National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes: Report – Volume I
The National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes was constituted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2005. Its mandate was to study the socio-economic conditions of the “most disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of Indian society” and to identify measures for their development.
To understand the problems of Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic tribes, the Commission visited 18 states and union territories. It interacted with members of these tribes and their representatives as also ministers of state in charge of their welfare.
Where the Commission could not locate and access data about these groups, it was collated from a wide variety of sources. Experts in anthropology, sociology, social work, media and statistics as well as social activists were also consulted. The Commission also tried to define Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic tribes.This report contains the Commission’s findings and recommendations – including the implementation of housing, education and employment programmes.
The Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 was repealed in 1952 but continued to adversely impact the castes and the communities branded as ‘criminal’ – even in 2008, the police and society regarded Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes with suspicion.
Denotified and Nomadic Tribes constituted nearly 10 per cent of the population in India – there were around 150 Denotified tribes and around 500 different Nomadic Tribes.
The Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) lists included numerous Denotified Tribes. However, they had not been able to claim the benefits of affirmative action programmes of the central and state governments because of a lack of awareness. They continued to be the most disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of society.
The Commission found the lists compiled by the states and union territories of Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes incomplete. The Commission prepared its own state-wise lists of 647 Nomadic communities after extensive literature reviews. These lists were to be sent to the states for inclusion of the missing communities in their own lists.
In some state lists, the name of a community appeared twice but with different spellings. Such entries, the Commission said, could be merged. It also said that subgroups of larger communities could be brought under a single name.
Derogatory names and insulting prefixes in the state lists should be avoided, the Commission said, and replaced with alternatives after consulting members of those communities. For instance, the Andhra Pradesh list had names such as Donga Yathas and Donga Dasari – Donga means thief in Telugu. Similarly, the Tamil Nadu list included Kepmaris, a derogatory term for those involved in petty thievery.
The Andhra government constituted the Backward Classes Finance Corporation in 1974 to implement various schemes for the socio-economic development of the Backward Classes, which included Denotified communities. Similarly, the Madhya Pradesh government established the Madhya Pradesh Rajya Vimukt, Ghumakkad and Ardh Ghumakkad Jati Vikas Abhikaran in 1996, which implemented self-employment programmes and basic infrastructural development works for Denotified and Nomadic communities.
The Maharashtra government introduced category-wise reservation for candidates belonging to the Vimukt Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNTs), the Socially Backward Classes (SBCs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in education and employment.
The Delhi government implemented a Scheme for Welfare Centre for Denotified Tribes for vocational training in crafts, tailoring, sewing, embroidery, and food and nutrition of women and girls of Denotified communities. Residential homes were also set up to provide institutional care and education to their children.
Of the 602 hostels for students up to Class 12 in Rajasthan, 30 were exclusively for students from Denotified and Nomadic communities; they also provided scholarships.
Of the 973 government hostels for Backward Class/Most Backward Class students in Tamil Nadu, 132 were exclusively for students from Denotified communities. For the Paramalai Kallar community (a numerically dominant DNC), the government ran 260 Kallar reclamation schools and 48 hostels with 48,898 students.
Over time, the traditional occupation of Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic communities changed due to various factors, such as the policies of the British and Indian governments, globalisation, modernisation, urbanisation, technological advancements, changes in agricultural practices, market interventions and commercialisation.
Focus and Factoids by Sushmita Iyer.
National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes
The members of the Commission were: Balkrishna Sidram Renke (Chairman), Laxmabhai K. Patni (Member) and Lakshmi Chand (Member Secretary).
Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, New Delhi
30 Jun, 2008