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Report on ST status in 3 months: Centre

By Kalyan Barooah

NEW DELHI, June 23 - The Centre today clarified that the expert committee is likely to take another three months to submit its report on inclusion of the six communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes (ST). The committee was scheduled to submit its report by May 31.

This was conveyed to the representatives of six communities at a meeting chaired by Special Secretary (Internal Security), Mahesh Kumar Singla, at the North Block. The representatives of the six communities were invited by the Centre to discuss their demands.

Sources said that the meeting, which was also joined by Joint Secretary (NE), Satyender Garg, lasted over 90 minutes during which the representatives reiterated their demands.

The delegation was told that the expert committee, appointed by the Centre to look into the demand for according ST status to the six communities, is likely to submit its report in another three months� time.

The delay, the delegation was told, was due to the elections in Assam, as the State Government could not submit vital documents.

Hiteswar Barman, president of the Koch Rajbongshi Chatra Sanstha, told newsmen that they were ready to wait for another six months. �We have waited so long; we don�t mind waiting for another three months,� he said.

Representatives of other communities also expressed the same view and told newsmen that they would wait for the expert panel�s recommendations.

As reported earlier, the Ministry of Home Affairs had on February 28 set up a committee to recommend the modalities for completing the process. The committee was mandated to consult the Assam Government and suggest the modalities for the required reservations and shifting the existing reservation for these communities from OBC to ST.

It will also protect the interests of existing tribals and frame a mechanism to ensure fairness of reservations within these six communities and related security considerations.

The move came after a delegation of six communities from Assam had met Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The then Union Sports Minister and current Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju were present during the meeting.

Rijiju had said that granting of ST status to the six communities � Moran, Muttock, Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi, Sootea and Tea Tribes � was a political promise of the BJP and the NDA government will ensure it.

�If necessary, we will change the modalities for the ST status to the six communities. The whole process is expected to be completed in three months,� he said.

Sonowal had said that Assam�s is a special case and its issues would be specially taken care of.

The pro-talk faction of the ULFA, too, had been seeking ST status to these communities.

The granting of ST status to them will turn Assam into a tribal-dominated State.

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