Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir, I thank my party, All-India Trinamool Congress, for giving me this opportunity to speak here. I rise to speak on the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Second Amendment) Bill, 2022. This Amendment adds entry 37 entry under Tamil Nadu to the Schedule in the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, including Narikovaran and Kurivikkaran Tribes to the list of STs. An estimated 30,000 individuals or 8,500 families in Tamil Nadu belong to this community, forming 0.1 per cent of the State’s population. They were classified as the Most Backward Classes till now. But, that put them in competition with more affluent communities. For example, in 2005, the percentage of STs below the poverty line in rural Tamil Nadu was 32.1 per cent, which is below the national ST average of 47.3 per cent; but, that of the rural OBC and others was 19 per cent. The Lokur Committee in 1965 and the Joint Committee of Parliament in 1967 had recommended the inclusion of this community, pointing out their deprived and vulnerable situation. In 2013, the Union Minister of Tribal Affairs, on the recommendation of the Tamil Nadu Government, and with the approval of the Registrar General of India had agreed to the proposal for inclusion of these communities. Yet, it has taken nearly a decade for the Government to bring an amendment to include them and to extend them the benefits and safeguards which they require and are entitled to. The 2011 Census said that 8.6 per cent of the country’s population was composed of tribal people, amounting to 10.4 crore people. I urge upon the Government to conduct the 2021 census at the earliest so that we can update our data and provide benefits to our most vulnerable citizens. There is a need to release the previous data of the Socio-Economic Caste Census, and conduct the 2021 SECC as well. Let me share some data about the situation of the Scheduled Tribe people in today’s India. A 2022 study by the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics says that life expectancy of adivasi men 5 years lower and advisai women was 4 years lower than the so-called upper-caste Hindus. The NCRB Report of 2021 says that atrocities against the Scheduled Tribes have increased by 6.4 per cent and 12,159 cases of atrocities against the Scheduled Tribes were pending at the end of the year. There was also an increase in violence against advasi women at 26.8 per cent, with rapes against the STs, accounting for 15 per cent of the total rape cases. Similarly, 95.4 cases of atrocities against the STs were pending trial at the end of the year. And, what is the Government doing? To pave way for an ecologically devastating NITI-Aayog-proposed project of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation, the Government has approved the destruction of the forest homes of the particularly vulnerable tribal group, called Shompen, and the Scheduled Tribe Great Nicobarese. Now, new Eklavya Model Residential School guidelines also require 15 acres, and for the school to be set up in sub-districts where more than 20,000 ST people reside, comprising at least 50 per cent of the population. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment had recommended that the criterion be reviewed, pointing out that many forest and hill districts would have trouble finding 15 contiguous acres of land for setting up of schools, and scattered population of tribal people will have to travel far distances to access education. I urge the Government to review these requirements. The educational situation of Scheduled Tribe communities also raises concerns. As per the 2011 Census, the literacy rate for Scheduled Tribes was 59 per cent as compared to 73 per cent for the general population. The Gross Enrolment Ratio(GER) of SC and ST students at the under-graduate level, standing at 23 per cent and 17.2 per cent respectively, is short of the national average of 26.3 per cent. The Central Educational Institutions (Reservations in Admission) Act, 2006, mandates 15 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 27 per cent quotas for SC, ST and OBC students. However, the acceptance rate of applications for SC, ST and OBC in IIMs has been below four per cent for the past four years. The IIM, Ahmedabad, received 78 Ph.D applications from STs between 2018-19 and 2021-22, but only two have been accepted. The IIM, Bangalore, accepted only three out of 188 applications by SCs and none out of the 52 applications by STs. Only 2.5 per cent or 137 ST students out of 3,430 eligible applicants were admitted across all IITs in the last year. In contrast to that, there are 23.51 per cent SC and 5.8 per cent ST of the total population in my home State of West Bengal. According to 2011 Census reports, the STs’ literacy rate in India was, male -68.5 per cent and female – 49.4 per cent. Whereas the West Bengal STs literacy rate was male – 74.15 per cent and female – 43.51 per cent. We have put in place an SC/ST Pension Scheme to take care of the vulnerable elderly in these communities. We have also established various lending programmes to help grow entrepreneurship in these communities. Bengal is the only State in India where a dedicated Scheduled Caste Advisory Council has been set up. This is our vision for the welfare of the Scheduled Caste, which is sadly not being mirrored at the Union level. Our Constitution recognises group identity and its importance for social empowerment of the marginalised. Via these provisions, the Constitution balances between the history of injustice faced by certain groups, and personal liberty. People must be given an assertion of their group identity. Treating every person as an individual would not be sufficient to gain equality and equity of personhood, as it will ignore their different lived realities and caste/tribe identity which require the protection of law. It is the duty of the State to ensure these protections reach people in the best way possible, in both letter and spirit. Thank you.