SCHEDULED CASTE AND SCHEDULED TRIBE RIGHTS IN INDIA
In recent times, the Scheduled Castes and Tribes have been called the untouchables and in Tamil Nadu, they have been named Adi Dravida. The Schedule Castes constitutes about 16.6% and the Schedule tribes is about 8.6% of the population of India. The Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes have been offered a reservation status since the time of the Independence of India which has guaranteed their political representation. The constitution has made provisions for the protection of the rights of these group of persons.
WHO ARE THE SCHEDULED CASTE?
In India, the castes and races that suffer from extreme economic, educational and social backwardness because of old traditional practices of untouchability and others because of geographical isolation and inadequate infrastructural facilities and who requires a specific attention for the protection of their interest and for the increase of their growth and development are referred to as Scheduled Caste.
WHO ARE THE SCHEDULED TRIBES?
The Tribe is seen historically as a group of individuals who had been in existence before the development of the Indian State. They are a group of people who are dependent on their local land for their survival and are isolated from the larger society.
WHY ARE THEY CALLED SCHEDULED TRIBES?
The reason they are referred to as Schedule is their inclusion in the Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The Constitution of India comprises of 12 Schedules and the Scheduled Tribes are the ones who are called the untouchables. They Constitute the fifth category in Hindu Mythology based VARNA system. In Hindu, these people are called the ADIVASI.
WHAT ARE SCHEDULED TRIBE RIGHTS?
The Constitution of India under Article 342 has made provisions for the Rights of the Scheduled Tribes. The President has initiated nine orders following his consultation with the government of the States. This initiative has targeted the Scheduled Tribes in their respective states and territories. Presently, India prides itself as the largest Tribal population globally. There are 698 Scheduled Tribes in India. The provisions / safeguards for the group of people in the Constitution are divided into which are Protective and Development.
Therefore, the rights of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes can be summarized as follows:
- EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL SAFEGUARDS
- Special provisions for the growth and development of Scheduled Tribes (Article 15(4))
- Protection of the interests of the Minority groups (Article 29)
- The educational and economic interests of the weaker groups of the society which includes the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes shall be promoted by the States and they shall be protected from all forms of social injustice and exploitation. (Article 46)
- Right for the conservation culture, script and distinct language (Article 350).
- Learning in Mother Tongue. (Article 350)
- SOCIAL SAFEGUARD
- Protection from the trafficking in humans and begging and other forms of forced labour. (Article 23)
- Prohibition of Child Labour. (Article 24)
- ECONOMIC SAFEGUARDS
- Clause (1) of Article 244 provides that the administration and control of the Scheduled Areas and Tribes shall be as provided in the Fifth Schedule in all the states except in the States of Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam which are included in the Sixth Schedule under Clause (2) of Article 244.
- The States that are covered under the Sixth and Fifth Schedules of the Constitution are to be granted aids. (Article 275).
- POLITICAL SAFEGUARDS
- Article 164(1) make provisions for the Tribal Affairs Ministers in MP, Orissa and Bihar.
- Article 337 provides for the reservation of seats for members of the Scheduled Tribes in the State legislative chambers.
- Article 330 provides for the reservation of seats for members of this community in the Lok Sabha.
- Article 334 (Amended severally) provides a 10-year period for the reservation.
- Article 371 makes special provisions for Sikkim and NE States.
- SERVICE SAFEGUARDS
These provisions are listed under Articles 16(4), 16(4A), 164(B), 335 and 320(40)
OTHER PROVISIONS FOR THE RIGHTS OF SCHEDULED TRIBES
- PROMOTION OF SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND EDUCATIONAL INTERESTS UNDER ARTICLE 15(4)
This article is to ensure that the states creates the enabling environment for the growth and development of social and educational status of these citizens. This clause has been carefully drafted to prevent a situation where the special provision which has been initiated by state government for the advancement of the social and educational stands of these citizens is being challenged in court with respect to discrimination.
- SAFEGUARD OF TRIBAL INTERESTS UNDER ARTICLE 19(5)
While the citizens of India have been offered the rights to move freely and reside or acquire property throughout the country, the states may place specific restrictions for the protection of the rights and interests of the Scheduled Tribe. For example, non-natives of the tribes may be restricted by the states from acquiring properties in the tribal areas.
- HUMAN TRAFFICKING UNDER ARTICLE 23
This is one of the most important provisions of the constitution for the Scheduled Tribes. Here, trafficking in humans and any form of forced labour is prohibited.
- EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS
This article provides for the right for a minority group to preserve her language and culture. The state shall by no means impose any culture on the community other than the one it already owns.
- POLITICAL SAFEGUARDS UNDER ARTICLE 164
According to this Article, there shall be a Minister to oversee the welfare of the tribes in the States of Orissa, MP, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand. There are more tribal population in these states than in the others and the provision for a Minister to cater for the welfare of these tribes is an indication of the concerns of the writers of this Constitution for the protection of the interests of the Scheduled Tribes.
WHAT ARE THE SPECIAL PROGRAMMES AND ENACTMENTS FOR THE SCHEDULED TRIBES?
Programmes, Schemes and Progressive legislations have been initiated by the Government of India for the advancement and empowerment of the members of this community. These enactments include:
- Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2016; which was to make special provisions for those whose ancestral homes and residence are in the forest.
- Provisions of Panchayats which is an extension to the Scheduled Areas Act, 1996.
- Minor Forest Produce Act; 2005 and Tribal Sub-Plan strategy which are both concerned about the economic empowerment of the Scheduled Tribes/Castes.
- The Land Acquisition Bill, 2012 which contains a chapter that is dedicated to the Scheduled tribes.
- Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2013; which is aimed at eliminating the evil practice of manual scavenging and in turn rehabilitate and liberate the Manual Scavengers who are members of the Scheduled Tribes.
Other enactments, special programs and schemes include:
- Special courts to try cases of atrocities and offences against those that belong to the Scheduled Tribes.
- Special opportunities to enhance access to jobs, education, skills and scholarships.
- Special funds for the development of these tribes which has been earmarked in the Federal and State Budgets.
THE PROHIBITION OF EMPLOYMENT AS MANUAL SCAVENGERS AND THEIR REHABILITATION ACT, 2013.
The Government has intensified its efforts towards the eradication of dry latrines and manual scavenging among the members of the scheduled tribes. In addition to this, efforts are being geared towards the rehabilitation of manual scavengers and the provision of alternative employment to curb this practice. This has been followed by legislative interventions and programs aimed at setting up strategies to the realization of these goals and these are:
- The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines Prohibition Act, 1993.
- Integrated low cost sanitation scheme for the conversion of dry latrines into sanitary latrines in urban settlements.
- National scheme for liberation and rehabilitation of scavengers.
- Launching of self-employment scheme for rehabilitation of manual scavengers.
WHAT IS THE SCHEDULED CASTES SUB-PLAN?
The scheduled castes sub-plan of 1979 introduced a process that will enhance the life, working condition, social and economic developments of the Scheduled castes. It can be described as an umbrella strategy that focused on the financial and physical benefits of the Scheduled Castes in all the sectors.
It involves a system for the generation of funds and the associated gains that will from the annual budgets of the states and the territories. This plan has been implemented by 27 states with a proportional population of Scheduled Castes.
However, the Scheduled Castes’ population is about 16.23% of the total population of India; yet, the allocations made through this plan does not match this huge population size.
Migration, lowered fertility because of land reforms and democratization of education has led to a reduction in the overall population of the Scheduled Caste.
PREVENTION OF ATROCITIES ACT, 1989
This Act provides assistance to the States and Union Territories for the implementation of the constitutional provisions for the Scheduled Tribes. This Act provides funding for the states to assists victims of atrocities and for the provision of incentives for the creation of special courts, inter-caste marriages and awareness generation.
The Prevention of Atrocities Amendment Act 2015 was notified in January 1st, 2016 and was enforced on January 26, 2016.
PREVAILENCE OF MANUAL SCAVENGING IN INDIA
Although the Government has taken several measures, the existence and practice of manual scavenging is still prevalent. This was evident in the 2011 census data which indicated 26 lakh Insanitary latrines existing in India.
Another legislation was enacted by the government with the aim to seal all existing insanitary latrines and any situations that favoured Manual scavenging.
In September 2013, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their rehabilitation Act was passed and enforced in December 2013.
The objective of the Act is to identify and eliminate insanitary latrines, prohibit employment as manual scavengers, prohibit hazardous manual cleaning of septic tanks and identify and rehabilitate the manual scavengers.
In 2003, the constitution was amended to effect a change in the body of the National Commission for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. This change separated the commission into two which are: The National commission for Scheduled Tribes and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
However, the spread of Christianity and Islam among members of the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribe have limited their degree of protection under the Indian Reservation Policy. Hence, they are into the practice of forging a community certificate that identifies them as Hindus but practice either Christianity or Islam as new converts for the fear of losing their reservation.