Jharkhand has witnessed a series of agitations by the Kurmis, demanding their inclusion in the Scheduled Castes (SC) list. Recently, the Jharkhand Cabinet gave its nod to a proposal to include Kurmis of Chota Nagpur in the list of Scheduled Castes. Following the Cabinet clearance, the bureaucrats were supposed to inform the Centre of the decision. However, while conveying the Jharkhand cabinet’s recommendation to the Union government, a bureaucrat prefixed the word ‘Northern’ to Chota Nagpur. This means that Kurmis of southern Chota Nagpur will not be entitled to SC status. The Jharkhand Cabinet, on the other hand, had recommended SC status for all Kurmi residents of Chota Nagpur.
It may be mentioned here that it was Chota Nagpur plateau – the southern part of the erstwhile Bihar state – that was, historically, known as Jharkhand. The present state of Jharkhand was carved out by adding the district of Santhal Pargana (headquartered at Dumka) of Bhagalpur division to Chota Nagpur. According to the 1961 Census, the region comprising five districts of Dhanbad, Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Palamu and Singhbhoom is called Chota Nagpur. In the 1981 Census, Giridih district, which was carved out by truncating Hazaribagh, was also added to the list. To sum up, today’s Jharkhand is basically Chota Nagpur plus some additional area. Now that the word ‘northern’ has been prefixed to Chota Nagpur, half of the Kurmi population – those living in southern Chota Nagpur – will be deprived of their SC status.
A few years ago, in a letter written to the Centre, a bureaucrat had shot off a missive to the Centre saying that the Kurmis want their inclusion in the Scheduled Castes (SC) list. This, when the Kurmis were agitating for ST status! The question that arises is, how can the bureaucrats twist the recommendations of the Cabinet. First, SC was replaced with ST and now ‘northern’ was prefixed to Chota Nagpur. This seems to be by deliberate design. The Jharkhand government should take suo motto cognizance of the lapses and punish the guilty after holding a proper probe. Otherwise, the bureaucrats will continue to take the Cabinet and its decision lightly.
Published in the January 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine
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