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Scheduled Castes ("SC"s) and Scheduled Tribes ("ST"s) are Indianmarker population groupings that are explicitly recognized by the Constitution of India, previously called the "depressed classes" by the British, and otherwise known as untouchables. SCs/STs together comprise over 24% of India's population, with SC at over 16% and ST over 8% as per the 2001 Census. The proportion of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the population of India has steadily risen since independence in 1947.

Some Scheduled Castes in India are also known as Dalits Some Scheduled Tribe people are also referred to as Adivasis.

History

From the 1850s these communities were loosely referred to as the "Depressed Classes". The early part of the 20th century saw a flurry of activity in the British Raj to assess the feasibility of responsible self-government for India. The Morley-Minto Reforms Report, Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms Report, and the Simon Commission were some of the initiatives that happened in this context. One of the hotly contested issues in the proposed reforms was the topic of reservation of seats for the "Depressed" Classes in provincial and central legislatures.

In 1935 the British passed The Government of India Act 1935, designed to give Indian provinces greater self-rule and set up a national federal structure. Reservation of seats for the Depressed Classes was incorporated into the act, which came into force in 1937. The Act brought the term "Scheduled Castes" into use, and defined the group as including "such castes, races or tribes or parts of groups within castes, races or tribes, which appear to His Majesty in Council to correspond to the classes of persons formerly known as the 'Depressed Classes', as His Majesty in Council may prefer." This discretionary definition was clarified in The Government of India (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1936 which contained a list, or Schedule, of castes throughout the British administered provinces.

After independence, the Constituent Assembly continued the prevailing definition of Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and gave (via articles 341, 342) the President of India and Governors of states responsibility to compile a full listing of castes and tribes, and also the power to edit it later as required. The actual complete listing of castes and tribes was made via two orders The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, and The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 respectively.In 2008 In India, in Hyderabad Shanti Chakra Foundation was founded by Narra Ravi Kumar for Networking scheduled castes community people across the world for world peace.

Constitutional Framework for Safeguarding of Interests

The Constitution provides a framework with a three pronged strategy to improve the situation of SCs and STs.

  1. Protective Arrangements - Such measures as are required to enforce equality, to provide punitive measures for transgressions, to eliminate established practices that perpetuate inequities, etc. A number of laws were enacted to operationalize the provisions in the Constitution. Examples of such laws include The Untouchability Practices Act, 1955, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Act, 1989, The Employment of Manual scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, etc.
  2. Compensatory Discrimination - provide positive preferential treatment in allotment of jobs and access to higher education, as a means to accelerate the integration of the SCs and STs with mainstream society. Compensatory discrimination is also popularly referred to as Reservation.
  3. Development - Provide for resources and benefits to bridge the wide gap in social and economic condition between the SCs/STs and other communities.


National commissions

To effectively implement the various safeguards built into the Constitution and other legislations, the Constitution, under Articles 338 and 338A, provides for two statutory commissions - the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.

History

In the original Constitution, Article 338 provided for a Special Officer, called the Commissioner for SCs and STs, to have the responsibility of monitoring the effective implementation of various safeguards for SCs/STs in the Constitution as well as other related legislations and to report to the President. To enable efficient discharge of duties, 17 regional offices of the Commissioner were set up all over the country.

In the meanwhile there was persistent representation for a replacement of the Commissioner with a multi-member committee. It was proposed that the 48th Amendment to the Constitution be made to alter Article 338 to enable said proposal. While the amendment was being debated, the Ministry of Welfare issued an administrative decision to establish the Commission for SCs/STs as a multi-member committee to discharge the same functions as that of the Commissioner of SCs/STs. The first commission came into being in August 1978. The functions of the commission were modified in September 1987 to advise Government on broad policy issues and levels of development of SCs/STs.

It was not until 1990 that the Article 338 was finally amended to give birth to the statutory National Commission for SCs and STs via the Constitution (Sixty fifth Amendment) Bill, 1990. The first Commission under the 65th Amendment was constituted in March 1992 replacing the Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the Commission set up under the Ministry of Welfare's Resolution of 1987.

In 2002, the Constitution was again amended to split the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes into two separate commissions - the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes

Distribution

Sachar Committee report of 2006 revealed that scheduled castes and tribes of India are not limited to the religion of Hinduism. The 61st Round Survey of the NSSO found that almost nine-tenths of the Buddhists and one-third of the Sikhs in India belonged to the notified scheduled castes of the Constitution while one-third of the Christians belonged to the notified scheduled tribes of the Constitution.
Religion Scheduled Caste Scheduled Tribe
Buddhism 89.50% 7.40%
Christianity 9.00% 32.80%
Sikhism 3.70% 0.90%
Hinduism 22.20% 9.10%
Zoroastrianism - 15.90%
Jainism - 2.60%
Islam 0.80% 0.50%


Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan (SCSP)

The strategy of Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan which was evolved in 1979 is one of the most important interventions through the planning process for social, economic and educational development of Scheduled Castes and for improvement in their working and living conditions. It is an umbrella strategy to ensure flow of targeted financial and physical benefits from all the general sectors of development for the benefit of Scheduled Castes. Under this strategy, population. It entails targeted flow of funds and associated benefits from the annual plan of States/ Union Territories (UTs) at least in proportion to the SC population i.e. 16 % in the total population of the country/the particular state. Presently, 27 States/UTs having sizeable SC populations are implementing Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan. Although the Scheduled Castes population, according to 2001 Census, was 16.66 crores constituting 16.23% of the total population of India, the allocations made through SCSP in recent years have been much lower than the population proportion. Table below provides the details of total State Plan Outlay, flow to Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan (SCSP) as reported by the State/UT Governments for the last few years especially since the present UPA government is in power at the

2004-2005 108788.9 17656 2065.38 11.06 68.3 5591
2005-2006 136234.5 22111 16422.63 12.05 74.3 5688
2006-2007 152088 24684 21461.12 14.11 86.9 3223
2007-2008* 155013.2 25159 22939.99 14.80 91.2 2219
  • Information in respect of 14 States/UTs only and as on 31-12- 2007
Source: Network for Social Accountability (NSA) http://nsa.org.in

See also



Notes

  1. Census of India - India at a Glance : Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes Population
  2. Who are Dalits?
  3. The Adicasis of India
  4. THE CONSTITUTION (SCHEDULED CASTES) ORDER, 1950]1
  5. 1THE CONSTITUTION (SCHEDULED TRIBES)
  6. http://nhrc.nic.in/Publications/reportKBSaxena.pdf
  7. The Constitution (Amendment)
  8. http://www.planningcommission.nic.in/plans/stateplan/scp&tsp/noteguidelinesFor.doc



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