Expedite categorisation of denotified, nomadic, semi-nomadic tribes

Prelims level : Policies Mains level : GS-II Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
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Why in News?

  • The Parliamentary panel on Social Justice and Empowerment has pulled up the Union government over the “very slow” process to categorise over 260 denotified, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes under either the SC/ST/OBC lists, which government officials have pointed to for the delay in the approval of benefits under the SEED (Scheme for Economic Empowerment of DNTs) scheme launched in February this year. 

Who are de-notified, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes?

  • They are communities that were ‘notified’ as being ‘born criminals’ during the British regime under a series of laws starting with the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871.
  • They are the most vulnerable and deprived.
  • The Renke commission estimated their population at around 10.74 crore based on Census 2001. 1,262 communities have been identified as de-notified, nomadic and semi-nomadic.

Measures for their welfare:

  • The National Commission for De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT) was constituted in 2006. It was headed by Balkrishna Sidram Renke.
  • Scheme for economic empowerment of DNT communities: It has been formulated to provide coaching, health insurance, facilitate livelihood and financial assistance for construction of homes for the members of DNT.
  • The Development and Welfare Board for De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities (DWBDNC) has been set up in 2019 under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 under the aegis of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for the purpose of implementing welfare programmes.
  • A committee has been set up by the NITI Aayog to complete the process of identification.
  • Ethnographic studies of DNCs are being conducted by the Anthropological Survey of India, with a budget of Rs 2.26 crore sanctioned.

What are the issues now?

  • Lack of Constitutional Support: These tribes somehow escaped the attention of our Constitution makers and thus got deprived of the Constitutional support unlike Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • No categorisation: A number of these tribes are categorised under SC, ST and OBC, many are not. However, 269 DNT communities are not covered under any reserved categories.
  • No money spent in 2021-22 under the Scheme for economic empowerment of DNT communities.
  • Budgetary allocation has been reduced to Rs 28 crore for 2022-23 against the budgetary allocation of Rs 50 crore for 2021-22.
  • Issues with the functioning of the Development and Welfare Board for De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities (DWBDNC).
  • There is no permanent commission for these communities.

Reasons for their deprivation:

  • These communities are largely politically ‘quiet’. They lack vocal leadership and also lack the patronage of a national leader.
  • Lack of education.
  • Small and scattered numbers.

Associated commissions and committees:

  • Criminal Tribes Inquiry Committee, 1947 constituted in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh), Ananthasayanam Ayyangar Committee in 1949 (it was based on the report of this committee the Criminal Tribes Act was repealed), and Kaka Kalelkar Commission (also called first OBC Commission) constituted in 1953.
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