ST certificates to Yobins halted as govt violates constitutional norm

[Tongam Rina]

ITANAGAR, Nov 23: The issuance of Schedule Tribe (ST) certificates to the Yobin tribe has been halted since March 2017, thanks to a faulty notification issued on February 2015 by the state government.
The state cabinet, led by then Chief Minister Nabam Tuki had taken a decision to grant ST status to the Yobin tribe on 4 February, 2015, following which, the Department of Social Justice & Empowerment and Tribal Affairs, issued a notification two days later, proclaiming the tribe as Schedule Tribe of the state.
But the notification came under the scrutiny of the central government as it violated laid down provisions of the Indian constitution.
After the notification was issued, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, New Delhi wrote back to the Chief Secretary in April 2015 stating that notification of Yobin Tribe as Schedule Tribe is not in accordance with the provisions of Article 342 (2) of the Constitution of India and therefore, the notification may be withdrawn.
Two years later, The Pema Khandu-led Government made its first attempt to rectify the mistake of the earlier cabinet.
An order was issued on January 25, 2017 by the Department of Social Justice & Empowerment and Tribal Affairs, wherein it said that the “State cabinet in its meeting held on 4th January, 2017 had approved for cancellation of the Notification ( No. Secy(SW)/SC/St(IN-EX-99/Pt-II dated 06-02-2015) regarding the ‘Yobin Tribe’ as Scheduled Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. The Governor of Arunachal Pradesh is pleased to rescind/ withdraw/ cancel the Notification with immediate effect”.
The notification did not say anything else on the fate of the ST status of the community, according to documents accessed by this daily.
Instead, the cabinet decision in January has led to mass denial of ST certificates to the tribe since March this year, even though the centre has specifically said that responsibility for issuance and verification of scheduled tribe certificates rests with the state government.
While responding to a representation by Avia (Aphu) Ngwazah, General Secretary of the Yobin Tribe Fundamental Rights Forum on the issue, Uttam Kumar Kar, Under Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs on 28 June, 2015 had said that the notification issued by the Government of Arunachal Pradesh in 2015 was not in accordance with the provision of the Constitution of India, but issuance of the ST certificates rests with the state government.
The office of the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Miao in Changlang district in a response to this daily said that ST certificates are currently not being issued to the tribe.
While speaking to this daily, Ngwazah said that Yobins should not be deprived of the certificates as he demanded the state government to take up with the centre for early rectification of the faulty notification.
The Yobin Community has appealed to the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary to help rectify the mistake at the earliest as the community is facing acute difficulties in absence of ST certificates.
This is not the first time that the tribe has been struggling with their tribal identity.
Though they were recognized as APST in 1979, but soon the recognition was withdrawn. The tumultuous journey of the community, which is spread across Aguchi, Dawodi, Gandhigram (Shi-Di), Hazolo, Pritnagar, Maludi, Shidikhu, Sichoto, Mibodi and Ngwazakha villages in Vijoynagar circle (Known locally as Da-Wo-Di valley) as well as in Miao in Changlang district, continues in terms of their Arunachalee identity as well as total deprivation of basic facilities.
Even today, the entire Vijoynagar circle is not accessible by road. Though there is limited air connectivity, the service is weather dependent and villagers have to walk for days together to access basic facilities.