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15 Jun 2017

Relook at Gorkha ST status plea

Basant Kumar Mohanty, TT, New Delhi, June 14: The Centre has decided to re-constitute a panel to examine the demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to 11 Gorkha communities, at a time Darjeeling is on the boil over the statehood issue.
The communities - Bhujel, Gurung, Mangar, Newar, Jogi, Khas, Rai, Sunwar, Thami, Yakkha and Dhimal - live in Darjeeling and Sikkim. They constitute about 30 to 40 per cent of the population of Darjeeling.
In April 2016, the Union tribal affairs ministry had set up a committee under its then joint secretary, Ashok Pai, to examine the demand. However, Pai was later transferred.
Vishu Maini, the deputy director-general in the ministry, was then made the chairperson of the committee. Maini and the other committee members had visited Darjeeling last November for a field survey.
The tribal affairs ministry headed by Jual Oram last month decided to disband the committee for its failure to file a report and reconstitute a new panel under another joint secretary-level officer and some experts from the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI), senior ministry officials told The Telegraph.
However, the ministry later realised that the expert from AnSI had already retired. It has selected another expert from Delhi University and the appointment will be notified soon, officials said.
"The panel will be given three months' time to submit the report. Further action will be taken based on the recommendations," a senior official said.
The Darjeeling MP and Union minister of state for agriculture, S.S. Ahluwalia of the BJP, had last year met Oram to demand the ST status for the 11 communities. The Mamata Banerjee government in Bengal too had recommended the grant of the ST status when the UPA was in power.
According to the norms, ST status is granted to communities through amendments to the list of Scheduled Tribes. The Centre moves a bill in Parliament to amend the list. The ST list has nearly 700 communities.
These communities are entitled to benefits such as reservations in jobs and education, residential schooling and protection of their land. They are various other schemes that are implemented with special tribal sub-plan funds.
Usually, the state government recommends the inclusion of a particular community in the ST list. The tribal affairs ministry seeks the opinion of the registrar general of India and the National Commission for STs, after which the bill is tabled in Parliament.
Former Darjeeling MLA Trilok Deewan said the demand of the Gorkha communities was "legitimate", but had never been accepted by the Centre.
"Various other communities have succeeded in getting ST status, but these 11 communities have not. It is because these communities have failed to lobby unlike the others," Deewan, a former Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader, said.
He said the Tamang and Limboo communities were granted ST status in 2003.
When Sikkim became a part of India in 1975, the Union home ministry had asked its government to recommend all state communities for inclusion in the ST list. But the state government had recommended only the Bhutias and the Lepchas. In 2003, the Sikkim government recommended the inclusion of the Tamangs and the Limboos.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VIVEK CHHETRI

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