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‘Kuruba community demanding ST status’

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    16th Feb, 2021

The Kuruba community has been demanding the Schedule Tribe tag and held a massive rally in the outskirts of Bengaluru, Karnataka. 

Context

Sub-topic

GS-II: Issues related to SCs & STs, Indian Constitution, Various Schemes for the Vulnerable Sections

The Kuruba community has been demanding the Schedule Tribe tag and held a massive rally in the outskirts of Bengaluru, Karnataka. 

Background

  • Three years after Karnataka witnessed a demand from the Lingayat community for a separate religion tag, the Kurubas have decided to revive a decades’ old demand of including them in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. 
  • After more than seven decades of Independence, there is now a growing number of communities desiring to be classed as scheduled tribes.
  • There are probably many reasons behind this current spurt in the wish for marginality.
  • One of these would be the fear of small ethnicities that they would be pushed to the margins of political power as well as on landholdings in their traditional home grounds by the inflow of settlers, therefore needing protection.
  • The tension, however, is also internal. Here the contest is for the benefits of government job reservation.

Analysis

The Kurubas Community

  • The Kurubas of Karnataka are a traditional sheep rearing community.
  • They are known by different names in other states, such as Kuruma in Andhra Pradesh, Golla in southern Karnataka, Dhangar in Maharashtra, Pal in Rajasthan, and Maldhari/Gadariya in Gujarat.
  • Presently, the Kurubas constitute 9.3% of the state’s population and come under the backward classes category sharing 15% reservation with 104 other castes.
  • They subscribe to the teachings of Kanakadasa who was a renowned composer of Carnatic music, poet, philosopher, and saint
  • From pre-Independence till 1977, the community enjoyed the ST status.
  • In 1977, Justice LG Havanur, who headed the backward class commission, removed the ST tag, moving the Kurubas to the ‘most backward classes’ category, and brought in an area restriction stating that those living in Bidar, Yadgir, Kalaburagi, and Madikeri with Kuruba synonyms can continue to avail the ST benefits.

What is the present reservation quota in Karnataka?

  • Adhering to the Supreme Court’s 1992 order, Karnataka has capped the reservation to 50% where 32% has been earmarked for backward classes, including Muslims, Christians, and Jains, 15% for SCs, and 3% for STs.
  • This reservation quota has been further paired into categories: Category 1 (4), Category 2A (15), Category 2B (4), Category 3A (4), Category 3B (5), SC (15), and ST (3).

Supreme Court 1992 Order

  • In 1991, the NarasimhaRao government issued an order providing an additional reservation of 10% for “other economically backward”' sections, to the existing 27% reservation recommended by the Mandal Commission for the other backward classes.
  • This was challenged by an advocate, IndraSawhney, and the apex court struck down the additional 10% and upheld the 27% reservation by capping the overall quota at 50%.
  • Presently, only Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have exceeded the apex court's ceiling of 50%.
    • Tamil Nadu has 69% reservation, which was achieved by including the reservation legislation in Schedule 9 of the Constitution.
    • In the case of Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court upheld the state government's quota for Marathas.

What is meant by Scheduled Tribes?

  • The Constitution of India in Article 366 (25) prescribes that the Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 of the Constitution to be Scheduled Tribes.
  • The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes explains:
    • 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.

How Scheduled Tribes are protected?

  • Article 342gives the President the power to notify those communities in specific regions that fall under the classification of Scheduled Tribes.
  • Apart from the fundamental rights under Articles 15, 16, and others which assure nondiscrimination based on caste, gender, race, religion, or place of birth, the other provisions protecting the fundamental rights of Scheduled Tribes are as follows.
  • Article 46directs the state to work for the welfare and promotion of the interests of Scheduled Tribes and to take steps to safeguard their interests.
  • Additionally, Articles 243 D, 243 T, 330, and 332 promise proportionate reservation of seats for both Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Panchayats, Municipalities, State Legislative Assemblies, and the Lok Sabha.
  • Article 338Adirects the state to create a National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, to oversee the implementation of the provisions and safeguards of the rights of Scheduled Tribes in India.
  • Apart from the rights under the Constitution, the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act) also extends protection to Scheduled Tribes.
  • Article 164also provides for the appointment of a minister in charge of tribal welfare in the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa, who may also be in charge of the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and backward classes or any other work.
  • The Fifth Scheduleof the Constitution outlines the provisions for the administration of Scheduled areas. It assures the establishment of Tribes Advisory Councils, with three-fourths representation from the tribes in the area, in states with Scheduled Tribes but without Scheduled Areas. The council’s duties include advising on matters of welfare and advancement of the tribes.
  • The Sixth Scheduleof the Constitution also contains provisions for the administration of Tribal Areas, but in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
  • The SC/ST Atrocities Act places Scheduled Tribes under its ambit as well.

What are the challenges faced by STs in India?  

  • Unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and water scarcity continue to plague the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) populations
  • On the economic front, indebtedness among STs remains an issue.
  • Lack of sustainable livelihood opportunities has also made it difficult for them to maintain personal assets acquired through government financial aid and otherwise. 

Why the demand for ST status is increasing?

  • Getting ST status means that members of the group have access to highly desired tangible benefits such as political representation, reserved seats in schools, and government jobs.
  • Over the years, social and political mobilization has led to the number of STs growing from 225 in 1960 to more than 700 today (with overlapping communities in more than one state). 

Conclusion

The Indian Constitution ensures certain protection for communities deemed as having Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. However, which groups should be accorded that status has been contentious. To avail of the protections and benefits of being accorded ST status, communities in India try to prove themselves as meeting the criteria. 

The situation needs well-developed, transparent criteria and a clear definition of what makes groups eligible for ST status. Developing such criteria with specific economic and social data that can help compare communities requesting ST status with other STs and to the Indian population at large would limit the precarious character of deciding who belongs to what group, thereby ensuring greater transparency and confidence in the process of awarding deserving communities ST status.

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