The Report of the Advisory Committee on the Revision of the Lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
The Advisory Committee on the Revision of the Lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was constituted by the Department of Social Security, Government of India in June 1965. B.N. Lokur, then the law secretary to the central government, was its chairperson.
The Committee was tasked with advising the government on proposals by the states and union territories (UTs) to revise existing Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) lists in a “rational and scientific manner.” It advised the government on whether SC/ST status given to a caste or a tribe living in a particular area of a state or UT should also be given to people from those groups in other areas of the state or UT, or in other states or UTs.The report contains the revised state-wise list of SCs and STs. It also has the names of groups that the Committee felt should be included or excluded from the lists, and the proposals that the Committee rejected. Creating these lists involved examining the historical and scientific background of over 800 tribal communities, and assessing their social, educational and economic conditions. Eligibility was evaluated based on “primitive traits, distinct culture, geographical isolation, shyness of contact with the community at large, and backwardness.”
Under Article 341 and 342 of the Indian Penal Code, the President can decide whether a caste, race, tribe or groups within these communities should be considered as SC or ST in a state or UT.
The Constitution of India does not explicitly prescribe any principles for drawing up lists of the SCs or STs. However, as stated in this report, the Constitution indicates that ‘extreme social, educational and economic backwardness’ would qualify a caste or tribe for inclusion in these lists.
The first SC list was compiled in 1936 under the Government of India (Scheduled Castes) Order under the Government of India Act, 1935. It was subsequently revised in 1950. Both lists were based on a list of the ‘depressed classes’ in the 1931 Census.
In the 1936 and 1950 lists of SCs, ‘untouchability’ is the criterion for SC status. Since the practice of untouchability was banned in 1955, the Committee’s revised list of SCs in 1965 has as its criterion the ‘extreme social, educational and economic backwardness’ of castes due to untouchability.
The Committee observes that development schemes designed for SCs and STs had not benefitted the Denotified and Nomadic Tribes. This was due to their small numbers and tendency to migrate constantly. The Committee recommends that these tribes be excluded from the SC and ST lists and considered as distinct groups, with schemes specifically designed for them.
The report says that the central government’s three Five Year Plans after Independence afforded the SCs and STs several ‘developmental benefits’, and they benefitted from supplementary schemes too. Their educational and economic standards improved and social barriers ‘visibly crumbled’ (especially in urban and industrialised areas). So the Committee feels that new claims for special treatment for the non-Scheduled Castes and non-Scheduled Tribes are not warranted.
According to previous commissions tasked with making lists of SCs and STs, organisations of non-Scheduled Castes and non-Scheduled Tribes often sought SC or ST status in several states. More ‘advanced communities’ were particularly interested in the reservations in Legislatures, Panchayati Raj institutions and local bodies that came with such a status.
The Committee notes that some communities like the Gujjars, Gaddis and Banjaras, which cannot be classified as Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes, deserve special assistance. It adds that it is not enough to treat them as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) because they require more aid than has been provided to the OBCs.
While revising the SC and ST lists, the Committee excluded some castes and tribes that were previously in the lists. It recommends that these castes and tribes not be deprived of the benefits that accompany SC/ST status immediately – and that the benefits be withdrawn in phases.
Focus and Factoids by Rounak Bhat.
Advisory Committee on the Revision of the Lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
The Committee’s chairman was B.N. Lokur, and its members included A.D. Pande and N. Sundaram.
Department of Social Security, Government of India