Tribal groups are against the move that they fear would eat into their rights and privileges
Assam’s Group of Ministers has set an October 30 deadline for submitting to the Centre its final report on granting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to six communities.
The six communities are Chutiya, Koch-Rajbongshi, Matak, Moran, Tai-Ahom and ‘Tea Tribe’, some of which are categorised as Other Backward Classes. The State’s tribes are opposed to granting ST status to these communities.
The Group of Ministers headed by Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma met the leaders of the six communities on Friday. Later in the evening, he said “60% of the issues” pertaining to granting ST status had been resolved.
“We will submit the final report to the Centre on or before October 30,” he said, adding the State government would wait for the Centre’s decision on the report for the next step.
Dr Sarma insisted the issue was not linked to the 2021 Assembly election.
The Assam government had in January 2019 formed the Group of Ministers to recommend the rights and benefits for new STs. The Centre had sought the group after the introduction of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill in the Parliament.
Prior to meeting the representatives of the six communities, the Group of Ministers had met leaders of the Coordination Committee of the Tribal Organisations of Assam and its constituents. These organisations advised “freezing” the current list of tribes and finding “other ways” of providing benefits to the six communities so that the rights and privileges of the existing STs are not “diluted”.
Assam has two categories of STs – Plains and Hills. Data tabled in the Assembly in February 2019 say there are 14 STs (Plains) and 15 STs (Hills), besides 16 Scheduled Caste communities in the State.