The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has paved the way for the inclusion of ‘Pahari ethnic group’ in the Scheduled Tribes list of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Its inclusion was suggested by the Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes in the Union Territory. It was presided over by Justice (Retd) GD Sharma.
Subsequently, the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs sought the opinion and views of the ST Commission on the proposal to include four communities in the ST list of Jammu and Kashmir. In response to this, the ST Commission cleared a proposal to include ‘Pahari Ethnic Groups’, Padari Tribes”, “Kolis” and “Gadda Brahmins” communities in the ST list of Jammu and Kashmir. Presently, Jammu and Kashmir There are 12 communities in the state which have been notified as ST.
The Pir Panjal Valley is also home to the Gujjars and Bakarwals, and the prospect of hills being included in the ST list has been seen as diluting their share of benefits.
The word ‘Scheduled Tribe’ first appeared in the Constitution of India. Article 366 (25) defines Scheduled Tribes as “such tribes or tribal communities or parts or groups of such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed to be Scheduled Tribes under article 342 for the purposes of this Constitution.”
Article 342 also specifies – It lays down the procedure to be followed in the matter of specification of Scheduled Tribes. According to the 2011 census, the tribal population of the country is 10.43 crores, which is 8.6% of the total population.
97% of the tribal tribes live in rural areas and 10.03% in urban areas. The decadal population growth of tribals from 2001 to 2011 has been 23.66% as compared to 17.69% of the total population. Where the sex ratio of the total population is 940 females per 1000 males, the same for Scheduled Tribes it is 990 females per thousand males.
The process of inclusion of tribes in the ST list begins with the recommendation of the respective state governments, which are then sent to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which reviews them and sends them to the Registrar General of India for approval. After this, the approval of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes is obtained before the list is sent to the cabinet for final decision.
Apart from the ST list of Jammu and Kashmir, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs will need to bring a bill in Parliament to amend the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order, 1989 accordingly. The addition will be finalized once the President of India notifies the amended Schedule as empowered by Article 342 of the Constitution of India.
This effort of the Ministry of Tribes will enable the members of the newly listed communities in the Revised List of Scheduled Tribes to avail benefits for the Scheduled Tribes under the existing schemes of the Government. Some of these major benefits include post-matric scholarships, overseas scholarships, and national fellowships, in addition to education, concessional loans from the National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation, and hostels for students.