Nationwide review of tribals under way
By Our Special Correspondent
SALEM, MAY 8. The Union Minister for Tribal Affairs, Mr. Jual Oram, has stated that a comprehensive review of tribals is being undertaken all over the country to ascertain their status. This would also address the controversial issue of the exclusion and inclusion of tribals in the Scheduled List.
Mr. Oram, who visited Salem to campaign for the BJP candidate, Mr. K. Govindan (who is contesting the Yercaud Assembly constituency), told presspersons that about 10 crore tribals, who accounted for 10 per cent of the total population, were spread over 40 per cent of the geographical area of the country. As per the Scheduled List, there were 600 tribal communities in India.
Besides these, about 300 to 400 communities were staking their claim to be included in the Scheduled List, and their demand would be conceded only after going through the established procedure. He pointed out that the Supreme Court had given the direction that as of now, only those who found a place in the Scheduled List would be treated as the Scheduled Tribes.
There were norms to be followed before a community was accorded the status of Scheduled Tribe: first, the community had to make a representation to the Tribal Affairs Ministry. Later, the demand would be referred to the SC/ST Commission, and after getting its views, it would be discussed threadbare in the Cabinet, and finally, clinched in Parliament. The issue got complicated because many communities had synonymous names, and this ought to be resolved amicably. As various criteria ought to be gone into before arriving at a conclusion, no timeframe could be fixed for completing the review exercise.
The review would take up a whole spectrum of tribal-related issues: atrocities perpetrated on tribals, the literacy level, infrastructure facilities, reservation, budgetary allocation etc., He underscored the point that it was under consideration to direct the State Governments to allocate a certain percentage of their budgets for tribal welfare.
Mr. Oram pointed out that for the past three years the BJP-led Central Government had been gradually increasing the allocation for tribal welfare as follows: Rs. 630 crores, Rs. 810 crores and Rs. 1,049 crores. The Central Government had launched as many as 21 welfare schemes for the benefit of the tribals, and some of the programmes were being implemented through the non governmental organisations.
One of the schemes was to increase the literacy rate among the tribal population, and for this purpose, the Government was offering monetary incentive to the parents: for instance, if a tribal enrolled his ward in a school, he would be given Rs. 50 per month (per ward). As per the 1991 Census, there were 136 districts which had reported poor literacy rate among the tribals, he added.