Include 160 communities in ST list: Odisha CM writes to Arjun Munda
Since 1978, the Odisha government has recommended over 160 communities to the ministry of tribal affairs for their inclusion in the ST list of the state with approval of Tribes Advisory Council
Bhubaneswar: Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday wrote to Union tribal affairs minister Arjun Munda seeking inclusion of 160 communities in the list of scheduled tribes (ST) in the state.
The move is seen as a counter to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) making further inroads into the tribal heartland of the eastern state through election of Droupadi Murmu as the President of India.
Since 1978, the Odisha government has recommended over 160 communities to the ministry of tribal affairs for their inclusion in the ST list of the state with approval of Tribes Advisory Council.
“Because of the delay in their inclusion in the ST list, all these 160-plus communities of the state are becoming victims of historical injustice,” Patnaik, who is also the chief of Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), wrote in the letter.
The development comes three days after the Union Cabinet approved the inclusion of several communities in the ST list of Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu as part of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill 2022.
Odisha has 62 tribal communities constituting 22% of the 42-million population of the state.
Among these 160 communities, some are new entries while others are sub-tribes/subsets, synonyms and phonetic variations of the existing tribal communities residing in different parts of the state, Patnaik said.
“The taskforce under the ministry of tribal affairs in 2014 had recommended nine proposals from Odisha as priority cases for inclusion in the ST list of the state. However, the same is yet to be notified in the Presidential Order,” said Patnaik. “These communities are being deprived of the benefits availed by STs though they have the same tribal characteristics as their respective notified STs.”
The chief minister requested Munda to look into the long-pending matter and expedite the “scheduling of these left out communities” to deliver social justice to them, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitutions of India.
Patnaik’s letter comes at a time when the BJP is attempting to better its electoral performance in 2019 when it won eight of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and 23 of the 147 assembly constituencies. “The BJP hopes the election of Murmu, a tribal woman from Mayurbhanj district, as President would endear itself to the tribals in not just Odisha, but also in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh,” said a political commentator, requesting not to be named.
In Odisha, one out of every five voters is a tribal and the community has a decisive say in the five — Nabarangpur, Koraput, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundargarh — Lok Sabha constituencies that are reserved for ST candidates. Besides these five parliamentary constituencies, their population is also high in other districts such as Deogarh (35%), Gajapati (54%), Jharsuguda (30%), Kandhamal (53%), Nuapada (33%), Rayagada (56%) and Sambalpur (34%).