NEW DELHI: Adding more heat to the ever-boiling quota pot, the Narendra Modi government has decided to overhaul the criteria for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. The Prime Minister’s Office has asked the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to include “historical injustice” and “deprivation”as two main criteria. Till now, the ST status has been determined by the government on the basis of criteria fixed by the Lokur Committee in 1965, which are indication of primitive traits, distinctive culture, shyness of contact, geographical isolation and backwardness.
The idea to create a new set of criteria was initiated by Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, an RSS frontal body that works with tribals. “We feel that these criteria are outdated and do not reflect social realities. Hence the decision to modify,’’ a ministry official said. Once the new criteria get the Cabinet stamp, the ministry will ask the Anthropological Survey of India to develop an ethnographic chart in accordance with it. The ministry gets nearly 1,000 applications every month from various communities, requesting the government to include them in the ST category. “We usually forward them to the Registrar General of India, and most of them get rejected, creating disillusionment in the communities. Once the new criteria are in place, the ministry will have a greater say in deciding ST status,” said the official.
As per Article 366 (25) of the Constitution, the list of SC and ST can be modified only by Parliament. Once the ministry finalises the new criteria, all pending applications will be scrutinised accordingly and will be sent for Parliament’s approval.
According to the official, most States forward applications to the ministry, recommending communities to be included in the ST list mostly due to political reasons. “In the last one month, we got recommendations from all the four States which are going to have elections next month,” he said.