Headline : Who are the Dhangars of Maharashtra, and why do they want ST status?
Why in news?
- Recently, Maharashtra has announced extension of all social welfare schemes available to Scheduled Tribes to the Dhangar community of the state.
Who are the Dhangars?
- The Dhangars are shepherd community, living mostly in Western Maharashtra and Marathwada.
- They constitute about 9% of Maharashtra’s population.
- They are currently on Maharashtra’s list of Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT), but have been demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for the past several decades.
Why are they demanding ST status?
- As claimed by Dhangar community, their community is the same as “Dhangad” which has been given Scheduled Tribe status elsewhere in the country.
- Because of some typological error their community name has been recorded as “Dhangar” in Maharashtra, instead of Dhangads, denying them the benefits available to the ST “Dhangads”.
- Dhangars community has been demanding Scheduled Tribe status in the country from decades.
- In 2015, the Maharashtra government asked the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to establish whether the Dhangars of Maharashtra were the same as the Dhangads elsewhere in the country, and also to create a safeguard against any legal challenge in moving the Dhangars from the VJNT list to the ST list.
- In November, 2018, the government received the TISS report, and started taking action on it.
- Recently, the Maharashtra government handed over the Tata Institute of Social Sciences’ report on Dhangar reservation to state Advocate General (AG) for advice and further action.
- However, till the AG’s recommendation comes in, all schemes of the Tribal Welfare Department will be made applicable to Dhangars with separate financial provisions.
- All other ST communities are strongly opposed to any attempt at dilution of their quota by the inclusion of a large community like the Dhangars.
- They demand overall increase in ST quota for the inclusion of the Dhangar community.