During the Independence of India, the Scheduled Caste remained economically dependent, politically powerless and culturally subjugated to the upper caste. This impacted their overall lifestyle and access to food, education and health.

A person shall be held to be a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe if he/she belongs to a caste or a tribe which has been declared as such under the various orders issued by the Government. 

Scheduled CastesScheduled Tribe
Article 341 of the Constitution of India deals with notification of Scheduled Castes. Article 341 of Constitution of India defines as to who would be Scheduled Castes with respect to any State or Union Territory.Article 342 of the Constitution of India deals with the notification of Scheduled Tribes. Article 342 of Constitution of India defines who would be Scheduled Tribes with respect to any State or Union Territory.
Scheduled Castes are about 16.6% of India’s total population as per the 2011 census.Scheduled Tribes comprise about 8.6% of India’s total population as per the 2011 census.
As per the 2011 Census, among Indian states, Punjab had the highest percentage of its population as Scheduled Castes. It is approximately 32%.As per the 2011 census, among Indian states and Union Territories, Mizoram and Lakshadweep had the highest percentage of its population as Scheduled Tribe (approximately 95%).
The percentage of the population as Scheduled Castes in India’s 3 North Eastern States and Island territories was at 0% as per the 2011 censusThe percentage of the population as Scheduled Tribes in the States of Haryana and Punjab was at 0%.
The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, lists 1,108 castes across 28 states in its 1st Schedule.The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, lists 744 tribes across 22 states in its First Schedule.
National Commission for Scheduled Castes is an Indian Constitutional body established to protect the economic, social, educational, cultural interests of people belonging to Scheduled Castes. Article 338 of the Indian Constitution deals with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.National Commission for Scheduled Tribes is an Indian Constitutional body that was established through the 89th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2003. The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has been set up under Article 338 A.
The first commission for Scheduled Castes was constituted in 2004 with Suraj Bahn as the Chairman. Earlier, there was a single Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which was bifurcated after 89th Amendment of Constitution in 2003.The first commission for Scheduled Tribes was constituted in 2004 with Kunwar Singh as its Chairperson.
One of the main functions of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes is to investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Castes under the Constitution of India.One of the main functions of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes is to investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Tribes under the Constitution.

Welfare of Scheduled Castes

Scheduled castes are those castes/races in the country that suffer from extreme social, educational and economic backwardness arising out of age-old practice of untouchability and certain others on account of lack of infrastructure facilities and geographical isolation, and who need special consideration for safeguarding their interests and for their accelerated socio-economic development. These communities were notified as Scheduled Castes as per provisions contained in Clause 1 of Article 341 of the Constitution.

The Constitution contains several provisions in the nature of safeguards for the Scheduled Castes. The following two Acts specifically aim at curbing untouchability and atrocities against SCs and STs, and are therefore very important for the Scheduled Castes :

Constitutional mechanism for upliftment of SC

  • Article 17 abolishes Untouchability.
  • Article 46 requires the State ‘to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
  • Article 335 provides that the claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.
  • Article 15(4) refers to the special provisions for their advancement.
  • Article 16(4A) speaks of “reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of posts in the services under the State in favour of SCs/STs, which are not adequately represented in the services under the State’.
  • Article 338 provides for a National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes with duties to investigate and monitor all matters relating to safeguards provided for them, to inquire into specific complaints and to participate and advise on the planning process of their socio-economic development etc.
  • Article 330 and Article 332 of the Constitution respectively provide for reservation of seats in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People and in the legislative assemblies of the States. Under Part IX relating to the Panchayats and Part IXA of the Constitution relating to the Municipalities, reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in local bodies has been envisaged and provided.

Protection of Civil Rights

  • In pursuance of Article 17 of the Constitution of India, the Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955 was enacted, in which any person forcing the disabilities of untouchability can be sentenced to six months’ imprisonment or a fine or both.
  • This Act provides penalties for the offences like preventing a person from entering into public temples or places of worship, preventing the drawing of water from sacred lakes, tanks, wells etc and other public places.
The ‘Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013’ (MS Act, 2013)
  • Eradication of dry latrines and manual scavenging and rehabilitation of manual scavengers in alternative occupation has been an area of high priority for the Government.
  • The act prohibited the employment of manual scavengers for manually cleaning dry latrines and also the construction of dry toilets (that do not operate with a flush).
  • It provided for imprisonment of up to a year and a fine.
  • Key features of the Act :
    • Prohibits the construction or maintenance of insanitary toilets.
    • Prohibits the engagement or employment of anyone as a manual scavenger violations could result in a years’ imprisonment or a fine of INR 50,000 or both.
    • Prohibits a person from being engaged or employed for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank.
    • Offences under the Act are cognizable and non-bailable.
    • Calls for a survey of manual scavengers in urban and rural areas within a time-bound framework.
  • A Supreme Court order in March, 2014, makes it mandatory for the government to identify all those who died in sewerage work since 1993 and provide Rs.10 lakh each as compensation to their families.

The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

Objectives of the Act are to deliver justice to these communities through proactive efforts to enable them to live in society with dignity and self-esteem and without fear or violence or suppression. Important sections:

  • Section 3(1): Punishment for offences of atrocities by words either written or spoken or by any other means disrespects any late person held in high esteem by members of the SC/ST shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine.
  • Section 15(A)(5): A victim or his dependent shall be entitled to be heard at any proceeding under this Act in respect of bail, discharge, release, parole, conviction or sentence of an accused or any connected proceedings or arguments and File written submission on conviction, acquittal or sentencing.
  • Section 4 Punishment for neglect of duties: Whoever, being a public servant but not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, willfully neglects his duties required to be performed by him under this Act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to one year.

Educational Empowerment

Pre-Matric Scholarship
  • This is a centrally sponsored Scheme, which is implemented by the state governments and union territory administrations, which receive 100 per cent central assistance for the total expenditure under the scheme.
  • Under the Scheme financial assistance is provided for pre-matric education to children of the following target groups, viz., (i) scavengers of dry latrines, (ii) tanners, (iii) flayers and (iv) waste pickers.
National Overseas Scholarship for SCs
  • The Scheme provides for fees charged by institutions as per actual, monthly maintenance allowance, passage visa fee and insurance premium, annual contingency allowance, incidental journey allowance.
  • Financial assistance under the Scheme is provided for a maximum period of 4 years for Ph.D and 3 years for Masters programme.
Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship for SC Students
  • The Scheme provides financial assistance to scheduled caste students for pursuing research studies leading to M. Phil, Ph.D, and equivalent research degree in universities, research institutions and scientific institutions.
Post Matric Scholarship for Scheduled Caste Students (PMS-SC)
  • The Scheme is the single largest intervention by Government of India for educational empowerment of scheduled caste students.
  • Government has recently passed an outlay of Rs 59,000 crore for the post-matric scholarship scheme for students from Scheduled Caste groups.
  • Almost 60 percent of the cost of scheme will be borne by Central government and rest by the states.

Special Central Assistance

Scheduled Castes Development Corporations
  • The main functions of such corporations are identification of eligible SC families and motivating them to undertake economic development schemes, sponsoring the schemes to financial institutions for credit support, providing financial assistance in the form of margin money at low rate of interest and subsidy in order to reduce the repayment liability and providing necessary tie up with other poverty alleviation programmes.
National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSCFD)
  • The broad objective of NSFDC is to provide financial assistance in the form of concessional loans to scheduled caste families, and skill-cum-entrepreneurial training to the youth of the target group, living below double the poverty line for their economic development.
National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC)
  • It is another corporation under the Ministry which provides credit facilities to beneficiaries amongst Safai Karamcharis, manual scavengers and their dependants for income generating activities for socio-economic development through State Channelizing Agencies.
Special Central Assistance (SCA) to Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan (SCSP)
  • It is an umbrella strategy to ensure flow of targeted financial and physical benefits from all the general sectors of development for the benefit of Scheduled Castes.
Venture Capital Fund for Scheduled Castes
  • Government announced the setting up of a Venture Capital Fund for Scheduled Castes in 2014. This was to promote entrepreneurship among the scheduled castes and to provide concessional finance to them.
Credit Enhancement Guarantee Scheme for Scheduled Castes
  • In 2014, the government announced that a sum of Rs 200 crore will be allocated towards credit enhancement facility for young and start-up entrepreneurs, belonging to scheduled castes, who aspire to be part of neo middle class category with an objective to encourage entrepreneurship in the lower strata of the society resulting in job creation.

Other Schemes:

  • Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana (PMAGY): The Centrally Sponsored Pilot Scheme ‘Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana’ (PMAGY) is being implemented for integrated development of Scheduled Castes (SC) majority villages having SC Population concentration > 50%. Initially the scheme was launched in 1000 villages in 5 States viz. Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. The Scheme was further revised w.e.f. 22.01.2015 and extended to 1500 SC majority villages in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Odisha. The principal objective of the Scheme is integrated development of SC Majority Villages:
    1. Primarily through convergent implementation of the relevant Central and State Schemes;
    2. By providing these villages Central Assistance in form of gap-filling funds to the extent of Rs.20.00 lakh per village, to be increased by another 5 lakh if State make a matching contribution.
    3. By providing gap-filling component to take up activities which do not get covered under the existing Central and State Government Schemes are to be taken up under the component of ‘gap filling’.
  • Babu Jagjivan Ram Chhatrawas Yojna: The primary objective of the Scheme is to attract implementing agencies for undertaking hostel construction programme with a view to provide hostel facilities to SC boys and girls studying in middle schools, higher secondary schools, colleges and universities. The Scheme provides central assistance to State Governments/ UT Administrations, Central & State Universities/ Institutions for fresh construction of hostel buildings and for expansion of the existing hostel facilities. The NGOs and Deemed Universities in private sector are eligible for central assistance only for expansion of their existing hostels facilities.
  • Upgradation of Merit of SC Students: The objective of the Scheme is to upgrade the merit of Scheduled Caste students studying in Class IX to XII by providing them with facilities for education in residential /non-residential schools. Central assistance is released to the State Governments/UT Administrations for arranging remedial and special coaching for Scheduled Caste students. While remedial coaching aims at removing deficiencies in school subjects, special coaching is provided with a view to prepare students for competitive examinations for entry into professional courses like Engineering and Medical.
  • Dr. Ambedkar Foundation: Dr. Ambedkar Foundation was set up on 24th March 1992, as a registered body, under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860, under the aegis of the Minsitry of Welfare, Government of India. The primary object of setting up of the Foundation is to promote Dr. Ambedkar’s ideology and philosophy and also to administer some of the schemes which emanated from the Centenary Celebration Committee’s recommendations.
  • Dr. Ambedkar International Centre at Janpath, New Delhi: Setting up of ‘Dr. Ambedkar National Public Library’ now renamed as ‘Dr. Ambedkar International Centre’ at Janpath New Delhi was one of the important decisions taken by the Centenary Celebrations Committee (CCC) of Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar headed by the then Hon’ble Prime Minister of India. As on date the entire land of Plot ‘A’ at Janpath, New Delhi measuring 3.25 acre is in possession of the M/o SJ&E for setting up of the ‘Centre’. The responsibility of the construction of the ‘Centre’ has been assigned to National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) at a cost of Rs. 195.00 crore. The Hon’ble Prime Minister has laid the foundation of Dr. Ambedkar International Centre on 20th April, 2015 and has announced that the project will be completed within a period of twenty months. The National Building Construction Company (NBCC), the executing agency has already started the construction work at site and it is at an advance stage.
  • Dr. Ambedkar National Memorial at 26, Alipur Road, Delhi: The Dr. Ambedkar Mahaparinirvan Sthal at 26, Alipur Road, Delhi, was dedicated to the Nation by the then Hon’ble Prime Minister of India on 02.12.2003 and he had also inaugurated the development work at the Memorial at 26, Alipur Road, Delhi. The responsibility of the construction of Dr. Ambedkar National Memorial has been assigned to the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) at an approx. cost of Rs. 99.00 Crore. The Hon’ble Prime Minister has laid the foundation of the Memorial on 21st March, 2016 and has announced that the project will be completed within a period of twenty months. The CPWD, the executing agency has already started the construction work at site.
  • Babu Jagjivan Ram National Foundation: The Babu Jagjivan Ram National Foundation was established by the Government of India as an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and registered under The Societies Registration Act, 1860 on 14th March 2008. The main aim of the Foundation is to propagate the ideals of the late Babu Jagjivan Ram, on social reform as well as his ideology, philosophy of life, mission and vision to create a casteless and classless society.

Welfare of Scheduled Tribes

Basic Safeguards Provided by Indian Constitution for ST

  • The Constitution of India does not endeavor to define the term ‘tribe‘, however, the term Scheduled Tribe’ was inserted in the Constitution through Article 342 (i).
    • It lays down that ‘the President may, by public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within the tribes or tribal communities or parts which shall, for the purposes of this Constitution, be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes.
    • The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution provides for the setting up a Tribes’ Advisory Council in each of the States having Scheduled Areas.
  • Educational & Cultural Safeguards:
    • Article 15(4): Special provisions for advancement of other backward classes (it includes STs)
    • Article 29: Protection of Interests of Minorities (it includes STs)
    • Article 46:The State shall promote, with special care, the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes, and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
    • Article 350: Right to conserve distinct Language, Script or Culture,
  • Political Safeguards:
    • Article 330: Reservation of seats for STs in Lok Sabha,
    • Article 332: Reservation of seats for STs in State Legislatures
    • Article 243: Reservation of seats in Panchayats.
  • Administrative Safeguard:
    • Article 275: It provides for the grant of special funds by the Union Government to the State Government for promoting the welfare of Scheduled Tribes and providing them with a better administration.

Development of Scheduled Tribes

  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs was set up in 1999 after the bifurcation of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment with the objective of providing more focused approach on the integrated socio-economic development of the Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  • It is the nodal Ministry for overall policy, planning and coordination of programmes for development of ST’s.

Scheduled Areas and Tribal Areas

In order to protect the interests of scheduled tribes with regard to land alienation and other social factors, provisions of the Fifth Schedule and Sixth Schedule have been enshrined in the Constitution:

  • Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) shall be established in states having Scheduled Areas. The role of TAC is to advise the state government on matters pertaining to the welfare and advancement of the scheduled tribes in the state as may be referred to it by the Governor.
  • The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act,1996 (PESA), vide which the provisions of Panchayats, contained in Part IX of the Constitution, were extended to Scheduled Areas, also contain special provisions for the benefit of scheduled tribes. The Sixth Schedule under Article 244 of the Constitution identifies autonomous districts in the tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes

  • National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was set up with effect from 2004 by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338 A in the Constitution, through the Constitution (Eighty-ninth Amendment) Act, 2003.

Tribal Sub Plan

The present Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) strategy was initially developed by an Expert Committee set up by the Ministry of Education and Social Welfare in 1972. The salient features with respect to TSP for states, are: tribals and tribal areas of a state or union territories are given benefits under the TSP, the Sub-Plan should;

  • (a) Identify the problems and need of tribal people and critical gaps in their development;
  • (b) Identify all available resources for TSP;
  • (c) Prepare a broad policy framework for development;
  • (d) Define a suitable administrative strategy for its implementation; and
  • (e) Specify the mechanism for monitoring and evaluation.

The Ministry has issued revised guidelines for inter-state allocation of funds and implementation of programmes/ activities under proviso to Article 275(1) of the Constitution and under special central assistance to Tribal Sub Plan (SCA to TSP) in 2016.

Special Schemes

  • Adivasi Mahila Sashaktikaran Yojana (AMSY) is an exclusive Scheme for the economic development of ST women, at a highly concessional rate of interest.
  • Digital Transformation of Tribal Schools:
    • Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MTA) inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft to support the digital transformation of schools such as Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) and Ashram Schools, among others under the Ministry.
    • It is aimed at building an inclusive, skills-based economy.
  • Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups:
    • Under the scheme, State Governments submits Conservation-cum-Development (CCD) plans on the basis of their requirement.
    • 100% grants-in-aid are made available to States as per the provisions of the scheme.
  • Sankalp se Siddhi’
    • The ‘Sankalp Se Siddhi’ initiative, also known as ‘Mission Van Dhan’, was introduced by the central government in 2021, in line with the Prime Minister’s aim to establish a sustainable livelihood for India’s tribal population.
    • Through this mission, TRIFED aims to expand its operation through convergence of various schemes of different ministries and departments and launch various tribal development programmes in mission mode.
    • Through this mission, establishment of several Van Dhan Vikas Kendras (VDVKs), haat bazaars, mini TRIFOOD units, common facility centres, TRIFOOD parks, SFRUTI (Scheme of Fund for regeneration of traditional industries) clusters, tribes india retail store, e-commerce platform for trifood and tribes, India brands are being targeted.
    • TRIFED has been implementing several noteworthy programmes for the empowerment of the tribals.
      • Over the past two years, the ‘Mechanism for Marketing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) through Minimum Support Price (MSP) & Development of Value Chain for MFP’ has impacted the tribal ecosystem in a major way.
      • TRIFED has also injected Rs. 3000 crores into the tribal economy, even during such difficult times, aided by government push.
      • The Van Dhan tribal start-ups, a component of the same scheme, have emerged as a source of employment generation for tribal gatherers and forest dwellers and the home-bound tribal artisans.
  • Eklavya Model Residential Schools:
    • EMRS is a scheme for making model residential schools for Indian tribals (ST- Scheduled Tribes) across India. It started in the year 1997-98.
    • The EMR School follows the CBSE curriculum.
    • Eklavya Model Residential Schools are being developed to impart quality education to tribal students, with an emphasis on not only academic education but all-round development of tribal students.
    • At present, there are 384 functional schools spanned across the country established at par with Navodaya Vidyalaya with focus on special state-of-the-art facilities for preserving local art and culture besides providing training in sports and skill development.

TRIFED

  • The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED), was set up in 1987. TRIFED has stopped bulk procurement in Minor Forest Produce (MFP) and surplus Agricultural Produce (SAP) from tribals. TRIFED now functions as a ‘market developer’ for tribal products and as ‘service provider’ to its member federations.
  • TRIFED is involved in following initiatives:
    • Van Dhan Vikas Yojana:
      • Van Dhan Scheme, a component of ‘MSP for MFP’, was launched in 2018.
      • An initiative targeting livelihood generation for tribal gatherers and transforming them into entrepreneurs.
      • The idea is to set-up tribal community-owned Van Dhan Vikas Kendra Clusters (VDVKCs) in predominantly forested tribal districts.
      • VDVKs are for providing skill upgradation and capacity building training to tribals and setting up of primary processing and value addition facilities.
    • MSP for MFP:
      • Mechanism for Marketing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) Through Minimum Support Price (MSP) and Development of Value Chain for MFP provide MSP to gatherers of forest produce.
      • The scheme acts as a measure of social safety for MFP gatherers who are primarily members of ST (Scheduled Tribe).
      • The scheme formed a system to ensure fair monetary returns of the gatherers for their endeavour in collection, primary processing, storage, packaging, transportation, etc.
      • MFP includes all non-timber forest produce of plant origin and includes bamboo, canes, fodder, leaves, gums, waxes, dyes, resins and many forms of food including nuts, wild fruits, honey, lac, tusser etc.
    • Tech For Tribals:
      • It aims to transform 5 crore Tribal Entrepreneurs by capacity building and imparting entrepreneurship skills to tribal forest produce gatherers enrolled under the Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana (PMVDY).
      • The program will ensure higher success rate of the Tribal Entrepreneurs by enabling and empowering them to run their business with marketable products with quality certifications.
    • TRIFOOD Scheme:
      • It was launched in August 2020 and promotes value addition to MFP.
      • TRIFOOD parks will produce processed foods from minor forest produce and also from the food gathered by the tribal people in that region.
    • Village and Digital Connect Initiative:
      • To ensure that existing schemes and initiatives reach the tribals, TRIFED’s regional officials across the country have been visiting identified villages with a significant tribal population.
Forest Rights of STs
  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 seeks to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers. As per the Act, the responsibility for recognition and vesting of forest rights and distribution of land rights rests with the state government.
Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana
  • The central government launched an approach, namely, Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana (VKY) with a view to translate the available resource into overall development of tribal population with an outcome-based orientation.
  • The VKY has been adopted as a strategic process. It aims at creating enabling environment for need based and outcome oriented holistic development of tribal people. This process envisages ensuring that all the intended benefits of goods and services under various programmes / schemes of central as well as state governments actually reach the target groups by convergence of resources through appropriate institutional mechanism.

The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to prevent atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. It was enacted when the provisions of the existing laws (such as the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 and Indian Penal Code) were found to be inadequate to check these crimes (defined as ‘atrocities’ in the Act). The preamble of the Act states that the Act is: “to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes, to provide for Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”


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