GUWAHATI, Aug 8 - Hinting that the six agitating communities of Assam had a �good� chance of getting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram today said that the Centre would bring down the number of criteria for scheduling a tribe to three from the existing five conditions in view of the changing circumstances.
As of today, applications by over 1,000 communities seeking ST status are pending with the Centre, he added.
Oram, who was addressing a regional seminar on �Vision Document for STs of the North East� organised by the Akhil Bharatiya Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram at Shilpgram, said that two-three months would be needed to effect the desired changes in the modalities.
�The five existing conditions for scheduling a tribe are losing their relevance and we want to bring down the number of criteria to three. The matter is under review and we also intend to undo the historical injustice done to certain tribes who deserved the ST status but were kept outside its purview for no fault of theirs,� he said.
Primitive traits, geographical isolation, distinct culture, shyness of contact with communities at large and economic backwardness are the five criteria that a community needs to fulfil to be qualified for the ST status.
Oram added that phonetic variations in the English (official) names of tribes and the resultant erroneous official interpretation did harm to the cause of scheduling, depriving genuine communities that deserved the ST status.
�As of today, shyness of contact, which has been one of the conditions for scheduling a tribe, is no longer relevant except one or two cases such as the Jarawa community of the Andamans. The criterion of geographical review is also under review and we will now seek an ethnographical report vis-�-vis scheduling,� he said.
Pointing out that scheduling was a long-drawn and multi-disciplinary process involving several stages, the Union minister said that the matter involved seeking opinion from the State government concerned, the Registrar General of India (RGI), and the National Commission of Scheduled Tribes.
On a lighter vein, Oram said that in the earlier days, not many demanded the ST status, but lately, more and more were demanding it in view of the benefits accruing from it.
�The Punjab Chief Minister recently wrote to me, seeking ST status for 18 communities which, he said, had been wrongly included in the Scheduled Caste (SC) list,� he said.
Asserting that his ministry was committed to addressing the pressing concerns of the tribal populace, Oram said that deliberations with representatives of various groups would help the decision-making process via-a-vis tribal affairs.
�This vision document for the North East tribal people will definitely help us in formulating relevant policies. Workable suggestions will be implemented,� he said.
Stressing the need for taking the people into confidence before clearing any big industrial project, Oram said that legitimate concerns of the affected people must be addressed by the governments.
On the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, Oram said that the good thing about the Act was that it had for the first time recognised the rights of the tribal people traditionally living in forests and ensured that they got facilities such as power, water, etc.
He added that the State government had a big role to play in implementing the Act even though it was a Central legislation.