The Union Cabinet under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the addition of four tribes to the list of Scheduled Tribes, including those from Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh. Demands for inclusion of the communities have been pending for decades, Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda announced at a Cabinet briefing on September 14.
The Hatti tribe in the Trans-Giri area of Sirmour district in Himachal Pradesh, the Narikoravan and Kurivikkaran hill tribes of Tamil Nadu and the Binjhia in Chhattisgarh, who were listed as ST in Jharkhand and Odisha but not in Chhattisgarh, were the communities newly added to the list.
Further, the Cabinet approved a proposal to bring the Gond community residing in 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh, under the ST list from the Scheduled Caste list. This includes the five subcategories of the Gond community (Dhuria, Nayak, Ojha, Pathari, and Rajgond).
Mr. Munda said the demand for the Binjhia tribe to be added to the ST list in Chhattisgarh had been pending for around 15 years while Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, who also attended the briefing, said the Hatti tribe had been seeking their inclusion for around 50 years. Like the Binjhia community, the Hatti tribe had been in the ST list in neighbouring Uttarakhand but not in Himachal Pradesh.
“It is a historic decision. I thank PM Modi for this,” Mr. Thakur, also an MP from Himachal Pradesh, said.
Mr. Munda said that the inclusion of the Hatti community will benefit around 1.6 lakh people of this area-specific tribe in Himachal Pradesh, who will be able to avail benefits meant for members of STs after the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Third Amendment) Bill, 2022, becomes an Act.
The Tribal Affairs Minister explained that the process to include tribes in the ST list begins with the recommendation from the respective State governments, which are then sent to the Tribal Affairs Ministry, which reviews and sends them to the Registrar General of India for approval. This is followed by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes’ approval before the list is sent to the Cabinet for a final decision.
In April this year, Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Bisheshwar Tudu had, in response to a question in Lok Sabha, said that the Ministry was unable to consider a proposal from the State to declare the Trans-Giri area as a Scheduled Area "due to want of requisite criteria" and had sent the proposal back.
In addition to this, Mr. Munda said the Cabinet had approved the inclusion of synonyms for 11 tribes in Chhattisgarh and one tribe in Karnataka so that variations in their spellings and pronunciations do not result in people being left out of beneficiary schemes.
The Cabinet approved ‘Betta-Kuruba’ as a synonym for the Kadu Kuruba tribe In Karnataka. In Chhattisgarh, the Cabinet approved synonyms for tribes like the Bharia (variations added include Bhumia and Bhuyian), Gadhwa (Gadwa), Dhanwar (Dhanawar, Dhanuwar), Nagesia (Nagasia, Kisan), and Pondh (Pond), among others.