Over a month after the Telangana Assembly passed a resolution on including the Boya or the Valmiki community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list, the Andhra Pradesh government last week pushed through a similar resolution in the Assembly.
However Andhra Pradesh went further. The Andhra Stage Assembly on Friday, March 24 also passed a resolution urging that the Union Government include Dalit Christians in the Scheduled Castes (SC) list, with Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy saying that the social and economic status of people doesn’t change automatically just because they convert to another religion. The issue of granting SC status to Dalit Christians was discussed during the tenure of Jagan’s father Dr Y S Rajashekar Reddy. This is a long standing demand of the Dalit Christian community with the matter being challenged in the Supreme Court.
Earlier, the Congress government of undivided Andhra Pradesh had also urged the Centre to accept the recommendation. Though both the YSR Congress Party of the CM and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) jostled for their votes, in the last elections in May 2019 they shifted they backed the ruling party.
Currently, a committee headed by former Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan is examining the issue of quotas for Dalit Muslims and Christians. The ideological fountainhead of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), however, has said recently that the current reservation system should not be tinkered with and quota should not be extended to Muslim and Christian Dalits since their religions claim to be egalitarian.
Meanwhile, after the Assembly passed the resolution on including Valmikis in the ST category, Reddy quickly reassured other tribal groups that the inclusion of the Boyas would not affect the existing quotas. In Andhra Pradesh, STs enjoy six per cent reservation. The CM said the resolution was introduced to fulfil a promise he had made to the community during a padayatra he undertook before coming to power in May 2019.
The CM allayed fears that including Valmiki community people from Kurnool, Kadapa, Anantapu
This inclusion of Boyas or Valmikis may only have a negligible impact on Group 1 jobs that come under the non-zoning category. It becomes negligible as only 386 Group 1 jobs have been notified in the last 10 years and the six per cent reservation only amounts to 21 or 22 posts.
The one-man Commission of retired IAS officer Samuel Anand Kumar who studied the social and economic conditions of the Boyas in the four districts and the ST Commission also agreed with this assessment, said the Chief Minister. State government jobs in the zoning system and districts constitute 99 per of the total jobs and the STs of the tribal agency areas would suffer no job loss because of the proposed inclusion of the group.
“The biggest fear of STs is a loss of jobs when other communities are added to the group. The zoning system may offset the inclusion of Boyas/Valmikis in the ST list, it remains to be seen what will happen in other sectors where there is no zoning system,” said ST leader V Ranga Rao.
The Boyas traditionally supported the Congress but as the grand old party’s electoral footprint shrank after the state’s bifurcation in 2014, they shifted to the YSRCP, backing it to the hilt in 2019. The TDP government had also proposed to include Boyas in the ST list. After losing power in 2019, when the demand for inclusion in the ST list was again raised by the community, TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter, saying the community needs help, and requested the Centre to introduce a Bill in Parliament.
“The TDP tried to create divisions by proposing the resolution but not implementing it. We have passed the resolution and will implement it. Boya community is now fully with YSRCP,’’ said Tribal Welfare Minister P Rajanna Dora.
Consequently, on February 10 this year, the Telangana government passed a resolution in Assembly recommending to the Centre to include Valmiki Boyas in the ST list along with other caste groups such as the Pedda Boyas, Khaiti Lambadas, Mali Saha Bedars, Kiratakas, Nishadis, Bhat Mathuralus, Chamar Mathuras, Chunduwals, and Thalayaris.
CM K Chandrashekar Rao, who introduced the resolution, said the state government had accepted the recommendation of a Commission of Inquiry for Scheduled Tribes in 2016 for the inclusion of the Valmiki Boyas, Kirataka, and other groups and submitted the same to the Centre.
Since no response had been received from the Union government, the Assembly unanimously resolved to recommend to the Centre to include the communities in the ST list, said the CM, reading out the resolution. Besides, he also proposed that the Mali community living in the districts of Adilabad, Komram Bheem Asifabad and Mancherial be included in the ST list, given their socio-economic conditions.
A comprehensive report on this has been filed in The Indian Express.