Scheduled Castes/Tribes- Issues and their Rights

Scheduled Castes/Tribes’Issues and their Rights According to 2011 census, the Scheduled Castes population comprises 166,635,700 (16.2%) of the total population of India and the Scheduled Tribes population comprises 84,326,240 (8.2%) of the country’s total population. Punjab has the highest proportion of the Scheduled Castes (28.9%) and Mizoram, the lowest proportion (0.03%) whereas, among the Scheduled Tribes, Mizoram constitutes the highest proportion (94.5%) and Goa, the lowest proportion (0.04%). Almost all the indicators go on to show that the position of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes people is pitiable and their plight in most cases is worse, to say the least. “The landless, among the Scheduled Castes, constitute nearly 75%, 49.06%, among them engaged in agricultural labour. It has been reported, as we enter the 21st century, that child labour constitutes about 40% of the total 60 million, engaged in carpet, match stick and firecrackers industries. 35.4% of the Scheduled Castes people, in 2000, lived below poverty line in rural areas as compared to 21% among others in urban areas. Twenty-seven officially registered atrocities are being committed against Dalits every day, police does not permit Dalits from entering police stations, refuse the registration of cases by Dalits.

“The upper caste people regularly resort to the practice of torture against Dalits. Many Dalits do not report crimes for fear of reprisals by the dominant castes. Official police statistics averaged over the past 5 years show that 13 Dalits are murdered every week, 5 Dalits’ home or possessions are burnt every week, 6 Dalits are kidnapped or abducted every week, 3 Dalit women are raped every day, 11 Dalits are beaten every day and a crime is committed against a Dalit every 18 minutes (Crimes in India, 2005). A recent study on untouchability in rural India, covering 565 villages in 11 States, found that public health workers refused to visit Dalit homes in 33% of viallges, Dalits were prevented from entering police stations in 27.6% of villages, Dalit children had to sit separately while eating in 37.8% of government schools, Dalits did not get mail delivered to their homes in 23.5% of village, and Dalits were denied access to water sources in 48.4% of villages because of segregation and untouchbility practices. (Shah, Mander & others, Untouchability in Rural India ‘ 2006). Half of India’s Dalit children are undernourished, 21% are ‘severely underweight’, and 12% die before their fifth birthday. (See National Family Health Survey ‘ 1998’99).

“The Scheduled Tribes population is equally denied of its privileges. In most cases, they are usually deprived of their rights: the government and its projects force them to evict their land in the name of development; quite often when employed, the Scheduled Tribes men are exploited’paid low wages and oftenly, the Scheduled Tribes people are looked down upon. Quite a lot of them lose their cultural and traditional identities’ of all the Scheduled Tribes around 200 tribes have been notified and recognized while hundreds of them (total known tribes are over 635) have gone in oblivion.

“The constitutional and legal safeguards have been well protected for both the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. “The 1950 Constitution states that no citizen should be discriminated on grounds of religion, caste or race and that the people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes need not be denied accesses to and the use of public services. Article 341 authorises the President to specify castes, races and tribes for being deemed as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. “The first constitutional amendment (1951) allowed the State to make special provisions for advancement of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

“The Untouchability Offences Act of 1955 outlaws discrimination on ‘the grounds of untouchability’ in regard to public facilities, eating places, temples, residential choice, etc., and provides for fines and imprisonment of offenders. However, relatively small numbers of convictions were made under the Act. In 1976 the Act was strengthened by the Protection of Civil Rights Act which increases punishment and allows for collective fines to be imposed on the offending community and for punishment of civil servants who neglect to investigate such offences. “There is a commission, called the Commission for Scheduled Castes, which protects the interests of such people: 15% of seats are reserved in the legislatures and in public services for the Scheduled Castes. “The Constitution abolished untouchability and regards it an offence punishable under the law. Likewise, Article 342 seeks to grant facilities to the Scheduled Tribes.

“The people belonging to the tribal communities can move and settle anywhere in the country (Article 19(5) Articles 164 and 338 and the fifth schedule set up tribal advisory council to promote the welfare of the Scheduled Tribes people. Likewise Article 224 and the sixth schedule make special provisions for administration and control of scheduled and tribal areas. “The Scheduled Tribes are protected from social injustices and from all forms of exploitation (Article 46). “There are provisions to give special financial assistance to be charged from the Consolidated Fund of India each year for promoting the welfare of the Scheduled Tribes and development of the Scheduled Areas (Article 275(a). “The people belonging to the Scheduled Tribes have the claims to be appointed to services (Article 335). “There are provisions for reservations of seats for the Scheduled Tribes in both Houses of the Parliament and legislative assemblies of the States (Articles 330 and 332). “The people belonging to these tribes are protected from atrocities (see Protection of the Civil Rights Act of 1955 and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. “There exist different plans of upliftment and educational facilities for the Scheduled Tribes.

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