R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Feb 23 – All the tribes bracketed as “tea tribes” in Assam will not be considered for the status of Scheduled Tribes (ST) by the Government of India. Meanwhile, the Centre has started the process of granting ST status to six communities of the State on the basis of a recommendation of a Parliamentary committee.
Highly placed sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) told The Assam Tribune that as many as 97 tribes living in Assam are bracketed as “tea tribes”. Though there was a demand for granting ST status to the “tea tribes” as a whole, it would not be possible as a majority of the tribes bracketed as “tea tribes” do not fulfill the criteria for being considered for the demand. Sources said that after a thorough examination of the background of the tribes, it was decided that among the tribes bracketed as “tea tribes”, only 26 would be considered for ST status.
Giving details of the logic behind the decision, sources said that among the tribes bracketed as “tea tribes” in Assam, only 26 are considered as tribals in other places of the country, particularly in the states from which they originally migrated to Assam to work in the tea gardens during the British regime. All the others bracketed as “tea tribes” are considered as other backward classes and more other backward classes in other parts of the country, particularly in the places of their origin and thus, they cannot be given the status of Scheduled Tribes in Assam. Interestingly, a few senior political leaders of the State, who belong to the tea tribes, would not get ST status following the decision of the Government of India.
On the demand for ST status by five other communities of Assam, sources said the matter was under serious consideration of the Government of India. Sources revealed that way back in 2002, a Parliamentary Standing Committee had recommended granting ST status to six communities of Assam and the issue was now being considered on the basis of that recommendation. A detailed report with the recommendation for granting ST status to six communities of Assam has also been prepared by the MHA on the basis of the Parliamentary committee’s recommendation and it is for the Tribal Affairs Ministry to take the final decision in this regard.