OBCs want government to fulfil BJP’s poll promise on ST status

Granting of Scheduled Tribes status to the six communities - Moran, Muttock, Tai Ahom, Koch-Rajbongshi, Sootea and Tea Tribes - was a poll promise of the BJP.

india Updated: Jun 04, 2017 23:22 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
OBC communities,ST list,Scheduled Tribe status
Tea tribes perform traditional dance in Guwahati. The tribe is among the six communities that BJP assured to include in the ST list.(PTI File Photo)

A year after the BJP’s poll promise of granting scheduled tribe status to six OBC communities in Assam, the communities are demanding the fulfilment of the pledge.

The Gorkhas in Sikkim and parts of West Bengal too are waiting to know the outcome of a government-appointed committee to take a final call on grant of ST status to the community.

In both cases, the assurances were given coinciding with assembly polls in their states. The long-drawn process of granting ST status, notwithstanding the demand for inclusion in the list is growing, especially from poll-bound states.

For instance, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, which will go to polls in 2019, have forwarded a list of 20 and 40 communities they want ST status for. Similarly, Punjab that went to polls earlier this year had sent a list of 41, while Jharkhand the year before had sent 13.

The tribal affairs ministry said it follows the process, which involves getting an approval from the ST commission and the Registrar General of India, before getting a sanction of Parliament. Sources, however, said there is no denying the role of political parties in pushing for certain communities.

“Despite the reservation from existing tribal communities in Assam, the government favoured the inclusion of six OBC communities as most of these were perceived as a ‘vote bank’. On the other hand the long-pending demand by the Yobins in Arunachal Pradesh is yet to be accepted, despite their deprivation,” a former bureaucrat told HT.

Grant of ST status to Gorkhas was announced days before the assembly elections in West Bengal; while Irular (including Villi and Vettaikaran) community was included in the ST list weeks after the Puducherry polls.

Tribal affairs minister Jual Oram told Hindustan Times recently that his ministry has not announced any additions to the list, but is in the process of examining the applications. He said the decisions are based on the recommendations of the concerned state government and the registrar general, followed by the approval of Parliament.

“There is a demand to have a ST list in big cities including Delhi and Harayana. There are people who say we have been in Delhi for two generations, but why should we be deprived of our rights. They are demanding facilities for tribals in cities,” he said.

Bupinder Zutshi, a professor at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development in Jawaharlal Nehru University said the system of allocating ST status needs to be revisited.

First Published: Jun 04, 2017 23:20 IST