ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Branded for Life

The State shows no sensitivity to the needs of the denotified and nomadic tribes who remain on the fringes of society.

The plight of India’s 150 million denotified and nomadic tribes (DNT) rarely figures in the public discourse. Recently, the National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNSNT) proposed that these people should be notified as a scheduled community by amending the Constitution and 10 per cent of government jobs should be reserved for them even if the total reservation quota exceeds the 50 per cent ceiling imposed by the Supreme Court. However, the ministry of social justice, under which the NCDNSNT was set up, expressed “strong reservations” against such an amendment to create a new category and a separate quota.

A majority of the DNT (approximately 1,500 nomadic and seminomadic tribes and 198 denotified tribes) are classified as scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST) or other backward classes (OBC). To complicate matters, the same tribe is classified differently in different states. For example, the banjaras are classified as ST in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Orissa and elsewhere, SC in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and a few other states, as OBC in Uttar Pradesh and as DNT in Maharashtra. It is the same with the other denotified tribes like the berad, kaikadi, pardhis, sansis, budhuks, vadars and so on and the nomadic tribes like the gondhalis, garuds, chitrakathis, kalbelias, bazigars, nats, madaris, kanjars. However, despite being thus categorised, welfare measures meant for the SC/ST/ OBC communities are of little use considering their singular backwardness. They live in tents on vacant lands on the outskirts of villages or in the flimsiest of shanties in urban areas where basic amenities are unknown. The lack of a permanent address, ration cards or any official documents and the resultant difficulty in getting caste certificates ensure that they are officially non-existent and hence ineligible for any benefits. (The NCDNSNT has recommended a “tent to tent” survey within six months and a community-wise census.)

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