PUNE: Alleging that bickering in tribes for grabbing benefits of reservations and vague government criteria are hampering progress of 70,000 to 80,000 members of weaker tribes, Vijay Khapekar, an officer of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), has asked, ‘How caste certificates issued by government officials be deemed bogus on vague criteria?’
Khapekar said 33 of the 46 tribes which have received benefit of reservations under the 1976 amendment to the Scheduled Caste and Tribes Act, are deprived of their constitutional right of reservation under the guise of caste certificate verification, a process in which many of the certificates issued after 1967 are declared invalid on criteria that predate Independence.
“Many of the tribes were recorded by the British government to have carried out certain occupations traditionally. This data was put on record before 1950. Since then, the country gained independence, laws were changed and benefits of reservations were extended,” said Khapekar, adding, “Then how can certificates issued after 1967 by the government officers themselves be deemed invalid based on archaic data?”
“The Gond tribes in the British records are shown to have carried out non-menial jobs and are mentioned as Burad, Pradhans (chiefs). Yet, they have no issues in receiving caste certificates and validation,” said Khapekar and added, “But at the same time, the Halba tribe is associated with the Koshti community as the pre-1950 records associate them to weaving work and they are denied caste validity.”
According to Khapekar, this sudden invalidation of caste certificates during verification process has caused many civil servants to lose their jobs even after serving for 3 to 4 decades.
“The Supreme Court has given specific instructions to the government on how a verification committee should be constituted. However, the committees remain incompetent. In such cases, some dominant tribes get benefits at the expense of the weaker tribes,” he said.
According to Khapekar, the confusion between ‘bogus’ and ‘invalid’ certificates must be cleared first.
“How can a certificate issued by an officer of the government, who has been granted powers, be called bogus? During the verification, the certificates are only deemed invalid due to pre-1950 records. They do not become ‘bogus’ or ‘fake’,” Khapekar said, adding, “The government should also define the criteria, based on which these decisions are taken.”