When our government has convinced us and the world that we are in the “endgame” of the pandemic, the more precarious version of the contagion, constantly knocking on the doors, banged and created a catastrophe, which affected nearly every one of us. We all might not be in the same boat but we were in the same hurricane. Apart from the scantiness of oxygen, hospital beds, medicines, ventilators, and vaccines, we Indians are also continuously facing the dearth of necessity, from the first wave itself, that is known as the livelihood. Supreme Court and High Courts raised their brows on the insufficiency of all the covid – related necessities. However, they didn’t show concern towards the breach of right to livelihood. It is an intrinsic and germane part of enforceable fundamental rights as well as unenforceable Directive Principles of State Policy [“DPSP”]. The issue of lack of livelihood or unemployment hasn’t surfaced today, at the time of covid, but has been present for years. However, due attention must be given to the loss of livelihood that has spiked in the pandemic. To add on, there is an inevitable third wave waiting round the corner.Continue reading “Guest Post: Is COVID-Lockdown Really Sabotaging Employment in India?”
India’s Denotified Tribal Communities: A long drawn struggle towards getting recognized under the Indian Constitution
[This is a post by Minnah Abraham, Contributing Editor]
“My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Now since we are talking about lack of representation of certain sections in the political and administrative affairs of the country of India, with the previous article pulling in the shocking percentage ratio of women representatives in the parliament affairs hailing from north-eastern parts of India.
This article will introduce you to the unrepresented and unrecognized section of the vast diaspora of India’s cultural population. The denotified and nomadic, semi-nomadic tribes of India, (Herein ‘NT-DNTs’) often known as Vimukta Jatis, were notified as ‘born criminals’ by the colonial British. Even so much to note that there was an Act for the same ‘Criminal Tribes Act, 1871’ (Herein ‘CTA 1871’) giving immense power to police to arrest and keep track of their movements. At the time of constituting the CTA 1871, a British official, T V Stephen’s comments upon introducing the said Bill, as quoted,
“people from time immemorial have been pursuing the caste system defined job-positions: weaving, carpentry and such were hereditary jobs. So there much have been hereditary criminals also who pursued their forefathers’ profession”
The British found the criminal tribes as a convenient target at that time and by adopting a strategic approach of concentrated limited resources and efforts of police on visible targets enabled acting against these tribes with the police force in order to at least keep other criminal acts from happening in the tension-filled country.
Now exploring the historical beginning which resorted to still keeping those tribes under the pretext of ‘Denotified’ even today, it can be blamed on post-liberalisation policies of independent India for these communities which further alienated them from their land and occupations. Although while repealing the CTA 1871, the assumption still persisted that northern India was inhabited by thugs and dacoits. Even though the communities may be considered as ‘Denotified’ since 1952, but they are regulated by Habitual Offenders Act, 1952, the Probation of Offenders Act 1958 and still invisible and voiceless as well as the unforgotten branding of criminals by the law of the land. This has led to stigmatisation and criminalisation of the Denotified communities, causing an occupational shift and often exclusion respectful work within the informal sector as well as forced entry into sex work, due to lack of reserved opportunities of employment and livelihood. A draft list of Denotified tribes, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes of India as given. Most states do not even acknowledge their presence, nor do have the proper listed records of these existing communities. Owing to their absence of valid certificate/acknowledgement or even the lack of basic identity proof have prevented them from availing basic facilities or entitlement schemes.
The Indian Constitution
As prescribed in Article 38, in particular, pertaining to Directive Principles of State Policy, contain the fundamental principle for the governance of the country, impose on the State to promote and safeguard the welfare of its people as effectively in all sections of society i.e. socially, economically and politically, if striving towards a strong Nation with unassailable bedrock foundation of the national policy framework.
Article 341 of the Constitution provide for the President to specify caste, races or tribes or any groups within those castes, races or tribes with respect to any State or UT, read with Article 342 to provide the specification of the tribal communities deemed to be for the purpose of the constitution to be scheduled tribes in relation to various States and UTs. A Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2008 entails upon the inclusion of the ‘Scheduled Denotified Tribes and Nomadic Tribes’ along with Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Caste wherever it is placed in the Constitution of India. However, not much information lies upon the status of the same. The same Bill recognises NT-DNTs to be legally safeguarded, represented and treated with special care under Article 15, 16, 46, 330, 332, 334, 335, 342 similar to how Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are represented and safeguarded by the Constitution, enjoying the benefits of reservation both in the work and educational institutions. What’s keeping the NT-DNTs from being included in the present Indian laws and lack of provisions for the overall upliftment of these communities?
In Contrast with Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes: several notable committees were constituted and discussed on NT-DNTs, for instance, Lokur Committee suggested it would be in the best interest of these tribal communities to be distinguished from the list of SC/STs and treated exclusively with specially designed development schemes. Mandal Commission, upon the discussion on the same, suggested the categorization to be called ‘Depressed Backward Classes’ due to the severe exclusion from the Indian Society, either denied, prohibited and ever segregated under the pretext of the stigma of nomadism, ex-criminals and all sort of much lesser respected work profiles forced on them. Several Commissions and committee expressed such concerns before arriving at inclusivity solutions:
- To evolve a criterion of definition and classification of Denotified, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes
- To identify the benefits of reservation to the Denotified, Nomadic and Semi- Nomadic Tribes.
- To draw a comprehensive plan to secure and deliver fundamental rights to these communities
- To develop a broad campaign for positive image building in the civil society about these communities.
Even the Planning Committee felt the need to uplift the NT-DNTs being the most backwards community of the country. The Renke Commission or the National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes set up under the chairmanship of Balkrishna Sidram Renke by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment presented its report in 2008. Be that as it may, no attempt has been made so far. Nevertheless, the Union Cabinet has granted approval in 2014 for the constitution of Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities solely to ensure special strategies, designed and implemented effectively to reach these hard-to-reach DNT/NT/SNT as the question on the other hand question its genuineness of the ‘Development and Welfare Board’.
Upon researching and reading articles on this subject matter, it was pertinent for the author to note that several attempts have been made to bring recognition and upliftment strategies for NT-DNTs but none that were seriously given consideration nor implementation of a proper legal provision in the place. Worse, those heterogeneous groups consisting of all menial work profiles such as dancers, snake charmer, juggler and similarly engaged in theatrics often seem like they are sacked or dismissed or left out while discussing tribal affairs and concerns. So as to state, there was a special provision that was made in the 3rd Five Year Plan for this community but discontinued without any valid reasons. Pandit Jawaharlal’s word on uplifting and development of the Denotified has not been taken up over the years till today. As evident, several committees constituted over the year has remarked the same provision i.e. separate legal reservation. Upon observing the plight of the current situation of the NT-DNTs, it is immensely material to introduce inclusivity and upliftment strategies for these communities in order to develop socially, economically as well as intellectually otherwise they will be marginalized further. Note to mention that these communities suffered greatly, or considerably worst hit with no ration card and work due to COVID 19 pandemic and proves worse case scenarios of a failed government in attending to its most weakened sections of Indian society. The benefits of the same will enable the country to prosper due to the massive contributions of its citizens, irrespective of caste, gender, sexuality or other classifications.
Protection of Animal rights under the Indian Constitution
[This is a post by Suvechha Sarkar, Contributing Member]
The whole world is under great threat as a result of the drastic climate change that has been happening for the last three decades. The global warming and the extinction of many animal and plant species have been something which could not be overlooked due to the adverse condition which we are facing in our day to day lives. The most threatened part of nature is that of the trees and animals. In the 21st century, animal managers have been facing greater and bigger problems as compared to ever. They constantly have to keep up with their inventive and innovative sides.
In India, in the past 10 years, there has been a gradual rise in the number of cruelties against animals. It must be stated as the shame of humanity, especially in India where animals are being worshipped. There are provisions in the Indian Constitution, in the Indian Penal Code which lays down laws against the brutalities against animals but the question remains how strict the laws are.
Laws in India regarding the Rights and Welfare of animals
The Indian Constitution lays down some of the Animal Rights under the Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and the Directive Principles of State Policy. Apart from these the rest of the laws and punishments concerning animal rights are listed in Section 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, 1974, the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
SECTION 428 OF INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860
The following act states that if someone causes any harm or mischief by killing or injuring any animal, by any means the value of which is ten rupees or more than that is entitled to maximum 2 years of imprisonment and may be entitled with fine or maybe with both.
SECTION 429 OF THE INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1872
Whoever causes any mischief by killing or injuring any elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, ox, cow or bull or any other animal by any means, the value of which may be fifty rupees or more, the person will be entitled with a punishment of imprisonment for a maximum of 5 years or with fine or maybe both.
SECTION 154 OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE, 1973
A person can file for an FIR against the cruelties towards animals or protect the animal rights, in the nearest or local police station under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. The person under fault will be punished accordingly considering the offence he committed falls under the cognizable or non-cognizable offence.
THE WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, 1972
Under this following act, injuries to both the trees and the wild animals are being prohibited (under Section 39). In the list of wild animals, it consists of all animals including the mammals, birds and the reptiles. For the case of reptiles and the birds, even their eggs fall under the protection of this Act. The punishment for the first offence under this act is imprisonment for three years or maybe a fine of twenty-five thousand rupees or maybe both. For the second offence under this following act, the imprisonment is for a term of seven years with a fine amount of ten thousand rupees.
THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS ACT, 1960
Under this following Act, the law states protect the animals from the cruelties like slaughtering, transportation, cruelty against a pet or not providing an animal with the needed living condition etc. The punishment for the first offence under this act is a fine of a maximum of fifty rupees and in the case of a second offence, the person can be punished with maximum three-month imprisonment or fine of minimum twenty-five rupees and a maximum of hundred rupees. In some cases, it can lead to both at the same time.
Animal rights and the Indian Constitution
The fundamental rights stated in the Constitution of India (Part III) lays down the rights of every citizen of India irrespective of the caste, creed, colour, race, place or religion. The main question which can be raised is what rights do the animals have when it is not only the people who are living in this country. The only fundamental right which can be used for fighting towards the rights of animals is that of Article 21 which is the Right to Life. Article 21 states “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.”
In the case of Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja & Ors., the Supreme Court had introduced some of the animal rights under the following article thus expanding its scope on a large scale. The case was filed against the game of Jallikattu which involved the use of bulls. Across the years, the game had led to the death of many humans along with the concerns for the welfare of these bulls as during the ongoing of the game, they were injured with sticks, knives in order to win. It was in this case, the Supreme Court passed the order in favour of the Animal Welfare Board of India. As a result, the game was banned. The court stated that “Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution is the “Magna Carta of animal rights” and made several observations to safeguard the “life” of animals under Article 21.”
Directive Principles of State Policy
The directive principles are enshrined in Part IV of the Indian Constitution. It consists of fifteen principles which are in no way enforceable in the court of law and in a way helps the states to formulate its laws and policies. Article 48 and Article 48A of the Indian Constitution lays down the principles concerning the welfare of the animals and their rights. The following article talks about the problems regarding the cow slaughter. India is a country where cows are worshipped by people of many religions and considered sacred on a separate level. It states that the farmers or the farms should take enough care of the farm animals especially the cattle. It is stated that the farms should put the effort into making the breed better.
This particular provision prohibiting the slaughter of cows had been a matter of hot debate among the Constituent Assembly members. It was argued if it could be added under the list of the fundamental rights or not but ultimately it was decided to be added to the directive principles since it was in contradiction with the Article 9 of the Indian Constitution which stated the Right to Religion. In the case of Mohd. Hanif Qureshi v. State of Bihar (1959), the court dealt with the same problem. The judgement went in the favor of Article 9 observing that the banning of cow slaughter was next to impossible keeping in mind the diverse religious practices of the Indian citizen.
The fundamental duties pertaining to the protection of animal rights are found in Article 51A, part IV of the Indian Constitution. Just like the directive principles of the State Policy, the fundamental duties are unenforceable in the Court of Law. Only two of the clauses in Article 51A of the Constitution consists of laws which are in concern of animal welfare. It is stated as follows:
“(g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures;
(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.”
There has been an increase in the reports of cases concerning animal abuse and cruelties. As the year 2020 is passing by inside the four walls of our rooms, it is becoming more evident how the caged animals might feel. From cases of poaching to trapping them cruelly in iron traps or ropes, thus injuring them, to the cases of beating the stray dogs or poisoning them, beating them to death, the existence of humanity is constantly being questioned. It is not only the duty of Law to protect the animals. It also depends on us who are sharing the planet with them.
At the present situation, millions of rabbits, mice and various other animals are being used for various scientific experiments. They tend to develop various problems which are not only associated with their physique but also their mind. We need to understand that it’s not only the humans who are affected under the cu=ircumstances of loneliness but also them. The experiments usually involve usage of various drugs over them or even cutting them open in various instances. Many organizations have already been protesting against it but the use of certain animals for experimentation is still legal in all countries. The law should be reformed so that this cruel practice can be stopped because at the end all lives matter, be it humans or animals.
The Indian Laws are constantly developed for the protection of the animals and their welfare but unlike some other countries, the animal laws in our country are far less rigid and as a result, many people are getting away with their act of cruelty. More amendments should be brought in the Constitution of India listing Articles in the context of animal protection and rights. It is indeed a crucial moment for us to prove that humanity still exists among us and has not faded away.