Affirmative actions for Scheduled Tribes

2022 NOV 11

Mains   > Society   >   Features of Indian Society   >   Tribal affairs


  • The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has cleared the way for the inclusion of the ‘Pahari ethnic group’ in the Scheduled Tribes list of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.


  • Affirmative action includes the use of preferential treatment toward members of groups that have been discriminated against in the past. These actions may be through policies, legislation, programs or procedures.


  • The term 'Scheduled Tribes' first appeared in the Constitution of India.
  • Article 366(25) defined scheduled tribes as "such tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 to be Scheduled Tribes for the purposes of this constitution".
  • Article 342 prescribes procedure to be followed in the matter of specification of scheduled tribes.
    • It states that the President may, after consultation with the Governor, specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within tribes or tribal communities which shall, for the purposes of this constitution, is deemed to be scheduled tribes in relation to that State or Union Territory
  • According to Census-2011, the population of scheduled tribes in India is 10.42 crores. It is 8.6% of the total population of India.

How is a community added or removed from SC, ST lists?

  • The process to include tribes in the list begins with the recommendation from the respective State governments, which are then sent to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which reviews and sends them to the Registrar General of India for approval.
  • This is followed by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes’ approval before the list is sent to the Cabinet.
  • The inclusion or exclusion come into effect only after the President assents to a Bill that amends the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, as is appropriate


I. Educational, Economic and Employment related safeguards:

  • Article 15(4)
    • empowers the state to make special provisions for advancement of Socially and Educationally Backwards (SEBCs) or SC/STs.
  • Article 16(4-A)
    • empowers the state to make reservation in Promotions for SCs and STs.
  • Article 19(5):
    • Right to freedom of movement and residence could be restricted in the interests of the general public, or for the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe.
  • Article 46:
    • Promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections.
  • Article 335:
    • The claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration in making the appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.

II. Political:

  • Article 330 and 332:
    • Provides for specific representation through reservation of seats for SCs and STs in the Parliament and in the State Legislative Assemblies respectively
  • Article 243D:
    • Provides reservation of seats for SCs and STs and not less than 1/3rd for women in every Panchayat.
  • Article 233T:
    • Provides reservation of seats for SCs and STs in every Municipality.
  • Article 338A:
    • National Commission for Scheduled Tribe

III. Administrative:

  • Fifth Schedule:
    • deals with the administration and control of scheduled areas and scheduled tribes in any state except the four states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
  • Sixth Schedule:
    • deals with the administration of the tribal areas in the four northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
  • Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act:

IV. Legal & Other measures:

  • Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
    • It was enacted by the Parliament to prevent atrocities and hate crimes against the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. 
  • Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1976:
    • This act prescribes punishments for the practice of untouchability for the enforcement of any disability arising from and for matters connected therewith.
  • Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006:
  • National Commission for De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT):
    • DNTs are communities that were ‘notified’ as being ‘born criminals’ during the British regime under laws like the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871.
    • These Acts were repealed by the Independent Indian Government in l952, and these communities were "De-Notified".
    • To ensure their protection and welfare, the NCDNT was created.
  • Efforts towards Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG):
    • PVTGs are more vulnerable among the tribal groups.
    • They have some basic characteristics: they are mostly homogenous, with a small population, relatively physically isolated, social institutes cast in a simple mould, absence of written language, relatively simple technology and a slower rate of change etc.
    • 75 tribal groups have been categorized by Ministry of Home Affairs as PVTGs.
    • The Ministry implements the Scheme of “Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)” exclusively for them.


  • Erosion of tribal culture:
    • The rapid pace of urbanisation in tribal-dominated districts is leading to a fast decline in traditions and cultural practices.
  • Land alienation:
    • Eviction from forest lands and weak rehabilitation in the name of development and conservation is resulting in loss of cultural linkage with land and means of livelihood for the people.
    • Eg: As per a recent report, coal mines under development threaten to displace at least 165 villages and affect 87,630 families, of which 41,508 families live in areas where the predominant population is tribal communities.
  • Lagging in human development:
    • Despite positive discrimination in matters like education, employment and healthcare, the indicator of human development among tribal is lagging.  Eg:
      • Literacy rate among STs stood at 59 percent in 2011 while national average stood at 74 percent.
      • Infant health: Infant Mortality Rate stood to 41.6 among STs, while the national average was 30 per 1000 births.
      • There is also a high prevalence of malnutrition, genetic disorders and alcohol abuse among tribals.
  • Resource exploitation:
    • Governments have often used other legislations to bypass the gram sabha’s permission on matters like land acquisitions and mining lease.
    • Eg: In Korba district of Chhattisgarh, government is acquiring land using the Coal Bearing Act of 1957 – something that experts argue is illegal and against the spirit of PESA.
  • Limited implementation of provisions:
    • Implementation of various effort for tribal welfare remains a challenge because of factors like poor awareness among the people, corruption, weak political will among bureaucracy etc.
    • Eg: PESA remains disempowered as 40% of the states under its purview, like Jharkhand, have not framed their rules for its implementation.
  • Colonial attitude of officials:
    • Eg: There is a huge resistance from the forest department in the sharing of power with Gram Sabha for conservation and management of forest resources.
  • Insurgency:
    • Developmental imbalances have been a root cause behind the emergence of tribal belts as hotspots of insurgence. Eg: The red corridor of Maoism
    • Also, occasional skirmishes and human right violations have created resentment against security forces in tribal belts.


  • Actualise economic growth and development in tribal lives through targeted policies and decentralised implementation. 
  • Capacity building: Large-scale awareness and information dissemination campaigns are required to educate on the rights and responsibilities of common man, member of gram sabha, bureaucracy and other stakeholder.
  • Devolution of Powers and Responsibilities: State governments should follow the principle of subsidiarity and devolve more powers to the gram sabhas.
  • Continuous evaluation of efforts, through measures like social audits, digitisation etc.


Q. Why are the tribals in India referred to as ‘the Scheduled Tribes’? Indicate the major provisions enshrined in the Constitution of India for their upliftment. (UPCS GS 1, 2016)