National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
The Scheduled Tribes (ST) population, in India, is around 8ft of our entire population. It occupies about 15ft of country's territory located in areas ranging from forest region to plains. Most of the ST population leads a poor life'socially backward, economically miserable but culturally very rich. In terms of education, the tribal people are mostly illiterate. In India, around 500 tribes have been located with their social, economic and educational development in a poor state. The fifth schedule of our Constitution guarantees the ST people protection and promotion of their interests. Numerous Articles of the Constitution provide the people safeguards. Special development programmes, projects and schemes are launched by the Union and the States, from time to time. Article 338A was incorporated through the 89th Amendment Act, 2003 under which the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), was constituted.
It consists of one Chairperson, one Vice-Chairperson, and three other members. The President appoints all of them and determines their conditions of service and tenure of office. The powers and functions of the NCST, under Article 338A(5), are: (a) to investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Tribes; (ii) to inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Scheduled Tribes; (iii) to participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of the Scheduled Tribes and to evaluate the progress achieved; (iv) to present report to the President with regard to the working of the safeguards relating to the Scheduled Tribes; (v) to make recommendations for the improvement of the Scheduled Tribes; and (vi) to discharge such other functions which help protect, develop and promote the welfare of the Scheduled Tribes. Some other functions of the NCST are : 1. Taking up measures for the development of the living standards of STs; 2.
Working for the rights of ownership of minor forest produce to the people of ST communities who are living in those regions; 3. Preventing alienation of the STs from land and offering rehabilitation facilities to those who have been removed from their lands; 4. Safeguarding the rights of STs in context of water resources, mineral resources and so on according to the law ; 5. Striving to incorporate the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 6. Taking up measure to reduce and ban the shifting cultivation process by tribal groups as it leads to degradation of environment and disempowerment of the land; and 7. Securing cooperation of the Scheduled Tribes for social afforestation and protection of forest lands. The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has 4 sections which are:
- Atrocities Wing
- Administration ff Coordination Wing
- Economic ff Social Development Wing
- Service Safeguards Wing The report of NCST, when submitted to the President, is to be placed before the Parliament by the President.
The NCST has helped in:
- working of Service safeguards under Articles 16(4), 17(4A), 16(4B) and 335 to ensure proper representation of ST communities in various posts;
- ruling out child labour with respect to STs under Article 24 of the Constitution;
- safeguarding of the language, culture of script of the district as per Article 29(i);
- working of 5th and 6th Schedules, economic safeguards under Article 244 and approval of grants for improving administrative scenario in tribal pockets; and
- supervising the enforcement of several laws such as : (i) Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (ii) Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 (iii) Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (iv) The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (v) The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Acts, 1989 (vi) The Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996