TODAY -

The demand for ST, the need for a unified path

SK Singh *

Include Meiti/Meetei in Scheduled Tribe List : Mass Protest Rally :: March 3rd 2019
Include Meiti/Meetei in Scheduled Tribe List : Mass Protest Rally on March 3rd 2019 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam



The demand of the majority community the Meiteis/Meeteis for inclusion in the scheduled list of ST of the country under the Article 342(1) of the Indian Constitution, is often clouded with disproportionate priorities accorded to various issues and sub-issues often plagued with unclear imaginary vision.

Initially as I recall, some section of the society bombarded the very demand by openly claiming themselves as ‘high caste’ and again ridiculing the ‘demand’, as to how this ‘high caste’ (as claimed by some section), could slip down to kind of an imaginary ‘low caste’.

This pronouncement of low or high caste, all fall-outs of misplaced concepts, imaginary outbursts of varying classes, is totally out of place. This very initiation with imaginary class variation is fallout of lack of a ‘Unified Approach’, bereft of any clear logic and perhaps understanding the inherent characters that bind the constitutional authorities for assessing the legitimacy of such a demand.

We did come across talks of the Meiteis/Meeteis entering the coveted class of the Indian civil services on yearly basis once the demand of inclusion in the list of the ST is met. Is not this preponderos and even out of context? The urge for enlisting in the ST list should be based solely on the eligibility of the claim on the ground, how this community meets the laid down criteria as prescribed by the Union government and not on wishes or prospects or otherwise.

The issues of joining the civil services or of securing the earmarked protection on the event of securing ST status are matters of end-result and not the target as such. Clamors of joining the services or of acquiring protection and other concomitant benefits cannot and should not be the driving force. At the expense of repetition, eligibility alone is what matters.

For a quick look at the modalities for such an inclusion of the community in the list of ST, it will suffice to recall Para 2 of the letter from Director(C@LM), Ministry of Tribal Affairs dated 23-8-2013, addressed to the Chairman, The Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur (STDCM).

It writes,
“The Cabinet Committee on Scheduled Castes, Scheduled tribes and Minorities has laid down the modalities on 15-6-1999 and further revised on 20-6-2002, for deciding claims for inclusion in, exclusion from and other modifications in the Orders specifying Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes lists. As per the modalities only those proposals which have been justified and recommended by the concerned State Government/UT Admn. And the Registrar General of India as well as the National Committee for Scheduled Tribes is to be considered for amending legislation.”

This letter also asked for a very specific document, ‘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 specifically by a reputed organization. To throw more light on ‘reputed organization’, one may recall the Vision 2020 Document sponsored by the DONER and the NEC was prepared by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi.

The National Council of Applied Economic Research, New Delhi can be such another institution for Socio Economic Survey of Manipur. Similarly for the Ethnographic Report, institutions like Anthropological Survey of India or some such institutes of repute may be acceptable.

The bigger question in the midst of these intermittent noise created by the STDCM over the years since 2013, a solid 6 years by now, is whether they have succeeded in persuading the Government of Manipur for initiating the preparation of these two fundamental documents. If the answer is ‘no’ as far as the present going shows, where do they stand?

For one, the preparation of these documents should not be associated with the grant or denial of the inclusion of the Meitei/Meetei in the list of ST in the state. These are very basic tenants for any government administering a state or a territory.

The Socio-economic report of a state is in effect brought out every year. The GOI places the Economic Survey report of the country every year before the Budget Session. So too, an ethnographic report of a state, a community or communities residing in a state is so basic and should be in place without even being asked for by the GOI.

The most important issue for such a consideration is the list of criteria laid down by the GOI and if the community meets these or some of them.

The Panda Committee reexamining the earlier ones, in 2014, prescribes five areas—
i) Autonomous Religious Practices, 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.

So, the whole exercise should boil down to a deliberation by a competent authority, if the Meeteis/Meiteis do satisfy these laid down prescriptions or meet only a few. To my mind irrespective of the present status associated with self-proclaimed ego inherited by some section of the society only this day, the Meiteis/Meeteis meet all the above criteria.

The STDCM should deliberate on these 5 basic issues more comprehensively supported by authentic records or built up narratives. Second, they should be able to persuade the government for causing the preparation of the above-talked documents on the premise that the preparation of these reports do not necessarily guaranty grant of ST status to a community residing in the state.


* SK Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be reached at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOTcom
This article was webcasted on June 25, 2019.



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