National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
- 22 Mar 2022
- 8 min read
For Prelims: NCST, Constitutional Provisions related to STs.
For Mains: NCST and its Functions, Scheduled Tribes.
Why in News?
According to a parliamentary committee's recent report, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has been dysfunctional for the last four years and has not delivered a single report to Parliament.
What is the NCST?
- Formation: NCST was set up with effect from 19th February, 2004 by amending Article 338 and by inserting a new article 338A in the Constitution through the 89th Constitution Amendment Act, 2003. Hence, it is a constitutional body.
- Objective: Article 338A inter-alia gives powers to the NCST to oversee the implementation of various safeguards provided to STs under the Constitution or under any other law for time being in force or under any other order to the Government and to evaluate the working of such safeguards.
- Composition: It consists of a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and 3 other Members who are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
- At least one member should be a woman.
- The Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson and the other Members hold office for a term of 3 years.
- The members are not eligible for appointment for more than two terms.
- The Chairperson has been given the rank of Union Cabinet Ministers, the Vice Chairperson has the rank of a Minister of State and other Members have the rank of a Secretary to the Government of India.
At the national level, which ministry is the nodal agency to ensure effective implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006?
(a) Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
(b) Ministry of Panchayati Raj
(c) Ministry of Rural Development
(d) Ministry of Tribal Affairs
What are the Duties and Functions of the NCST?
- To investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the STs under the Constitution or under any other law for the time being in force or under any order of the Government.
- To inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the STs.
- To participate and advise in the planning process of socio-economic development of the STs and to evaluate the progress of their development.
- To present to the President, annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards.
- To discharge such other functions in relation to the protection, welfare and development and advancement of the Scheduled Tribes as the President may be subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament by rule specified.
The provisions in Fifth Schedule and Sixth Schedule in the Constitution of India are made in order to (2015)
(a) protect the interests of Scheduled Tribes
(b) determine the boundaries between States
(c) determine the powers, authority and responsibilities of Panchayats
(d) protect the interests of all the border States
What are the issues with the NCST?
- Pending Reports:
- In the financial year 2021-22, it has met only four times. Its rate of pendency of resolution of complaints and cases that it receives is also close to 50%.
- Manpower and Budgetary Shortage:
- The Committee expressed dismay over the near paralysis of the Commission's working with manpower and budgetary shortage.
- The recruitment in the Commission was constrained because of lack of applicants as the eligibility bar was set too high and the rules being tweaked to enable many more candidates to apply.
What are the Recommendations of the Panel?
- The vacancies should be immediately filled as there should be no reason now for any further delay since the recruitment rules have been suitably revised.
- The budgetary allocation for the Commission needs to be reviewed so that its functioning is not made to suffer for lack of funds.
What is the Status of Scheduled Tribes in India?
- As per Census-1931, Schedule tribes are termed as "backward tribes” living in the "Excluded" and "Partially Excluded" areas. The Government of India Act of 1935 called for the first time for representatives of "backward tribes" in provincial assemblies.
- The Constitution does not define the criteria for recognition of Scheduled Tribes and hence the definition contained in 1931 Census was used in the initial years after independence.
- However, Article 366(25) of the Constitution only provides process to define Scheduled Tribes: “Scheduled Tribes means 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.”
- 342(1): The President may with respect to any State or Union Territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor, by a public notification, 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.
- There are over 705 tribes which have been notified. The largest number of tribal communities are found in Odisha.
- Legal Provisions:
- Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 against Untouchability.
- Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
- Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996
- Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006
- Related Initiatives:
- Related Committees:
- Xaxa Committee (2013)
- Bhuria Commission (2002-2004)
- Lokur Committee (1965)
Every year, a month long ecologically important campaign/festival is held during which certain communities/tribes plant saplings of fruit-bearing trees. Which of the following are such communities/ tribes? (2014)
(a) Bhutia and Lepcha
(b) Gond and Korku
(c) Irula and Toda
(d) Sahariya and Agariya
Consider the following pairs: (2013)
Which of the above pairs are correctly matched?
(a) 1 and 3 only
(b) 2 and 4 only
(c) 1, 3 and 4 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4