TODAY -

Schedule Tribe Demand Committee Manipur, Recent cries

SK Singh *



Of late there has been a new spurt by the STDMC in select pockets in Imphal areas to urge the state government to recommend their case to the GOI. Understandably, the move appears to lack the sharp sting, as would such an issue of immense significance call for normally.

It largely appears, however to attempt making the common people aware of their movement and their demand for recommending the case of inclusion of the Meitei/Meetei community in the ST list of the country.

Their grievances:

The principal grievance is the refusal of the state government of Manipur to RECOMMEND the case of granting ST status to the Meiteis/Meeteis, to the GOI. This movement started as early as 2012-13 when the Committee approached the GOI for inclusion of the Meeteis/Meiteis Community in the schedule list of ST of the country. There is however no breakthrough in their approach to the GOM.

The background:

The Committee had approached the GOI for considering the case of Meeteis/Meiteis becoming ST way back in 2012. The GOI had requested the state government to recommend the case as early as 2013, vide their letter, from the Director (C@LM), Ministry of Tribal affairs dated 23-08-2013, addressed to the Chairman, the STDCM.

It wrote, "The Cabinet Committee on SC, ST and Minorities has laid down the modalities on 15-6-1999 and further revised on 20-6-2002 for deciding claims for inclusion in or exclusion from and other modifications in the Orders specifying SC and ST lists. As per the modalities only those which have been justified and recommended by the concerned state Govt/UT Admn and Registrar General of India (RGI) as well as the National Committee for STs is to be considered for amending legislation."

Prerequisites:

The letter referred to above also asked for two very specific documents, apart from the 'recommendation of the state government'. This recommendation should be accompanied by two special documents, i) Ethnographic Report and ii) Socio Economic Survey report. These two reports should not be merely a state government report prepared from time to time. These should be prepared by a reputed Organization/Institution recognized by the GOI.

Still another area is a list of criteria laid down by the GOI, known widely as Panda Committee Criteria. These are,
i) Autonomous Religious Practice, although practicing the Hindu way of life would not be a bar,
ii) Marital Relationship with other tribes,
iii) Distinctive Culture.
iv) Historical and Geographical isolation,
v) Socio economic and Educational backwardness and
vi) Distinctive Language.

Further Areas of Concern:

In addition to these parameters it is clearly indicated that while seeking ST status by any community, the GOI, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, C@ LM-I Division letter, dated 2nd June, 2015, signed by Ashok Pai, Joint Secretary to the GOI, on the subject, 'streamlining of procedure for scheduling of communities as STs- regarding' should be kept in view. This letter, at Para 4 writes,

"Procedure proposed for scheduling/de-scheduling of a community as ST,
i) There will be a Committee of Secretaries chaired by Secretary (MoTA) to consider proposals so that they are transparently and expeditiously decided. The Committee will comprise (apart from the Chairperson), the following Secretaries: Secy, MHA, Secy, Ministry of Culture, Secy, Dept of Social justice and Empowerment and Secy, Dept of legal Affairs.

ii) Although the recommendation of the State Government is the basis for processing any proposal; in other cases, only if adequate supporting documents including ethnographic report are made available, will any such proposal be circulated simultaneously to RGI, NCST and AnSI (apart from the concerned State Government and Tribal Research Institute) for their views."

Where STDCM is now:

During the last over 9 years from 2013 till date, the Committee had succeeded in organizing meetings, mostly among themselves in various areas in the valley, largely to make the general public aware of the issue. They had also organized road shows with participants in their tens of thousands ending with massive joint meeting at Iboyaima Sanglen, years before. They held meetings largely to review the progress or perhaps more appropriately, their failure, to make any breakthrough in their singular urge, 'recommendation of the GOM'.

What they should preferably do now:

While keeping the pressure on as it stands today, they should urge/pressurize the GOM to
i) To constitute a Committee to oversee if the Meeteis/Meiteis fulfill the Panda Committee Criteria in Toto or even partially,
ii) Approach the GOM and cause preparation of the two essential documents, without further delay, and
iii) They should be able to convince the Government that preparation of these two documents would, in any way, pave the way, primae faci, to grant straightaway ST status to this community. These are only, government documents to rely upon by any body/group or authorities in examining the suitability or otherwise of inclusion of this community in the list of the STs.

The Enornamicity of the issue:

Over 1000 communities in the country this day, seek unique tribal status according to the Tribal AffairsMinister. At one point of time the Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram opined, "According to new guidelines the state governments will be given a six-month time to recommend and justify to queries with regard to communities seeking schedule tribes after which the Centre will not entertain".

What should be the foremost area for STDCM to strike:

The GOM should be pressurized immediately to get the two Documents prepared. It would take time and it would cost lot, to get such compilations ready. The CM could be convinced that preparation and keeping ready these two specific documents doesn't warrant grant of ST to the Meeteis/Meiteis. They are only ground materials for the GOI and other Statutory Authorities to examine in detail if the Meeteis/Meiteis meet the specified criteria and nothing more.

Without these two Documents, the GOM would not, I repeat, not consider for recommendation at all. It is simply not conceivable for the State Cabinet to recommend. Having realized this position, cries for recommendation sounds unhealthy.


* SK Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be reached at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on September 08 2022 .



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