New Delhi: Branded
"criminal tribes" by the British, about 200 so-called Denotified,
Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (DNT), who are among the most poor
and destitute and whose number run into millions, may finally get
a chance to join the national mainstream.
The National Advisory Council (NAC), led by United Progressive
Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, has asked the government to
enumerate these tribes in the current socio-economic and caste
"DNTs should be given special focus in the SECC...and priority
while issuing UID (unique identification) cards," the council said
in its communication to the government that was shared with IANS.
It said the home ministry should issue a special advisory to all
state governments to develop a code of conduct in dealing with
these tribes. The tribes, mostly nomadic communities who at one
time were known to indulge in criminal acts for a living, were
notified as "criminal tribes" under the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871,
by the British government.
The Criminal Tribes Act, 1871, included petty traders,
story-tellers, acrobats, gymnasts, puppeteers, tightrope walkers,
those who entertained public with performing animals such as
bears, monkeys, snakes, owls, birds, pastoral groups and hunting,
gathering and shifting cultivator communities within forests that
traded in forest produce and animals.
After independence, India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru
annulled the act, describing it as "a blot on the law book of free
India". Since then, these communities are referred to as
De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes.
Noting these tribes still suffer from the "criminal tribes"
stigma, the council has stressed their de-criminalisation to
address the development deficit due to lack of skills and capital.
"While the communities were de-notified from the list of criminal
tribes several decades ago, DNTs continue to face deep-seated
discrimination in the societal attitudes," it said.
Though there has been no census of these tribes, their numbers are
estimated to run into millions, the council said. The tribes are
present in almost all states and belong to the Scheduled Caste,
Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Class (OBC) categories.
Besides the element of "bondage" among such tribes still continues
despite stringent measures under the Bonded Labour (Abolition)
Act, 1976, the council said. However, unlike settled communities,
these nomadic communities are not entitled to subsidised
foodgrains, job guarantee and pension schemes, schooling, child
development services and healthcare, the council said.
Many states do not have a list of these tribes and their current
status, as such, is not known. This has made these tribes among
the most underprivileged and destitute communities in India, the
(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted on email@example.com)