A National Commission for De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT) was constituted by the Government of India in February 2014, inter-alia, to prepare a state-wise list of castes belonging to De-notified, Nomadic, and Semi-Nomadic Tribes. Read here to learn more about the DNTs.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has stressed the need to implement the Idate Commission report that has recommended setting up a permanent commission for Nomadic, Semi Nomadic, and De-Notified Tribes (NTs, SNTs, and DNTs) in India.
The commission also maintained that the government must act to repeal the Habitual Offenders Act, of 1952, and if not, the appointment of a representative of the De-notified Tribe community with the nodal officers as stipulated in the Act. It also suggested the non-inclusion of DNTs/NTs/SNTs under the SC/ST/OBC and the formulation of specific policies for the former, among many others.
De-notified, Nomadic, and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (DNTs)
De-notified, Nomadic, and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (DNTs) in India refer to communities historically categorized as “criminal tribes” under the colonial Criminal Tribes Act of 1871.
- These communities faced stigmatization and discrimination, and they were subject to restrictive measures and surveillance.
- The Act was repealed in 1952, but the impact persisted, leading to the identification of these communities as De-notified Tribes (DNTs).
- Over time, the term has expanded to include Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes as well.
De-notified Tribes (DNTs)
- The Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 classified certain communities as inherently criminal, leading to their stigmatization and marginalization.
- Repeal of the Act: In 1952, the Act was repealed, and communities previously labeled as criminal tribes were “de-notified.” However, the impact of historical stigma and discrimination persisted.
- Diverse Groups: DNTs comprise diverse communities with distinct cultural practices, languages, and socio-economic conditions. Examples include the Kanjar, Nat, Pardhi, and Sapera communities.
- Challenges: DNTs often face challenges such as poverty, lack of education, limited access to healthcare, and social exclusion.
- Nomadic Tribes are characterized by their nomadic lifestyle, moving from one place to another in search of livelihood and sustenance.
- Occupations: Their traditional occupations often include herding, hunting, gathering, and trading. Examples of Nomadic Tribes include the Van Gujjars, Lambadis, and Gujjar-Bakarwals.
- Land Rights: Nomadic Tribes often struggle with land rights and recognition, as their lifestyle doesn’t fit into conventional notions of settled agriculture.
- Hybrid Lifestyle: Semi-Nomadic Tribes have a lifestyle that combines settled and nomadic elements. They may practice agriculture during specific seasons and engage in nomadic activities at other times.
- Examples: Communities like the Raikas and Banjaras exhibit semi-nomadic characteristics.
Government Initiatives and Welfare Programs
Inclusion in SC/ST Lists: Many DNTs are included in the Scheduled Castes (SC) or Scheduled Tribes (ST) lists, making them eligible for affirmative action programs.
Education and Skill Development: Initiatives focus on education, skill development, and healthcare to uplift these communities.
- Ambedkar Pre-Matric and Post-Matric Scholarship for DNTs: This Centrally Sponsored Scheme was launched in 2014-15 for the welfare of those DNT students who are not covered under SC, ST, or OBC. The scheme of Pre-matric Scholarships for DNT students helps spread education amongst DNT children, especially the girl child.
- Nanaji Deshmukh Scheme of Construction of Hostels for DNT Boys and Girls: This Centrally Sponsored Scheme, launched in 2014-15, is implemented through State Governments/UT Administrations/Central Universities. The scheme aims to provide hostel facilities to those DNT students; who are not covered under SC, ST, or OBC; to enable them to pursue higher education.
Welfare Schemes: The government has implemented various welfare schemes to address the socio-economic challenges faced by DNTs, Nomadic Tribes, and Semi-Nomadic Tribes.
- The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has constituted the Development and Welfare Board for De-Notified, Nomadic, and Semi-Nomadic Communities (DWBDNCs) for the development and welfare of DNTs.
- The Board has launched a scheme namely the Scheme for Economic Empowerment of DNTs (SEED) in 2022 for its target group.
- The objectives of the Scheme for Economic Empowerment of DNTs (SEED) are,
- To provide coaching of good quality for DNT candidates to enable them to appear in competitive exams,
- To provide health insurance to DNT communities,
- To facilitate livelihood initiatives at the community level to build and strengthen small clusters of DNT/NT/SNT communities’ institutions,
- To provide financial assistance for the construction of houses to members of the DNT communities.
Advocacy and Empowerment
- Civil Society Efforts: Non-governmental organizations and civil society groups work towards the rights and empowerment of DNTs, Nomadic Tribes, and Semi-Nomadic Tribes.
- Awareness Campaigns: Advocacy efforts aim to raise awareness about the historical injustices faced by these communities and promote social inclusion.
- Social Stigma: Despite legal changes, some communities may still face social stigma and discrimination.
- Access to Resources: Limited access to resources, education, and healthcare remains a challenge for many DNTs.
- Limited Inclusion: Many DNTs are not adequately recognized as Scheduled Tribes (ST) or Scheduled Castes (SC), depriving them of affirmative action benefits and government welfare programs.
- Poverty: DNTs often face economic hardships, living in impoverished conditions with limited access to resources and employment opportunities.
- Education Gap: Educational attainment among DNTs is often lower compared to the general population, leading to a lack of skills and reduced access to formal employment.
- Land Rights: Many DNTs, especially Nomadic Tribes, struggle with landlessness and inadequate recognition of their traditional land rights. This poses a significant barrier to their economic well-being.
- Displacement: Development projects, urbanization, and changes in land-use patterns have often led to the displacement of DNT communities, disrupting their traditional lifestyles.
- Economic Exploitation: Vulnerability to economic exploitation is high, especially among Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes engaged in traditional occupations like herding and trading.
- Political Marginalization: Limited representation of DNTs in political and decision-making bodies can result in their issues being overlooked and underrepresented.
- Data Gaps: Limited data and documentation on the socio-economic conditions of DNTs make it challenging to formulate targeted policies and interventions.
- Low Awareness Levels: Many DNT communities lack awareness about their rights, entitlements, and available government schemes.
- Bureaucratic Hurdles: Complicated administrative procedures and bureaucratic hurdles often hinder DNTs’ ability to access government schemes and entitlements.
- Lack of Basic Infrastructure: Insufficient infrastructure in areas inhabited by DNTs, including inadequate schools, healthcare facilities, and transportation, hampers their development.
- Impact of Climate Change: Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes, whose livelihoods are closely tied to natural resources, are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
The recognition and inclusion of De-notified, Nomadic, and Semi-Nomadic Tribes in India are essential for addressing historical injustices and ensuring their socio-economic upliftment.
Government initiatives, civil society efforts, and advocacy play crucial roles in empowering these communities and promoting a more inclusive and just society.
Continued efforts are needed to overcome challenges and provide equal opportunities for the holistic development of DNTs, Nomadic Tribes, and Semi-Nomadic Tribes in India.
-Article by Swathi Satish