safeguarding their interests and for their accelerated socio-economic development.” Articles 342 and 366 introduced the concept of “Scheduled Tribes.” In 1950, in accordance with the Constitution of 1949, the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order listed all tribes notified as Scheduled Tribes. These Scheduled Tribes were granted special privileges, primarily in the form of reservation of seats (quota system) in educational, government (executive and legislative branches), and private sector institutions. The writers of the Constitution also recognized the need for effective implementation and oversight to ascertain that required entities were complying with the law. In light of this, Article 338 mandated the appointment of a Special Officer for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (ST) “to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under this Constitution and report to the President upon the working of those safeguards…”

 

It was soon realized that the existing mechanism under Article 338 was inadequate. It was decided to amend the article to replace the Special Officer with a committee of members. In July 1978, the Ministry of Home Affairs established a Commission for Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes through Resolution No.13013/9/77-SCT(1). The duties of this new commission were fundamentally similar to those of the Special Officer. In 1987, through Ministry of Welfare’s Resolution No. BC-13015/12/86/SCD VI, the commission for SCs/STs was renamed the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (NCSCST). The resolution also established the commission as a “National Level Advisory Body to advise the Government on broad policy issues and levels of development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.”

The commission was further strengthened in 1990 with the 65th Amendment to the Indian Constitution. It was “felt that a high level five member Commission under Article 338 would be a more effective arrangement in respect of the constitutional safeguards for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes…” The amendment provided a statutory backing for creating a NCSCST (as opposed to an administrative decision by the Ministry of Welfare). It also delineated the structure, functions, and specific powers of this commission.

 

Under the 65th Amendment, the new commission replaced the one set in place by the Ministry of Welfare Resolution. Four such commissions were set up from 1992 to 2002:

  • First Commission, headed by Ram Dhan, from March 1992-October 1995
  • Second Commission, headed by H.Hanumanthappa, from October 1995-December 1998
  • Third Commission, headed by Dileep Singh Bhuria, from December 1998-March 2002
  • Fourth Commission, headed by Bizay Sonkar Shastri, from March 2002-February 2004

 

In 2003, the 89th Amendment to the Indian Constitution split the NCSCST into two separate Commissions: National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST). The Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MTA) took jurisdiction of the NCST. The current commission is the Third National Commission, the first commission serving from March 2004 to March 2007, and the second from June 2007 to January 2010.

more
What it Does:

The commission monitors, evaluates, and ensures the effective implementation of all constitutional safeguards. In this role, its mandate extends to investigation of violations of these safeguards or laws. The commission is also tasked with inquiring and investigating specific complaints about rights violations, atrocities, or related issues that affect ST. As the statutory body for ST, the commission is also required to “participate and advise in the planning process about the socio-economic development of ST,” and further “to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any state.” Additionally, the commission is mandated to undertake any activities as they pertain to ST, authorized by the president of India and in the framework existing legal provisions.

 

Headed by a chairperson, NCST carries out its duties from its headquarters in New Delhi and six regional offices, each in a different state. The New Delhi office consists of six units: Administration, Coordination, and Research Units I, II, III, and IV. The administration unit undertakes personnel management and other administrative duties because as the Coordination unit oversees communication between the headquarters and the six regional offices. Research Units carry out most of the work. Each of the four units handles different ministries (including their departments, autonomous bodies, and other bodies under the ministry’s administrative control) and states. These units monitor the implementation of all the constitutional safeguards as well as other laws, policies, schemes, and programs related to ST.

 

The constitutional safeguards the commission is responsible for include:

  • Article 14, which guarantees equality before law
  • Article 15, which prohibits discrimination as well as enables government to reserve seats in for ST
  • Article 16, which mandates equality of opportunity for employment as well as permits the government to reserve seats for ST
  • Article 46, which mandates that 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.”
  • Article 275, which provides grants from the Consolidated Fund of India to promote ST welfare and administration of Scheduled Areas
  • Articles 243, 330, and 332, which reserve seats for ST at the local, state, and national legislative bodies
  • Article 335, which mandates that “The claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration”
  • 73rd and 74th amendments, through provisions in the Panchayats (Extensions to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, facilitates political participation of the tribal groups
  • The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution (which amended Article 244) laid out provisions for the administration of Scheduled Areas (area within a state dominated by a tribal group and administered by the federal government) and Scheduled Tribes in designated states. The amendment also created the Tribes Advisory Councils for advising and planning.
  • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution (which amended Articles 244 and 275) that designated certain tribal areas in specific states as Autonomous Districts and Autonomous Regions. It further established District Council, Autonomous Councils, and Regional Councils for administrative purposes.

 

The central government enacted various ST specific laws to bolster constitutional protections. Some of the better-known laws include the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955; the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989; the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996; the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. The commission also monitors state-specific laws, and particular as they relate to “prevention of alienation and restoration of tribal land, money lending, and reservations.” Additionally, as the ST status and recognition is state-specific, the commission monitors both demographics and ST recognition requests.

 

Besides reservation policies to guarantee ST representation in political and educational institutions, the Indian government’s ST policy also aids ST in socioeconomic development. This includes ensuring ownership rights for their home area and helping them profit from minor forest produce; protecting natural resources – water, land, forests, etc. – of ST dominated areas; enacting employment schemes and vocational training programs; relocation and financial compensation of displaced ST; and protecting overall development by encouraging sustainable development.

 

Whereas these measures of the commission address specific issues and circumstances, the most overreaching socio-economic development policy of the government, and one that the commission pays special attention to, is the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP). Originating in the Fifth Schedule, the commission describes the TSP as the “lifeline for socio-economic development of the tribal people.” TSP is a state or Union territory specific plan designed plan which requires each state to identify the resources needed for TSP areas, prepare a broad policy framework for development, and offer a suitable administrative strategy for that framework’s implementation. TSP is part of overall plan for each state. Funding for this comes from state treasuries as well as Special Central Assistance (SCA), central government ministries and department, and institutional financial organizations. The commission oversees the proper allocation and implementation these funds. Additionally, the commission also oversees implementation the schemes and programs of the National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (NSTFDC). NSTFDC is a financial institution under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs aimed with providing financial assistant to ST and ST related projects.

more
Where Does the Money Go:

Out of the Rs. 599 lakhs (~$1.1 million) granted to the Commission in 2011-2012, salaries comprised the biggest chunk of the budget, Rs. 500 lakhs (~$883,000). “Other expenses,” costing Rs 45 lakhs (~$80,000) comprised the next largest category. The New Delhi headquarters, staffed with the most people, received the greatest share, Rs. 428 lakhs (~$756,000). The six other regional offices combined cost Rs. 171.98 lakhs (~$304,000).

more
Controversies:

Is the NCST Toothless? 

While the commission is a statutory body with supposed broad powers, its effectiveness in assuring the welfare of ST has come under withering criticism. One organization in particular, the Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network (AITPN) has repeatedly lashed out at the commission for its inability to carry out its mandate. AITPN is an “alliance of indigenous and tribal peoples' organizations and individual activists across the Asian region that seeks to promote and protect the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in Asia.” In its report on the NCST, AITPN alleges that “despite having enormous powers, the NCST has been hamstrung because of the lack of independence.” AITPN regards financial independence as a means of ensuring operational independence. It points out, however, that “in the case of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, funds are provided under the budgetary grants of ministry of Tribal Affairs of the Government of India.” This lack financial autonomy means that the Commission is at risk of being dependent on and amenable to the Ministry.

 

The report further points out the NCST’s flawed investigation policies, which depend on state government cooperation, and the limited powers of its regional offices. The report also notes that while “NCST has been given a broad mandate including conduct of inquiry into specific complaints of violations of the rights of the Scheduled Tribes and has the power of a civil court while conducting such inquiry,” these powers are rarely used and the commission “has not been given the power to enforce implementation of its recommendations or rulings.” This lack of enforcement power makes the commission toothless.

 

A memo AITPN co-authored with the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) titled “India: No democracy for those living on the margins” asserts that the “Human rights situation of the indigenous and tribal peoples in India remain grim, its future bleak.” Among the negative conditions facing ST, the memo highlighted land alienation, victimization of the tribals through development programs, governmental failure to ensure forest rights, human rights violations, poor implementation of government schemes and programs, lack of a concrete mechanism to ensure effective implementation of the various programs, non-implementation of employment quotas, and failure to implement the much touted Tribal Sub Plan. Singling out NCST, the memo lamented that the commission “has miserably failed to live up to its mandate

because of inherent flaws including in appointment procedures, lack of powers to enforce its rulings or recommendation, and lack of resources.”

 

AITPN has also criticized the poor implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (Forest Rights Act). The organization pointed out that “State governments across the country have been both callous and tardy in implementing the Act” and as of April 2012, over 54% of the applications have been rejected, many on “flimsy grounds.” A member of the National Land Reforms Council (NLRC) alleges that “Many laws such as Land Ceiling Act, Tenancy Registration Act, Forest Rights Acts, Atrocities Act for SCs and STs were violated by the government machinery.” Highlighting the inherent weakness of the Commission, AITPN’s report, “The State of the Forest Rights Act: Undoing of historical injustice withered,” states: “Given the scale of the rejection on illegal and frivolous grounds, the only solution is providing adequate human and financial resources to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) which shall examine the complaints pertaining to claims under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.”

 

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes: A Forum for Political Rehabilitation? (Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network)

India: No Democracy for Those Living on the Margins (Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network)

The State of India's Indigenous and Tribal Peoples 2009 (Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network)

The State of the Forest Rights Act: Undoing of historical injustice withered" (Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network)

AITPN Press Release: FRA Not Implemented, over 54% Applications Rejected (Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network)

Land & the People: ‘Injustice Still Being Perpetuated by Govts’ (by Subir Ghosh and Maitreyi Joshi, Daily News & Analysis)

'Effective Land Reforms Act required' (Press Trust of India)

more
Suggested Reforms:

Address the weaknesses of the NCST

The 14th Lok Sabha’s Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes published a report titled National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes – It’s mandate and achievements – A review of its organization and working. Recognizing that “the NCST would not be able to work fearlessly and independently unless it is given independence in its day to day working by allowing it to decide on its own administrative, financial and legal matters,” the committee outlined a series of recommendations intended to bolster the Commission’s autonomy as well as strengthen specific aspects to enable it to perform its duties better. Some of the stronger recommendations of the committee include:

  • In light of serious staff deficiencies, the total strength of the commission needs to be increased. This involves creating adequate positions as well filling up vacancies
  • Create more regional offices with a view to increase the strength of the commission as well increase ST accessibility to NCST
  • The commission should increase its presence and accessibility by sending teams to tribal areas to oversee and evaluate implementation of the various constitutional safeguards, laws, policies, and schemes.
  • The Government of India should take further steps to NCST “more strong and effective”
  • Complete independence should be granted to the commission, primarily through the granting of full financial and administrative powers that enable the Commission to function separately from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs
  • Amend the Constitution such that “that recommendations of the NCST  may be  taken by concerned authorities as mandatory and  it functions with  greater judicial powers on the lines of  the powers of a civil court”
more
Debate:

Can Reservations Help SC’s?

One of the more contentious issues in the ST discourse is the use of the quota (reservation) system. The government actively reserves a certain percentage of seats for ST candidates for political, educational, and business positions as well as for scholarships, grants, subsidies, and other incentives.

 

Pro-Reservations

This practice of positive discrimination undoubtedly has its supporters as well as opponents. NCST, as the government entity responsibly for ST welfare, supports the use of pervasive reservation as an important part of the ST development policy. By affording institutional access to ST, the commission and proponents of the quota policy contend that reservation creates an environment where “social equality” can be promoted.

 

Do Reservations Work? (India Together)

Enlarge the Pie (Times of India)

Census Rewriting SC, ST Narrative (by Anil Padmanabhan & Remya Nair, Livemint.com)

 

Pro-Affirmative Action

Opponents of the reservation system argue that establishing quotas is discriminatory and signals a lack of importance of meritocracy. These opponents assert that quotas inhibit access to qualified individuals who are more deserving than the ones to whom the reservation is applied. Reserving seats “implies a discount on merit, since it becomes mandatory to fill posts with less qualified persons or else keeping posts unfilled for years on.” Experts in this camp have suggested replacing the quota system with affirmative action. Affirmative action implies a preference for SC candidates without explicitly reserving a set number of seats and thereby “addresses the problem of correcting an imbalance, without sacrificing merit.”

 

NCSC & NCST Demand Extension of Reservation for Scheduled Castes and Tribes in Government Autonomous Bodies and Armed Forces; Supports Reservation in Private Sector (Press Information Bureau, Government of India)

Reservation Debate: A Great Opportunity To Re-strengthen Dalit Bahujan Alliance (by V.B. Rawat, Counter Currents)

The Debate Over Reservation (by Vir Sanghvi, Hindustan Times)

Affirmative Action, Not Reservation: Experts (by Vineeta Pandey, Daily News & Analysis)

more
Former Directors:

Urmila Singh

Urmila Singh, the current governor of Himachal Pradesh, served as the chairperson of NCST from June 2007 to January 2010. Her foray into professional politics commenced upon her election as a Member of the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly (MLA) in 1985. She served as an MLA from Ghansaur (Seoni) from 1985-2003. During this time, she was appointed as the Minister of State for Finance and Dairy Development and as the Minister for Social Welfare and Tribal Welfare Department. In addition to her duties as the governor, she also served as the Chancellor of Himachal Pradesh University and Chancellor of CSK Himachal  Pradesh Agricultural University.

more

Comments

Vuqar 3 years ago
After reading ur dis atcirle my heart also starts weeping. but yes all you have written its Bitter but true. on one hand sanpraj looking for a chance to bite people while on d other hand nagraj is trying to convince people that he has no poision in himself. Its a big irony but it can happen only in india .

Leave a comment

Founded: 2004
Annual Budget: Rs. 599 lakhs ($1.1 million) (2011-2012)
Employees: 80
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
  • Latest News
Bookmark and Share
Overview:

Constituting around 8.2% of the Indian population and occupying around 15% of the country’s area in various habitats, Scheduled Tribes (ST) refer collectively to historically disadvantaged tribes explicitly recognized by the Indian Constitution for special protections and privileges. Article 366 (25) of the Constitution defines ST 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.” 

 

The Indian government has undertaken a broad effort to promote the advancement of ST. Emanating from the 1978 Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and established in 2004, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST/the commission), under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, is a vital part of this comprehensive government effort. The commission is India’s statutory body that monitors the implementation of the various constitutional protections afforded to ST as well as other laws, policies, schemes and programs aimed toward their development. It additionally is responsible for investigations and inquires into cases of discrimination and atrocities against ST.

more
History:

Although the term “Scheduled Tribes” was first used in the Constitution, the recognition of tribal groups can be traced back further. In 1916, the Indian Legislative Council decided that “Depressed Classes” would include “criminal and wandering tribes, aboriginal tribes, and untouchables.” Sir Henry Sharp, the Educational Commissioner of India, in 1917 followed up on this decision by including aboriginal/hill tribes and criminal and wandering tribes as part of the “Depressed Classes.” In 1919, however, the Indian Franchise Committee felt the need to separately classify tribal groups. The 1931 Census therefore uses the term “Primitive Tribes” to classify tribal groups. The Government of India Act (1935) specifically mentions “Backward Tribes” as distinct to “Scheduled Castes.” Backward Tribes were “such tribes as the Governor-General may from time to time by order declare to be tribes to which a special system of representation is more appropriate.” The 1941 Census uses only “Tribes.”

 

As independent India set out to draft its constitution, the writers saw that these tribal groups required “special consideration for safeguarding their interests and for their accelerated socio-economic development.” Articles 342 and 366 introduced the concept of “Scheduled Tribes.” In 1950, in accordance with the Constitution of 1949, the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order listed all tribes notified as Scheduled Tribes. These Scheduled Tribes were granted special privileges, primarily in the form of reservation of seats (quota system) in educational, government (executive and legislative branches), and private sector institutions. The writers of the Constitution also recognized the need for effective implementation and oversight to ascertain that required entities were complying with the law. In light of this, Article 338 mandated the appointment of a Special Officer for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (ST) “to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under this Constitution and report to the President upon the working of those safeguards…”

 

It was soon realized that the existing mechanism under Article 338 was inadequate. It was decided to amend the article to replace the Special Officer with a committee of members. In July 1978, the Ministry of Home Affairs established a Commission for Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes through Resolution No.13013/9/77-SCT(1). The duties of this new commission were fundamentally similar to those of the Special Officer. In 1987, through Ministry of Welfare’s Resolution No. BC-13015/12/86/SCD VI, the commission for SCs/STs was renamed the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (NCSCST). The resolution also established the commission as a “National Level Advisory Body to advise the Government on broad policy issues and levels of development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.”

The commission was further strengthened in 1990 with the 65th Amendment to the Indian Constitution. It was “felt that a high level five member Commission under Article 338 would be a more effective arrangement in respect of the constitutional safeguards for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes…” The amendment provided a statutory backing for creating a NCSCST (as opposed to an administrative decision by the Ministry of Welfare). It also delineated the structure, functions, and specific powers of this commission.

 

Under the 65th Amendment, the new commission replaced the one set in place by the Ministry of Welfare Resolution. Four such commissions were set up from 1992 to 2002:

  • First Commission, headed by Ram Dhan, from March 1992-October 1995
  • Second Commission, headed by H.Hanumanthappa, from October 1995-December 1998
  • Third Commission, headed by Dileep Singh Bhuria, from December 1998-March 2002
  • Fourth Commission, headed by Bizay Sonkar Shastri, from March 2002-February 2004

 

In 2003, the 89th Amendment to the Indian Constitution split the NCSCST into two separate Commissions: National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST). The Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MTA) took jurisdiction of the NCST. The current commission is the Third National Commission, the first commission serving from March 2004 to March 2007, and the second from June 2007 to January 2010.

more
What it Does:

The commission monitors, evaluates, and ensures the effective implementation of all constitutional safeguards. In this role, its mandate extends to investigation of violations of these safeguards or laws. The commission is also tasked with inquiring and investigating specific complaints about rights violations, atrocities, or related issues that affect ST. As the statutory body for ST, the commission is also required to “participate and advise in the planning process about the socio-economic development of ST,” and further “to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any state.” Additionally, the commission is mandated to undertake any activities as they pertain to ST, authorized by the president of India and in the framework existing legal provisions.

 

Headed by a chairperson, NCST carries out its duties from its headquarters in New Delhi and six regional offices, each in a different state. The New Delhi office consists of six units: Administration, Coordination, and Research Units I, II, III, and IV. The administration unit undertakes personnel management and other administrative duties because as the Coordination unit oversees communication between the headquarters and the six regional offices. Research Units carry out most of the work. Each of the four units handles different ministries (including their departments, autonomous bodies, and other bodies under the ministry’s administrative control) and states. These units monitor the implementation of all the constitutional safeguards as well as other laws, policies, schemes, and programs related to ST.

 

The constitutional safeguards the commission is responsible for include:

  • Article 14, which guarantees equality before law
  • Article 15, which prohibits discrimination as well as enables government to reserve seats in for ST
  • Article 16, which mandates equality of opportunity for employment as well as permits the government to reserve seats for ST
  • Article 46, which mandates that 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.”
  • Article 275, which provides grants from the Consolidated Fund of India to promote ST welfare and administration of Scheduled Areas
  • Articles 243, 330, and 332, which reserve seats for ST at the local, state, and national legislative bodies
  • Article 335, which mandates that “The claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration”
  • 73rd and 74th amendments, through provisions in the Panchayats (Extensions to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, facilitates political participation of the tribal groups
  • The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution (which amended Article 244) laid out provisions for the administration of Scheduled Areas (area within a state dominated by a tribal group and administered by the federal government) and Scheduled Tribes in designated states. The amendment also created the Tribes Advisory Councils for advising and planning.
  • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution (which amended Articles 244 and 275) that designated certain tribal areas in specific states as Autonomous Districts and Autonomous Regions. It further established District Council, Autonomous Councils, and Regional Councils for administrative purposes.

 

The central government enacted various ST specific laws to bolster constitutional protections. Some of the better-known laws include the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955; the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989; the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996; the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. The commission also monitors state-specific laws, and particular as they relate to “prevention of alienation and restoration of tribal land, money lending, and reservations.” Additionally, as the ST status and recognition is state-specific, the commission monitors both demographics and ST recognition requests.

 

Besides reservation policies to guarantee ST representation in political and educational institutions, the Indian government’s ST policy also aids ST in socioeconomic development. This includes ensuring ownership rights for their home area and helping them profit from minor forest produce; protecting natural resources – water, land, forests, etc. – of ST dominated areas; enacting employment schemes and vocational training programs; relocation and financial compensation of displaced ST; and protecting overall development by encouraging sustainable development.

 

Whereas these measures of the commission address specific issues and circumstances, the most overreaching socio-economic development policy of the government, and one that the commission pays special attention to, is the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP). Originating in the Fifth Schedule, the commission describes the TSP as the “lifeline for socio-economic development of the tribal people.” TSP is a state or Union territory specific plan designed plan which requires each state to identify the resources needed for TSP areas, prepare a broad policy framework for development, and offer a suitable administrative strategy for that framework’s implementation. TSP is part of overall plan for each state. Funding for this comes from state treasuries as well as Special Central Assistance (SCA), central government ministries and department, and institutional financial organizations. The commission oversees the proper allocation and implementation these funds. Additionally, the commission also oversees implementation the schemes and programs of the National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (NSTFDC). NSTFDC is a financial institution under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs aimed with providing financial assistant to ST and ST related projects.

more
Where Does the Money Go:

Out of the Rs. 599 lakhs (~$1.1 million) granted to the Commission in 2011-2012, salaries comprised the biggest chunk of the budget, Rs. 500 lakhs (~$883,000). “Other expenses,” costing Rs 45 lakhs (~$80,000) comprised the next largest category. The New Delhi headquarters, staffed with the most people, received the greatest share, Rs. 428 lakhs (~$756,000). The six other regional offices combined cost Rs. 171.98 lakhs (~$304,000).

more
Controversies:

Is the NCST Toothless? 

While the commission is a statutory body with supposed broad powers, its effectiveness in assuring the welfare of ST has come under withering criticism. One organization in particular, the Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network (AITPN) has repeatedly lashed out at the commission for its inability to carry out its mandate. AITPN is an “alliance of indigenous and tribal peoples' organizations and individual activists across the Asian region that seeks to promote and protect the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in Asia.” In its report on the NCST, AITPN alleges that “despite having enormous powers, the NCST has been hamstrung because of the lack of independence.” AITPN regards financial independence as a means of ensuring operational independence. It points out, however, that “in the case of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, funds are provided under the budgetary grants of ministry of Tribal Affairs of the Government of India.” This lack financial autonomy means that the Commission is at risk of being dependent on and amenable to the Ministry.

 

The report further points out the NCST’s flawed investigation policies, which depend on state government cooperation, and the limited powers of its regional offices. The report also notes that while “NCST has been given a broad mandate including conduct of inquiry into specific complaints of violations of the rights of the Scheduled Tribes and has the power of a civil court while conducting such inquiry,” these powers are rarely used and the commission “has not been given the power to enforce implementation of its recommendations or rulings.” This lack of enforcement power makes the commission toothless.

 

A memo AITPN co-authored with the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) titled “India: No democracy for those living on the margins” asserts that the “Human rights situation of the indigenous and tribal peoples in India remain grim, its future bleak.” Among the negative conditions facing ST, the memo highlighted land alienation, victimization of the tribals through development programs, governmental failure to ensure forest rights, human rights violations, poor implementation of government schemes and programs, lack of a concrete mechanism to ensure effective implementation of the various programs, non-implementation of employment quotas, and failure to implement the much touted Tribal Sub Plan. Singling out NCST, the memo lamented that the commission “has miserably failed to live up to its mandate

because of inherent flaws including in appointment procedures, lack of powers to enforce its rulings or recommendation, and lack of resources.”

 

AITPN has also criticized the poor implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (Forest Rights Act). The organization pointed out that “State governments across the country have been both callous and tardy in implementing the Act” and as of April 2012, over 54% of the applications have been rejected, many on “flimsy grounds.” A member of the National Land Reforms Council (NLRC) alleges that “Many laws such as Land Ceiling Act, Tenancy Registration Act, Forest Rights Acts, Atrocities Act for SCs and STs were violated by the government machinery.” Highlighting the inherent weakness of the Commission, AITPN’s report, “The State of the Forest Rights Act: Undoing of historical injustice withered,” states: “Given the scale of the rejection on illegal and frivolous grounds, the only solution is providing adequate human and financial resources to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) which shall examine the complaints pertaining to claims under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.”

 

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes: A Forum for Political Rehabilitation? (Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network)

India: No Democracy for Those Living on the Margins (Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network)

The State of India's Indigenous and Tribal Peoples 2009 (Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network)

The State of the Forest Rights Act: Undoing of historical injustice withered" (Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network)

AITPN Press Release: FRA Not Implemented, over 54% Applications Rejected (Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network)

Land & the People: ‘Injustice Still Being Perpetuated by Govts’ (by Subir Ghosh and Maitreyi Joshi, Daily News & Analysis)

'Effective Land Reforms Act required' (Press Trust of India)

more
Suggested Reforms:

Address the weaknesses of the NCST

The 14th Lok Sabha’s Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes published a report titled National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes – It’s mandate and achievements – A review of its organization and working. Recognizing that “the NCST would not be able to work fearlessly and independently unless it is given independence in its day to day working by allowing it to decide on its own administrative, financial and legal matters,” the committee outlined a series of recommendations intended to bolster the Commission’s autonomy as well as strengthen specific aspects to enable it to perform its duties better. Some of the stronger recommendations of the committee include:

  • In light of serious staff deficiencies, the total strength of the commission needs to be increased. This involves creating adequate positions as well filling up vacancies
  • Create more regional offices with a view to increase the strength of the commission as well increase ST accessibility to NCST
  • The commission should increase its presence and accessibility by sending teams to tribal areas to oversee and evaluate implementation of the various constitutional safeguards, laws, policies, and schemes.
  • The Government of India should take further steps to NCST “more strong and effective”
  • Complete independence should be granted to the commission, primarily through the granting of full financial and administrative powers that enable the Commission to function separately from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs
  • Amend the Constitution such that “that recommendations of the NCST  may be  taken by concerned authorities as mandatory and  it functions with  greater judicial powers on the lines of  the powers of a civil court”
more
Debate:

Can Reservations Help SC’s?

One of the more contentious issues in the ST discourse is the use of the quota (reservation) system. The government actively reserves a certain percentage of seats for ST candidates for political, educational, and business positions as well as for scholarships, grants, subsidies, and other incentives.

 

Pro-Reservations

This practice of positive discrimination undoubtedly has its supporters as well as opponents. NCST, as the government entity responsibly for ST welfare, supports the use of pervasive reservation as an important part of the ST development policy. By affording institutional access to ST, the commission and proponents of the quota policy contend that reservation creates an environment where “social equality” can be promoted.

 

Do Reservations Work? (India Together)

Enlarge the Pie (Times of India)

Census Rewriting SC, ST Narrative (by Anil Padmanabhan & Remya Nair, Livemint.com)

 

Pro-Affirmative Action

Opponents of the reservation system argue that establishing quotas is discriminatory and signals a lack of importance of meritocracy. These opponents assert that quotas inhibit access to qualified individuals who are more deserving than the ones to whom the reservation is applied. Reserving seats “implies a discount on merit, since it becomes mandatory to fill posts with less qualified persons or else keeping posts unfilled for years on.” Experts in this camp have suggested replacing the quota system with affirmative action. Affirmative action implies a preference for SC candidates without explicitly reserving a set number of seats and thereby “addresses the problem of correcting an imbalance, without sacrificing merit.”

 

NCSC & NCST Demand Extension of Reservation for Scheduled Castes and Tribes in Government Autonomous Bodies and Armed Forces; Supports Reservation in Private Sector (Press Information Bureau, Government of India)

Reservation Debate: A Great Opportunity To Re-strengthen Dalit Bahujan Alliance (by V.B. Rawat, Counter Currents)

The Debate Over Reservation (by Vir Sanghvi, Hindustan Times)

Affirmative Action, Not Reservation: Experts (by Vineeta Pandey, Daily News & Analysis)

more
Former Directors:

Urmila Singh

Urmila Singh, the current governor of Himachal Pradesh, served as the chairperson of NCST from June 2007 to January 2010. Her foray into professional politics commenced upon her election as a Member of the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly (MLA) in 1985. She served as an MLA from Ghansaur (Seoni) from 1985-2003. During this time, she was appointed as the Minister of State for Finance and Dairy Development and as the Minister for Social Welfare and Tribal Welfare Department. In addition to her duties as the governor, she also served as the Chancellor of Himachal Pradesh University and Chancellor of CSK Himachal  Pradesh Agricultural University.

more

Comments

Vuqar 3 years ago
After reading ur dis atcirle my heart also starts weeping. but yes all you have written its Bitter but true. on one hand sanpraj looking for a chance to bite people while on d other hand nagraj is trying to convince people that he has no poision in himself. Its a big irony but it can happen only in india .

Leave a comment

Founded: 2004
Annual Budget: Rs. 599 lakhs ($1.1 million) (2011-2012)
Employees: 80
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
  • Latest News