The Parliamentary panel on Social Justice and Empowerment has pulled up the Union government over the very slow process to categorise over 260 denotified, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes (DNTs) under either the SC/ST/OBC lists. This has led to delay in the approval of benefits under the SEED (Scheme for Economic Empowerment of DNTs) scheme.

 

Who are DNTs?

  • The term ‘De-notified Tribes’ stands for all those communities which were once notified under the Criminal Tribes Acts, enforced by the British Raj between l87l and I947.
  • These Acts were repealed by the Government of India in l952, and these communities were “De-Notified“.
  • A few of these communities which were listed as de-notified were also nomadic – social groups who undertook seasonal physical movement as part of their livelihood strategy in the recent past.
  • The term semi-nomad is mostly used to describe those sections of nomads whose duration, distance and frequency of movement is comparatively less than others.

 

Status in India

  • More than 10 crore Indians from over 1,400 communities are either denotified (settled in various States of the country), nomadic (continue to be largely nomadic) or semi-nomadic.
  • The Government of India in 2014 had constituted National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT)/Idate Commission for a period of 3 years —
      • To prepare a State-wise list of castes belonging to Denotified and Nomadic Tribes and
      • To suggest appropriate measures in respect of Denotified and Nomadic Tribes that may be undertaken by the Central or the State Government.
  • The NCDNT/Renke Commission (2008) was earlier commissioned to identify and list the DNT communities.

 

Development and Welfare Board for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic communities (DWBDNCs)

  • The Idate commission recommended the setting up of a permanent commission for these communities.
  • But since most DNTs are covered under SC, ST or OBC, the government felt setting up a permanent commission would be in conflict with the mandate of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), NCST and NCBC.
  • The government therefore set up the DWBDNCs (in 2019, under the chairmanship of BR Idate) as a society under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for the purpose of implementing welfare programmes.

 

About the SEED (Scheme for Economic Empowerment of DNTs) scheme

  • The scheme was launched in (February) 2022 by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, with an allocation of ₹200 crore, to be spent over five years from FY 2021-22 to FY 2025-26.
  • Components —
      • Educational empowerment: Providing free competitive exam coaching for DNT candidates.
      • Health: Health insurance (through PM Jan Arogya Yojana).
      • Livelihoods: Through National and State Rural Livelihood Missions (NRLM and SRLMs).
      • Land and Housing: Financial assistance for construction of houses through PM Awas Yojana.
      • Implementation — The DWBDNCs has been tasked with the implementation of this scheme.
      • Beneficiaries — The DNT communities whose family income from all sources is 2.50 lakhs or less and who are not availing benefits under any other central/state schemes are eligible.

 

Details

  • The panel’s report —
      • It flagged the inability of the Department Social Justice and Empowerment to take necessary action on the speedy and accurate categorisation of these communities.
      • Delay in locating them would increase their suffering and they would not be able to get benefit of the prevailing Schemes meant for the welfare of SC/STs.
      • As of now, a total of over 5,400 applications have been received under the SEED scheme, none of which have been approved and no amount has been sanctioned.
      • The panel expected that the government would expedite this exercise and finish it in a time-bound manner and sought detailed timelines for the same.
  • Department’s response —
      • The Idate Commission had categorised 1,262 communities of 1400 under SC/ST/OBC lists and 267 communities were left uncategorised.
      • The communities categorised by the Idate Commission are not accurate with many communities appearing in SC lists in one State or district and on the ST list in others.
      • The Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) has submitted reports on categorisation of 48 DNT communities so far and is expected to finish studying the remaining communities by the end of 2022.
  • According to the DWBDNC,
      • The SEED scheme was launched along with a system for online applications and live status-tracking.
      • However, with many DNT communities unable to navigate the online system themselves, officials have been conducting camps across the country with community leaders to help the applicants sign up on the web portal.
      • But unless the bureaucratic exercise of their accurate categorisation is completed, the application will not be processed.