Scheduled Caste | Rural Development in India

Scheduled Caste (हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए यहां क्लिक करें)

Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of its social democracy. What does social democracy mean? It means a way of life that recognizes liberty, equality, and fraternity as the principles of life.

: Dr. B.R Ambedkar
Definition and Inclusion of Scheduled Castes:

Definition of Scheduled Castes ‘Scheduled Castes’ is defined in Article 366(24) of the Constitution of India, as – “such castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within such castes, races or tribes as are deemed under article 341 to be Scheduled Castes for the purpose of this Constitution.”

Article 341 of The Constitution of India states that
  1. The President may with respect to any State or Union Territory and where it is a State after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify the castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within castes, races or tribes which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Castes in relation to that State or Union Territory, as the case may be.
  2. Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Castes specified in a notification issued under clause (1) any caste, race or tribe or part of or group within any caste, race or tribe, but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification.

Indian society historically had a rigid, occupation-based, hierarchical caste system in which the relative place of caste in the social hierarchy was determined largely by its traditional occupation.

In particular, those performing ‘unclean’ or supposedly ‘polluting’ tasks came to be regarded not merely as ‘low’ castes but as ‘untouchables’. The practice of ‘untouchability’ resulted in great injustice to the members of the concerned castes because they were discriminated against in every respect, and denied ownership of productive assets like land, as well as basic rights like education and equality, which resulted in the perpetuation of their extreme socio-economic deprivation.

The 1931 Census, for the first time, systematically categorized certain castes as ‘depressed classes’. Thereafter, the Government of India Act, 1935, for the first time, provided for notification of socially disadvantaged castes as ‘Scheduled Castes’, and a list of such castes was accordingly notified in the Government of India (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1936. The elections to provincial assemblies in British administered areas held in 1937 under the above Act, provided seats reserved exclusively for Scheduled Caste candidates.

Constitutional arrangement:

The Constitution of India, which came into effect on 26.1.1950, inter-alia, abolished “untouchability” and provided several special safeguards for the Scheduled Castes, so as to ensure that they are able to attain equality with the other social groups in the shortest possible time.

These safeguards enabled reservation in elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies and reservation in Government jobs.

The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is the nodal Ministry to oversee the development and empowerment of the Scheduled Castes.

Though the primary responsibility rests with various Central Ministries and State Governments/ Union Territory Administrations, the Ministry of SJ&E has been assigned nodal responsibility in this regard, which also complements their efforts by way of interventions like scholarships, hostels, concessional loans, etc.

In exercise of powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 341 of the Constitution of India, the President so far has made the following six Orders specifying “Scheduled Castes” in 27 States & 5 Union Territories:

  1. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950,
  2. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) (Union Territories) Order, 1951,
  3. The Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir), Scheduled Castes Order, 1956,
  4. The Constitution (Dadra and Nagar Haveli) Scheduled Castes Order, 1962,
  5. The Constitution (Pondicherry), Scheduled Castes Order, 1964, vi. The Constitution (Sikkim) Scheduled Castes Order, 1978.

The above orders have been amended by Acts of Parliament from time to time, the last being in the year 2016. A total of 1263 castes have so far been specified as Scheduled Castes. No community has been specified as Scheduled Caste in respect of the States of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland and the Union territories of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.

Criteria and Procedure for specifying a Caste as a Scheduled Caste: Criterion followed for the inclusion of a community in the list of Scheduled Castes is extremely social, educational and economic backwardness arising out of the traditional practice of untouchability.

The Government of India had laid down modalities in June 1999, which were subsequently amended in June 2002 for considering modifications in the lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which involve following steps:

  1. The complete proposal with ethnographic support, to modify the existing list of SCs is made by the concerned State Government/ Union Territory Administration.
  2. The proposal is then referred to the Registrar General of India (RGI), for seeking comments.
  3. The proposal once not agreed to by the RGI, is referred back to the concerned State Government/Union Territory Administration, for seeking further justification of their proposal, in the light of the comments of the RGI.
  4. The proposal if received back from concerned State Government/Union Territory Administration, with further justifications, is again referred to the RGI for consideration.
  5. If the proposal is not agreed to by the RGI second time, it is rejected with the approval of the Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment.
  6. The proposal agreed to by the RGI, is referred to as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), for seeking comments.
  7. The proposal not agreed to by the NCSC is rejected with the approval of the Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment.
  8. Such proposals, which have been agreed to by the RGI and the NCSC are processed further and introduced as a Bill for consideration and passing by the Parliament under Article 341(2) of the Constitution of India.

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