The Rajya Sabha recently has passed the Constitution (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Orders (2nd Amendment) Bill-2022, which seeks to give the ST status to the Gond community in four districts (Sant Kabir Nagar, Sant Ravidas Nagar, Kushinagar and Chandauli) of Uttar Pradesh. The demand for inclusion of the Gond community in the ST list was first raised in the 1980s.
Process of granting ST tag in India –
- Constitutional provision — Article 342 of the Indian Constitution —
- The President may with respect to any State/UT and where it is a State after consultation with the Governor, may notify the STs in relation to that State/UT.
- The Parliament may by law include or exclude from the list of STs specified in a notification issued.
- The process —
- It begins at the State or UT level, with the concerned government seeking the addition or exclusion of a particular community from the SC/ST list.
- Following this, the proposal is sent to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which sends it to the Registrar General of India (RGI), after examination.
- Once approved by the RGI, the proposal is sent to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), following which the proposal is sent back to the Union government, which introduces it (after inter-ministerial deliberations) in the Cabinet for final approval.
- The final decision rests with the President’s office issuing a notification specifying the changes under powers vested in it from Articles 341 (for SCs) and 342 (for STs).
- The inclusion or exclusion of any community in the ST/SC list come into effect only after the President assents to a Bill that amends the Constitution (STs) Order, 1950, after it is passed by both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
- Criteria to begin the process — To establish whether a community is a ST, the government looks at several criteria, including its –
- Ethnological traits,
- Traditional characteristics,
- Distinctive culture,
- Geographical isolation and
- How many STs are there officially?
- According to the Census 2011, STs constitute 6% (over 10 crore) of the population and there are 705 ethnic groups listed as STs under Article 342.
The Gondi/Gond/Koitur people –
- One of the largest tribal groups in India, Gonds are a Dravidian ethno-linguistic group.
- They are spread across many states of India — Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh.
- The Gond have formed many kingdoms of historical significance and are listed as a ST for the purpose of India’s system of reservation.
- The 2011 Census of India recorded about 2.98 million Gondi (related to the Telugu) speakers.