R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, March 2: The issue of granting the status of Scheduled Tribe to six communities of the State has apparently been put on the hold as the Group of Ministers formed to study the issue and give recommendations failed to submit its report before the declaration of the dates for the elections to the Assam Legislative Assembly.
Six tribes of the State—Koch Rajbongshi, Motok, Moran, Tea Tribes, Chutia and Tai Ahom are demanding the status of Scheduled Tribes and time and again, the Government promised that their demand would be accepted. As the existing tribal groups had expressed apprehension that their rights and privileges would be affected if six new tribes are given the status of Scheduled Tribe, the Government formed a Group of Ministers to study the issue and submit its recommendations so that the same can be sent to the Centre to carry forward the process of granting Scheduled Tribe status to six communities. The Group of Ministers was headed by Finance, Health and Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while, the Minister in Charge of Welfare of Plain Tribes and Backward Classes, Chandan Brahma was the member secretary of the group.
Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that one of the main aims of the Group of Ministers was to find out ways to provide Scheduled Tribe status to six tribes without affecting the rights of the existing tribal groups. The committee held a few rounds of talks with the stakeholders including the communities demanding Scheduled Tribe status and the existing tribal groups. From time to time, several deadlines were announced for the Group of Ministers to submit its recommendations, but every time, the deadline was missed. Interestingly, the last meeting that the group held with the stakeholders was on October 8 and 9 last year and since then no such meeting was held. No internal meeting of the group was also held since then, sources added.
Sources pointed out that as the Model Code of Conduct came into effect with the declaration of the date of the elections, the issue would have to be put on the hold, at least for some time till a new Government assumes office.
Meanwhile, commenting on the issue, general secretary of the Koch Rajbongshi Jatiya Mahasabha Biswajit Ray said that the failure of the Group of Ministers to submit its report even after series of talks with the stakeholders is very unfortunate. He said that over the years, successive Governments were only giving false promises on the issue of granting ST status to six communities. He said that for years, Congress made promises and did nothing. He pointed out that before the 2014 general elections, Narendra Modi had promised to grant ST status to six communities within six months of BJP led Government coming to power, but the promise was not implemented.
Ray pointed out that in recenttimes, the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister visited the State several times, but they did not raise the issue. While, on the other hand, BJP president JP Nadda had announced in a public rally in Silchar that the Centre had granted Scheduled Tribe status to six communities. This proves that the BJP president is not aware of the issue, he added.