ST Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021
Recently, Parliament has passed the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
About the Bill
1. What do you mean by the ‘Scheduled Tribes’? What are criteria for the specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe?
● The Bill amends the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950. The Constitution empowers the President to specify the Scheduled Tribes (STs) in various states and union territories. Further, it permits Parliament to modify this list of notified STs.
● At present, there are 18 communities with their synonyms appearing in the illustrative list of Scheduled Tribes with respect to the state of Arunachal Pradesh. On the basis of recommendations made by the state of Arunachal Pradesh, the new bill provides for modifying Part-XVIII of the Schedule to the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, relating to the state of Arunachal Pradesh.
● The amendments will entail no additional recurring expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India on account of benefits likely to be provided to persons belonging to the communities proposed in the bill.
● The tribal affairs ministry is already funding for the welfare of 10.45 crores Scheduled Tribes population (Census, 2011). Further, the Scheduled Tribes are also eligible for benefits under the Scheduled Tribes Component (STC) of schemes under the Central government and state governments.
About Scheduled Tribes
● 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 on account of the primitive agricultural practices, lack of infrastructure facilities and geographical isolation. The Constitution of India in Article 366 (25) prescribe that the Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 of the Constitution to be Scheduled Tribes.
● The Constitution does not provide a definition of a Scheduled Tribe (or Scheduled Caste). Art 366 (25) mentions “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…”
● Article 342 empowers the President to specify, after consultation with the Governor, “the tribes or tribal communities… which shall… be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes” in a particular state or Union Territory, with Parliament having the right to add to or delete from the list.
Criteria for specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe
● While the Constitution is silent about the criteria for specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe.
● The words and the phrase 'tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within tribes or tribal communities" in Article 342 have to be understood in terms of their historical background of backwardness.
● Primitiveness, geographical isolation, shyness and social, educational & economic backwardness due to these reasons are the traits that distinguish Scheduled Tribe communities of our country from other communities.
● These facts are the basis for the provision in Article 342(1) which mandates to 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 as the case may be. Thus the list of Scheduled Tribes is State/UT specific and a community declared as a Scheduled Tribe in a State need not be so in another State.