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4 new tribes get counted

New Delhi, Jan. 30: Four new tribal groups from Jharkhand are all set to be included in the list of scheduled tribes (ST) as the Centre has accepted a proposal sent by the state government in this regard.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (amendment) Act that is expected to be amended this year will — after due process — include Gounjhu, Bhokta, Puran and Tamaria communities, all backward tribes pursuing agriculture as a means of livelihood.

According to sources, the Union ministry of tribal affairs had asked all states with a tribal population to send recommendations by December last year. Jharkhand chose these four.

Currently, 32 tribal groups from Jharkhand are enlisted in the ST category last updated in 2002.

Apart from Jharkhand, various new tribal communities from Assam, Sikkim, Odisha and three other states will also make it to the amended list.

“The government received proposals from seven states for the inclusion of 58 communities in the scheduled tribes list. Assam proposed the highest number with 39, followed by Sikkim with 11 and Jharkhand with four communities. After due examination, we have referred the proposal to the Registrar General of India,” said an official in the ministry.

Rameshwar Oraon, chairman of the national commission of scheduled tribes, said the registrar-general would now conduct a study to check if the communities had the traits to qualify for being included in the list.

“After that the ministry would send the proposal to us for a final comment and then the bill will be drafted for amending the act. All that will take a few months and it is likely that the amendment will be cleared after the general elections by the new Parliament,” he explained.

B.P. Kesri, a scholar on Jharkhand matters, welcomed the Centre’s move to include the four groups in the ST list.

“Their demand was quite old and they deserved the status. Even Santhal Pargana Ghatwals, and a few other caste groups, also deserve the same,” he said.

Jharkhand’s proposal, however, is likely to create a furore amid several political parties, particularly the BJP which has for years been demanding the inclusion of Khetauri, Ghatwal, Bhuiyan-Ghatwal, Perivar and Kedartribal communities — belonging to the Santhal Pargana region — in the ST category.

Only recently Godda MP Nishikant Dubey, on behalf of the state party unit, wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and pointed out that they were the “real tribes of the Santhal Pargana region and their names got omitted from the list in 1950 due to a clerical mistake”.

In his letter, the MP explained that in 1912 a British officer, R. Carstairs, who as collector of “Sonthal Pergunnahs”, wrote in his book, The Little World of Indian District Officer, that the five communities were aboriginal tribes while Santhals came to the locality only around 1820.

Claiming that he got a copy of this historical record from the Library of California University, USA, Dubey said that while the then government was all set to include these names in 1950 when the ST list was being notified, their names got omitted due to an inadvertent error.

Thereafter, the error was never corrected.

The BJP has been alleging that by depriving these groups, around 25 lakh people were being denied their rightful status in the state.