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ST status does not come easy

india Updated: Jun 04, 2007 01:36 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
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It may not be easy for the Rajasthan government to include Gujjars in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list, say constitutional experts. The state government had rejected a similar demand by the Gujjars about 25 years ago, after finding the community did not fulfil the conditions set by the Dhebar Commission in 1960 for being included in the ST list.

Tribes are identified by geographic isolation, distinct cultural relation, shyness of contact from the main community, economic backwardness, distinct language or dialect and non-existence of a caste system. The British had used a similar methodology in the early 1930s.

In the ’60s, Gujjars in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir were given ST status for being “nomadic cattle breeders and not agriculturalists”, informs Shankar of the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, an NGO working for tribal rights. Gujjars in Haryana, Delhi or Rajasthan did not get similar status for being “agriculturists”, says a former secretary of the Government of India, who was not willing to be quoted.

P.S. Krishnan, advisor on reservation in the HRD Ministry, says, “Scheduled Tribes are identified in terms of tribal and cultural features. Wrong inclusion of a community will harm genuine STs.”

Included among other backward classes (OBCs), Gujjars feel their social and educational backwardness prevents them from benefiting from the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs. So a place in the ST list would help them greatly in Rajasthan, which has very few tribes, they say.

Krishnan, however, has a different solution. He says the state government could categorise OBC reservation like many southern states and divide the 27 per cent seats into backward and most backward categories. That would give Gujjars most backward class status and more benefit.

Since the Dhebar commission, not many tribes have been included in the ST list. The inclusions have mostly been of sub-tribes of a major tribe already on the list. A new tribe is added only by an act of Parliament since inclusion calls for a change in the schedule.

Legal experts like senior advocate K.T.S. Tulsi also feel the government and not the court has to take the final decision.