- A parliamentary committee has asked the Centre to identify the most backward communities among SCs/STs and focus on their targeted development.
- This marks the first attempt to move away from looking at Dalits and tribals as homogeneous blocs.
- There are complaints that castes with better education and economic conditions corner benefits of affirmative action like job reservations because weaker castes are unable to compete with them.
- The government has been urged to identify the most backward communities urgently and specific schemes should be chalked out and implemented for the amelioration of their socio-economic conditions.
- The grievance has been at the root of demand for sub-categorization which entails division of the list of SCs into sub-groups based on their level of backwardness and dividing the 15% SC reservation among them in proportion to their population.
- The parliamentary panel’s recommendation provides seeking focus on communities within the SC and ST lists without demanding their sub-classification.
- The panel has also asked the Centre to frame a law on SC Sub-Plan (SCSP) which mandates earmarking of budget of Union ministries and departments for Dalit welfare in proportion to its population.
- The committee has argued that “SCSP should have statutory backing to ensure serious and effective implementation of the plan”.
- The provision of Dalit budget has existed for decades but is riddled with problems of implementation and oversight.
- Unlike for OBCs, sub-categorisation of SCs and STs is viewed as constitutionally untenable after a constitution bench of the Supreme Court struck down the initiative of Andhra Pradesh in 2004.
- A bill on SCSP was drafted by UPA-2 government but could not be passed.
- In 2017, the SCSP was rechristened as Allocation for Welfare of SCs.
- The recommendation made by the committee on welfare of SCs and STs appears to nudge the government away from traditional methods of Dalit welfare as till now central schemes have focused on Dalits and tribals as generic groups.
What are the different parliamentary committees?
- Broadly, they are of two kinds: ad hoc committees and the permanent committees.
- Ad hoc committees are appointed for a specific purpose and cease to exist when they finish the task assigned to them and submit a report.
- The principal ad hoc committees are the select and joint committees.
- There are some other ad hoc committees too, but they handle different issues such as privileges, ethics, security, government assurances and food management.
- Besides, Parliament has permanent committees called the standing committees.
- Most Bills, after their introduction, get referred to department-related standing committees, which are permanent and regular bodies.
- There are 24 standing committees, each dealing with specific subjects such as commerce, home affairs, HRD, defence, health etc.
- Each standing committee has 31 members — 21 from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha — nominated by the Speaker and the Chairman.
- Their term lasts a year.
- The idea behind these committees, first set up in 1993, is that with Parliament working for a limited days in a year, Bills, which deal with technical and policy matters, need to be discussed in detail, after taking the view of diverse stakeholders and experts.
- While referring a Bill to a standing committee, the Chairman or the Speaker may specify the time within which it has to submit its report.
- The joint committees and standing committees become defunct after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
- A Bill, which has already been referred to a standing committee and passed by one House may be referred to a select committee by another House.