Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes

 Context: Challenges Faced by Denotified, Nomadic, and Semi-Nomadic Tribes.


    • The ‘Denotified Tribes’ (DNTs) are a heterogenous group engaged in various occupations such as transport, key-making, salt trading, entertaining — acrobats, dancers, snake charmers, jugglers — and pastoralists. 
    • These communities were branded ‘born criminals’ under the colonial-era Criminal Tribes Act, 1871.
    • They were ‘denotified’ in 1952 when independent India repealed this act. But the Habitual Offenders Act, 1952, kicked in soon after.
    • A few of these communities which were listed as de-notified were also nomadic.
  • While most DNTs are spread across the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) categories, some DNTs are not covered in any of the SC. ST or OBC categories.
  • Terms such as nomads and semi-nomads are applied to ‘social groups who undertook a fairly frequent, usually seasonal physical movement as port of their livelihood strategy in the recent past. 
  • The term semi-nomad is mostly used to describe those sections of nomads whose duration, distance and frequency of movement is comparitively less than others. 
  • The distinction between nomads and semi-nomods do not involve distinguishable ethnic categories or social groups, it rather describes the degree of mobility practiced by them.
  • There are nearly 1,500 nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes and 198 denotified tribes, comprising 15 crore Indians, according to the Renke Commission, 2008. 
  • These tribes remain socially and economically marginalised even now, depriving many of them of basic human rights.

Culture and Tradition of Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes

  • The customs of Nomadic communities have a long tradition of continuity and many of their practices claim on ancient heritage. 
  • They have their own Gods and Goddesses. Moreover, their own festivals and celebrations ore diversified.
  • The social and cultural characteristics of nomadic communities are closely related with their economic activities. 
  • As is the case with most of the communities in lndia, large majority of De-notified and nomadic communities are primarily patriarchal.

Status in India

  • It has been estimated that South Asia has the world’s largest nomadic population. In India, roughly 10 per cent of the population is Denotified and Nomadic. 
  • A Development and Welfare Board for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic communities has also been constituted in 2019 under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for Development and Welfare of De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic communities.

Uncounted, Unaccounted

  • The absence of any uniform classification across the country is among the biggest dilemmas regarding DNTs: They are not enumerated separately in the Census, making it difficult to ascertain concrete figures. 
  • Also, these communities are spread across SC, ST and OBC communities in different states. 
  • DNTs, as a whole are not recognised as a separate social category under constitutional schedules. 
  • Many of the communities were subsumed under SC, ST or OBC, but their biggest hurdle is access to schemes and, as a first step, access to the caste certificates.
  • According to the Renke Commission, 2008, although the DNTs are spread across different backward class categories and are entitled to various schemes under these categories, they are unable to access any of these benefits. There were two main reasons for this — one was identity certificates; the other, the lack of awareness.

Schemes for DNT

  • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is implementing the following schemes for the welfare of the DNTs.

Dr. Ambedkar Pre-Matric and Post-Matric Scholarship for DNTs

  • This Centrally Sponsored Scheme was launched for the welfare of those DNT students who are not covered under SC, ST or OBC. 
  • The income ceiling for eligibility is Rs. 2.00 lakh per annum. 
  • The scheme is implemented through State Governments/UT Administrations. 
  • The expenditure is shared between the Centre and the States in the ratio of 75:25.

Nanaji Deshmukh Scheme of Construction of Hostels for DNT Boys and Girls 

  • This Centrally Sponsored Scheme is implemented through State Governments/ UT Administrations/ Central Universities. 
  • The aim of the scheme is to provide hostel facilities to those DNT students; who are not covered under SC, ST or OBC; to enable them to pursue higher education. 
  • The income ceiling for eligibility is Rs. 2.00 lakh per annum. 
  • The expenditure is shared between the Centre and the States in the ratio of 75:25.

Assistance to Voluntary Organization working for the Welfare of Other Backward Classes (OBCs)

  • From the year 2017-18, the scheme “Assistance to Voluntary Organization working for the Welfare of Other Backward Classes (OBCs)” has been extended for DNTs and EBCs as “Central Sector Scheme of Assistance for Skill Development of Backward Classes (OBCs)/ De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (DNTs)/ Economic Backward Classes (EBCs)”.


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