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Pala seeks ST status for Dalit Christians

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From Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Feb 8: Lok Sabha member from Shillong, Vincent H Pala on Thursday demanded suitable amendments in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to give Dalit Christians the status of Scheduled Tribes (STs) and to bring all left out communities in the ST list.
Speaking during the zero hour in Lok Sabha, Pala said the socio-economic condition of the Dalit Christians remains the same even after they changed their religion. The Dalit Christian Association has also made demands on similar lines, he pointed out.
In Andhra Pradesh, the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups include Bondo Porja and Khond Porja as synonyms of the Porja tribe and the Konda Savaras as a synonym for the Savaras tribe. The government has formed a committee for this specific task which has also visited Meghalaya and others states but the left out communities have not been included in ST list, he said.
The Biate community in Meghalaya should not be tagged with Kuki tribe and they should be considered ST all over India, Pala said.
“I would recommend the government to expedite the process of inclusion of all such communities which are left out in one shot in one Bill,” he said.
Pala also demanded direct funding from the Centre to the ADCs which is the unanimous demand of all councils.
“For more than a year the employees of the ADCs in Meghalaya have not even received their salaries since there is no funding from the state government,” he said.
The former Union minister also demanded full and final implementation of the decades-old peace agreement with the NSCN. Without this there cannot be peace in the Northeast, he cautioned.
On the burgeoning unemployment situation in Meghalaya, Pala said that the ban on coal and limestone mining and timber business without providing any alternative employment has created a huge socio-economic situation. “Conversion of minor minerals to major minerals resulted in greater compliances and loss of livelihood to the people,” he said.
These bans and regulations have disproportionately affected vulnerable communities dependent on these activities for income and alternative livelihood options were not adequately provided, the Congress MP said.
Meghalaya has the highest dependency ratio with 65.6% of the population below 45 years and job creation is crucial to prevent poverty and social issues.
Large scale unemployment fuels frustration and can lead to increase in crime (which has already seen a 24% increase in a decade) and massive drug abuse, in the hill state, Pala said.
Meghalaya faces a double challenge — a youthful demography with high unemployment and outdated labour laws that lack provisions for re-skilling and retraining, the MP said.
He requested the government to introduce provisions for re-skilling and up-skilling programmes, aligned with industry needs with a focus on vocational training, soft skills development, and digital literacy, in Meghalaya. Collaboration between the government and educational institutions is the need of the hour, he added.

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