The indefinite Rail-Roko movement called by the Kurmi community began today in Jharkhand.
- The members of the Kurmi community are demanding their inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe list.
- After the Calcutta High Court banned the movement in West Bengal, the Kurmi community withdrew the movement in West Bengal. Besides, the agitators have gathered near Jharkhand's Gomo, Muri, and Nimdih railway stations.
What is the issue?
Kurmis were not included among the communities classified as STs in the 1931 Census and were excluded from the ST list in 1950.
- The Jharkhand and West Bengal governments recommended the community be added to the ST list rather than be categorized as OBCs.
- However, the Tribal Research Institute (TRI) recommended that Kurmis are a sub-caste of Kunbis, so they should not be part of Tribal Communities. The Central Government rejected the demand for Kurmis to be included in Scheduled Tribes (STs).
- In West Bengal, Odisha, and Jharkhand — where Kurmi is written as 'Kudmi' — Kurmis want to be included among Scheduled Tribes.
- The Kurmi community speaks the Kurmali language primarily in the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha.
- The Kurmali language is a member of the Indo-Aryan language family and belongs to the Bihari language family. It shares some similarities with Maithili and Magahi. It's script is "Kurmi Kudali", a modified version of the Devanagari script.
Who are Scheduled Tribes?
These communities suffered from extreme social, educational and economic backwardness due to a lack of infrastructure facilities, primitive agricultural practices, and geographical land isolation.
The Constitution of India in Article 366 prescribes that the Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communities as are included under Article 342 of the Constitution.
Provisions under Article 342
Articles 342(1) Scheduled Tribes-the President in any State or Union Territory, and in case of a State after consultation with the Governor, can specify the communities within tribes or tribal communities as Scheduled Tribes.
- Article 342(2): Parliament may include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Tribes considering notification issued by the President under clause (1) of Artice 342.
- The Constitution has not mentioned any criteria for the specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe.
- Primitiveness, shyness and social, educational, geographical isolation, and economic backwardness can distinguish tribes from other communities.
- These criteria were included in the definitions of tribal Communities recognized after the 1931 census.
Tribal Research Institute
Tribal Research Institute (TRI) is the research body of the Ministry of Tribal affairs at state level .
- It is envisaged that TRIs should focus on their core responsibilities as body of knowledge & research more or less as a think tank for tribal development, preservation of tribal cultural heritage, providing inputs to States for evidence based planning and appropriate legislations, capacity building of tribals and persons / institutions associated with tribal affairs, dissemination of information and creation of awareness .
- There are 26 Tribal Research Institute (TRIs) supported by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs,Government of India.
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003.
By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely- (i) the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), and (ii) the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) w.e.f. 19 February, 2004.
The term of office of Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and each member is three years from the date of assumption of charge. The Chairperson has been given the rank of Union Cabinet Minister, and the Vice-Chairperson that of a Minister of State and other Members have the rank of a Secretary to the Government of India.