Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are among the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups in India. With its focus on ‘faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth’ the 12th Five Year Plan highlights that concerns of the poor, the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities, differently abled and other marginalised groups must be addressed for growth to be inclusive.
The Government of India has enacted progressive legislation, programmes and schemes for the development and empowerment of the SCs and STs. The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA); The Provision of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996; Minor Forest Produce Act 2005; and the Tribal Sub-Plan Strategy are focused on the socio-economic empowerment of STs. The Land Acquisition Bill, which has been renamed as The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012 has a separate Chapter to protect the interests of SCs and STs. The Parliament of India passed The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Bill, 2013 in September 2013. This bill aims to eliminate the inhuman practice of manual scavenging and rehabilitation of liberated manual scavengers, all of them who belong to the Scheduled Castes.
Securing rights to forest produce enhances and sustain livelihood and economic security.
The Government of India also has special schemes to enable access to opportunities including scholarships for education, financial support and skill building for setting up enterprises, reservations in jobs, and special courts to address instances of atrocities and violence.
Through the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) and the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP), the Government of India is channelling funds from the Planning Commission for the development of SCs and STs respectively. Of the total Plan budget, as of 2001, the Government of India has earmarked 16 per cent for the development of SCs and 8 per for the development of STs, in the Union and State Budgets.
A High Level Committee (HLC) will prepare a position paper on the present socioeconomic, health and educational status of STs and suggest a way forward. The HLC shall suggest policy initiatives as well as effective outcome-oriented measures to improve development indicators and strengthen public service delivery to STs and other tribal populations.
In order to develop further clarity on the interpretation of the Act and to streamline its implementation by the States, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs undertook an intensive exercise through organizing Regional Consultations in collaboration with UNDP.
Training Module for Government Functionaries on Forest Rights Act, 2006
The module, published as part of a joint partnership between the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and UNDP, addresses the training needs of government functionaries and field staff on the effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act across the country. The module, which also includes frequently asked questions, focuses on legal procedures, claim mechanisms, post-claim processes and institutional arrangements to facilitate forest land entitlements to eligible persons and communities.