BJP Member of Parliament (MP) from Bharuch Mansukh Vasava has written to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani complaining delay in the inquiry of the committee formed to identify members of Rabari, Bharwad and Charan (RBC) communities who have got legitimate or illegitimate Scheduled Tribe (ST) certificates.
Vasava has also demanded that the committee completes its inquiry expeditiously and fake ST certificates of those from the RBC communities who got it inappropriately or fraudulently be rejected immediately.
In July last year, the Gujarat government had declared to form a five-member committee, headed by a retired judge of high court, to decide the legitimate members of RBC communities living in ‘Nesses’ (tiny, oval-shaped hutments made of mud) of Gir, Barda and Alech forest regions of the state who have got ST status.
Indian government had – through a notification dated October 29, 1956 – conferred ST status on people from RBC communities living in the Nesses of Gir, Barda and Alech in Gujarat. However, tribal community leaders have been protesting alleging that a number of RBC community people who do not live in Nesses have managed to get ST certificates in violation of the 1956 notification and are enjoying undue reservation benefits, mainly in government jobs.
Tribal community leaders claim that initially the ST status was granted to around 480 families of RBC communities living in the Nesses of Gir-Barda-Alech, but currently thousands of people have got “fake” ST certificates from the communities to take undue advantage.
On top of this, it is also the demand of tribal community groups to remove the RBC communities from the list of Scheduled Tribes in the state claiming that they do not have the characteristics of tribals.
In the beginning of 2020, tribal community leaders had protested in Gandhinagar with the demand of rejecting ST status of ‘false tribals’. Simultaneously, some leaders of Rabari, Bharvad and Charan communities also held protest against invalidation of tribal caste certificate of some of their candidates in a government recruitment then in Gandhinagar.
And to resolve this issue and decide the legitimate beneficiaries of ST status from among the RBC communities, the committee has been formed by the state government on August 4, 2020. It is headed by retired judge of Gujarat High Court D G Karia. Other members of the Committee include two retired district judges V M Chaudhary and I B Vaghela, retired IAS officer B K Kumar, Professor J C Patel, retired forest officer R D Katara, and retired additional collector C R Sangada. Initially, the committee was expected to complete its inquiry within three months. However, since its formation, the committee has got two extensions from the state government and its latest term expires in November this year.
In his letter to the CM last week, Vasava has stated, “The committee has started procedure to verify fake and real certificates, but a lot of delay is happening in the inquiry. Various tribal community groups believe that the inquiry should be done expeditiously and fake certificates of those among RBC communities must be cancelled immediately and a report in that regard be sent to the Union government immediately…”
Vasava told The Indian Express, “When tribal people from different tribal organisations were protesting in Gandhinagar, we (tribal political leaders) met Vijaybhai Rupani and briefed him about the issue. We assured the agitating tribal leaders that… the government is looking in a positive direction. We also told them that the government will appoint a high-level inquiry committee… We have found that the work is moving at snail pace…”
Member secretary of the Committee, C R Sangada said, “The work is in progress and we are checking the pedigree of those residents of Gir, Barda, Alech (nesse areas) and it is time-consuming work. The (initial) time period given to us was of three months, but as we have to do lot of work like accessing the old documents, we have been given more time from the government to submit the findings.”
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