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Ostracisation Of De-Notified Tribes In India: A Legal Perspective

The legacy of British rule can be seen through specific notification that designated peculiar groups as a criminal also called as de-notified tribes, are the tribes that were originally listed under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. As criminal tribes are addicted to the systematic commission of non bailable offences, once a tribes became notified as a criminal all its members were required to register with the local magistrate failing which they would be charged with crime under the Indian penal code. These provisions clearly now show the lack of faith shown by the British administration on some tribes in India.

The criminal tribes act 1952 repealed the notification that de-notified the tribal communities. This act however was replaced by a series of habitual offenders act that asked police to investigate a suspect criminal tendencies and whether their occupation is conducive to settled way of life. This de-notified tribes were reclassified as a habitual offenders in 1959.

India is perhaps the only country that continues with this orientalist notion of tagging tribes as hereditary criminals. The central government has constituted a national commission for de-notified, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes to specify the economic interventions for raising their living standards through asset creation and self- employment opportunities.

Following are the challenges faced by the community:
  1. Basic infrastructure facilities like drinking water, shelter and sanitation facilities are not available to the communities, healthcare and education facilities are also not available.
  2. Due to the stigma of criminal attached to them in past, they are still treated criminals and tortured by the local administration and police.
  3. Since they are nomadic in nature they do not have a permanent settlement as a result they lack social security cover and are not issued ration card, adhar card, BPL card etc, and hence they are not getting benefits under the government welfare scheme.
  4. The caste categorisation is not very clear for these communities.

Steps to be taken to improve political-social and economic conditions of DNTs:

  1. Political:
    1. Habitual offenders act should be repealed.
    2. Grievances redressal committee should be formed at the district level.
    3. A permanent commission should be formed having a prominent leader and the present of the govt. Officials.
    4. As per the Bhiku Ramji Idate commission recommendation, constitutional protection should be granted to them as per on the basis of SC and STs.
       
  2. Economic:
    1. Provide them a basic needs such as housing, drinking water, food, electricity, school, roads etc.
    2. Appropriate land should be alloted to them for the construction of permanent houses.
    3. A national finance development corporation should be created for their development.
       
  3. Social:
    1. A separate academy should be established to preserve their art and culture, special education and health scheme should be introduce targeting the community.
    2. Fees should be lowered and admission condition for childrean from the communities should be relaxed.
    3. A comprehensive government survey should be conducted to trace their identity in order to recommended them for inclusion in SC, ST and OBCs category.
    4. A part from the basic infrastructure development, technology upgradation is also needed to align these communities to the mainstream Indian society.
       
Recommendation by various committees established:
  1. Kalekar Commission:
    Appointed in 1953 suggested that the criminal tribes should not be called tribes nor should be named criminals or the tag of ex-criminals be attached to them. They could be called de-notified communities and it could be divided into two sections 1) nomadic, 2) settled.
     
  2. The Lokur Committees:
    According to the recommendation of this committee it opined that it would be in the best of interest of the communities. If they are taken out from SC/ST lists and treated exclusively as distinct group with development scheme specially designed to suit them.
     
  3. Justice Venkatachaliah Commission:
    According to the recommendation of the commission the economic and educational development programmes of DNTs should be strenghtened and also constitute a special commission to look into their need and grievances.

Conclusion:
There is immediate need to take comprehensive decision about welfare actions for de-notified tribes all over the country followed by the right sprit of implementation. The criminal branding of the community should be uprooted from the society to ensure that all the other benefits reach them and empower them.

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