Q . The Supreme Court’s recent verdict over the tribes has put a question over the Forest Rights Act 2006 and the rights and safeguards provided to the Scheduled Tribes by the Constitution. In this context examine the role and powers of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. 18TH, NOVEMBER,2020 (15 marks, 250 words, GS-2)                                                                              




  • In the first para what the Forest Rights Act provided and the recent SC judgement
  • The next para about the impact of the verdict
  • The third para about the rights and safeguards under the Constitution and role of NCST
  • Concluding with the shortcomings with the NCST and way forward

Recently the Supreme Court ordered the evacuation of those tribes from forest land who failed to provide required documentation of their stay as required under the Forest Rights Act 2006. This has put the future of lakhs of tribals at mercy of officials, they may lose the only source of livelihood and food i.e. forest.

There are certain rights and safeguards provided by the Constitution and Acts to the tribes which includes-

Constitutional safeguards-

  • Educational and Cultural safeguards
      • Article 15(4)- special provisions for advancement of other backward classes, which includes Scheduled Tribes (STs)
      • Article 29- Protection of interests of Minorities
      • Article 46- State to promote educational and economic interests of weaker sections including SCs and STs and protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation
      • Article 350- Right to conserve distinct language script or culture
      • Article 350A- instruction in mother tongue
  • Social safeguards
      • Article 23- prohibiting human trafficking and forced labour like beggar
      • Article 24- forbidding child labour
  • Economic safeguards
      • Article 244(1)- Application of 5th Schedule in Scheduled Areas (SAs) other than the areas covered in 6th Schedule
      • Article 275- grants-in-aid to specified States (STs and SAs) covered under 5th & 6th Schedule
  • Political safeguards
      • Article 164(1)- provides for Tribal Affairs Ministries in Bihar, MP and Odisha
      • Article 330- Reservation of seats for STs in LS
      • Article 337- Reservation of seats for STs in State Legislature
      • Article 334- period of reservation
      • Article 243- Reservation of seats in Panchayats
      • Article 371- special provisions in respect of NE States & Sikkim
  • Service Safeguards
      • Article 16(4)
      • Article 16(4A)
      • Article 335
      • Article 320(40)
  • National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)-
      • Established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A through 89th Constitution Amendment Act 2003, for promoting the interest of the tribes and safeguard them from any exploitation.
      • It has power to investigate in any matter relating to STs.

How government helping them through Acts and Schemes?-

  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights Act) of 2006
  • The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989
  • National Fellowship and Scholarship for Higher Education of ST Students
  • Scholarship to the ST Students for Studies Abroad
  • Tribes Finance and Development Corporation
  • Pre-Matric and Post-Matric Scholarship
  • Minimum Support Price for Minor Forest Produce (MSP for MFP)
  • Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana
  • Eklavya Model Residential School
  • Support to Tribal Research Institutes
  • Tribal Sub-Schemes
  • Ashram Schools in Tribal Sub-Plan Areas
  • Vocational Training Centres in Tribal Areas
  • Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Hostels for ST boys and girls
  • Scheme of Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)

However now emerges the role of National Commission of Scheduled Tribes which is formed for ensuring the safeguard of rights of the tribes. The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes had an origin similar to the NCSC. It was constituted as a separate Commission in 2004 following the amendment of Article 107 and insertion of Article 338A by the Constitution (Eighty-ninth Amendment) Act, 2003. Before that, as mentioned above, monitoring of constitutional safeguards provided to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was done by a common body.

The composition, term, functions, powers and procedure for presentation of Reports in case of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) are similar to that of the NCSC. The constitutional and legal safeguards provided to Scheduled Tribes are also similar to those provided for SCs.

The NCST functions through six units which look after administration, coordination, socio-economic and educational development, service safeguards and atrocities related matters. The NCST has six regional offices which provide it with a regional perspective.

Limitations of NCST

  • Lack of financial Independence: There is lack of independent financial authority over use of the funds.
  • Lack of functionaries: It handles low number of cases, compared to the large number of cases that occur in the country. It is due to lack of staff to deal with the volume of cases that come in.
  • Potential cases remains unaddressed: There is a tendency among staff to concentrate on the more easily manageable service cases where the petitioners are more organised and hence more vocal, and thus neglect the atrocities cases.
  • Issues of conflict of interests: Appointment of active politicians and regular government officials leads to the conflict of interest
  • Lack of Information: The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has no information about the action taken by the concerned department on the advice given by the Commission.


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