The Union Cabinet has given its approval for constitution of Development and Welfare Board for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Communities (DNCs) under the Chairpersonship of Vice-Chairman, NITI Aayog which will complete the process of identification of the DNCs that have not yet been formally classified.

Need for Protection /Issues faced by DNCs

Amongst the most disadvantage communities in the country are the Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities (DNCs), these communities are hard to reach, less visible, and therefore frequently left out.

While most DNTs are spread across the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) categories, some DNTs are not covered in any of the SC, ST or OBC categories. An example is the Banjara tribe, which is listed under OBC in Chhattisgarh, SC in Delhi and under Vimukta Jati Nomadic Tribe in Maharashtra. This Banjara tribe is listed as a nomadic tribe in states such as Odisha but as denotified tribe, for instance, in Delhi. Some states have, in fact, listed the same tribe as both denotified and nomadic, adding to the woes of accurate enumeration.

Many states do not have a list of these communities, hence not even acknowledging their presence. Even in places where they do find mention in some list or another, these communities, owing to the absence of any identity proof or caste certificates are not able to avail their entitlements.

Considered to be amongst the most deprived sections of Indian society, the DNCs move from place to place in search of livelihood. As a result, they are frequently left out. Owing to the stigma of criminality which was bestowed upon them more than 150 years ago, the denotified tribes continue to live in abject poverty and amidst fear and discrimination.

Their numbers run into millions in India but there has been no census for this community – which is spread across states, sometimes finding mention in the SC category, sometimes ST and OBC and at times not being mentioned in any. .

Hence to address the issues related to these communities there is a need for special attention.

Evolution of Laws

  • Denotified tribes were, during the British era, notified as ‘born criminal ‘by the British under a number of laws. The term, ‘Denotified and Nomadic Tribes’, can be traced to the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) of 1871.
  • The colonial government notified nearly 200 tribal communities to be hereditary criminals, cementing their societal identity as outcasts and subjecting them to constant harassment by the administration.
  • Forest laws that came into force from the mid-nineteenth century onwards deprived a large number of communities of their traditional rights of hunting and gathering. The new laws criminalised their very source of livelihood when it practiced.
  • When the forests were cleared by the British for commercial use and forest communities asked to contribute to labour, some communities resisted and were declared ‘criminal’.
  • The British thought that communities had lost their legitimate means of livelihood, they must have been living by indulging in criminal activities due to arrival of road and railway networks.
  • After India gained Independence, these tribes were ‘de-notified’ from the list of Criminal Tribes by repealing the notifications in 1952.
  • The Balakrishna Renka Commission in its report in 2008 recommended that a commission be formed for the welfare of these tribes, which are made up of about 11 crore people. It also recommended that given the socio-economic backwardness of people of these tribes, there should be a 10% reservation provision as well.
  • The ministry, in its proposal, has ducked the reservation issue, saying it is the commission that would need to make the relevant recommendation. However, senior officials said a further 10% reservation would violate the 50% ceiling set by the court and is therefore a difficult proposition.
  • The new castes in the central list of OBCs have been recommended at various times between 2011 and 2013 by the National Commission for Backward Classes.
  • The Government in July 2014 had constituted National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT) for a period of three years to prepare a State-wise list of castes belonging to DNTs and to suggest appropriate measures in respect of DNTs that may be undertaken by the Central or State Government.

Current Status

The NCDNT recommended for the setting of up a Permanent Commission for these communities. Since most of the DNTs are covered in SC, ST or OBC, constitution of a Permanent Commission will not be very effective in implementing development programmes, rather it will look at grievance redressal and will therefore be in conflict with mandate of existing commissions for SCs (NCSC), STs (NCST) and OBCs (NCBC).

The Government has therefore decided to set up a Development and Welfare Board under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 under the aegis of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for the purpose of implementing development and welfare programmes for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Communities.

Way Forward

The National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT) submitted its interim recommendations to the government and made many recommendations:

  1. Recommendations for reservations of DNTs should be given serious thought. These are among most vulnerable and backward section of society and if not separate, then a quota within the existing one’s can be made for them.
  2. The various schemes and welfare programmes of government should reach these people. Majority of DNTs are found in poorer states of India. So, state machinery have to go extra mile to help these vulnerable sections.
  3. The report mooted appointment of teachers from within the community, especially for mobile schools, which also formed part of the commission’s recommendations.
  4. The report especially emphasised the need for issuance of a single caste certificate – SC-DNT, ST-DNT, OBC-DNT – instead of two separate ones for the same individual. Sensitizing police and other officials,
  5. Repeal of Habitual Offenders Act,
  6. A separate national finance and development corporation for denotified tribes.

Conclusion

As per National Alliance Group for Denotified and Nomadic Tribes, though internationally the denotified tribes are known as brand ambassadors of Indian folk culture and art, Indian society continues to brand them as born criminals.

The NCDNT interim report and recommendations aim  to address the socio-economic backwardness of the denotified and nomadic communities and ensure their inclusion in the various lists.

Share This