Amidst a face-off between Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda and Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Constitutional (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Fifth Amendment), Bill 2022 to include the Binjhia community and synonyms for several other tribes in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list of Chhattisgarh.
During the discussion, where over 25 MPs spoke, all supporting the inclusion, Mr. Chowdhury took the most time to make his arguments. He attacked the government over welfare measures for the country’s tribal populations, and also made a case for the inclusion of the Kurmi community in the ST list.
Comprehensive Bill needed
The Congress Leader in the Lok Sabha went on to call for a comprehensive Bill to settle the issues of all such communities that have been demanding ST status, as many other members have done over the last week. He said, “I have never seen Mr. Munda come with so many Bills in one sitting of the Session. Some people are saying the government does not have any other business to bring and that is why time is being spent on these legislations. I have no problems with it.”
Mr. Chowdhury also went on to criticise the Narendra Modi-led government for repeatedly saying that they are the ones who “made” a tribal woman the President of the country for the first time. “What is this thinking where members are saying they have given the post of President to her? The post of President is not a form of alms, it is not some donations. Is she not capable of being President? Is she not meritorious enough to be President? But they do not talk of her capabilities. All they say is they have ‘given’ it to her,” he said.
Community demands in process
During his reply to the discussion, Mr. Munda rose to attack the Congress party, alleging that the party had never truly cared about the welfare of tribal communities, saying that the country had had to wait for Atal Bihari Vajpayee to become Prime Minister before getting a Ministry for Tribal Affairs.
“Mr. Chowdhury spoke of the Kurmi community and we are cognizant of their demands and are working towards it as per procedure. But if Congress was truly a national party, it would have spoken about all such communities in the country that are awaiting ST status… You have become limited because your thinking is limited,” the Minister said, rattling out the names of more than 25 communities from across the country whose demands for ST status are currently being processed.
Responding to the week-long demands from MPs about the inclusion of more communities in their respective States, he added, “Tribal communities are defined not by their caste but by their characteristic traits, traits that were set out by the Lokur Committee in 1965.”
“We are working to solve these problems and there is a set out modalities and criteria for declaring ST status for communities and we are the ones doing that work. Despite successive Congress governments since the Lokur committee, why have these communities not got justice till now? If anyone can bring them justice, it is the Narendra Modi-led government alone,” Mr. Munda said.
Despite all MPs rising to support the Bill, most Opposition members made several points about the need for further welfare measures for tribal people in the country and spoke of other communities that need to be included in the ST lists of their respective States.