A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned about his name ‘Narendra’ rhyming with Devendra while referring to seven Dalit communities in the of Scheduled Castes (SC) list being merged into one as Devendrakula Vellalar, the central government rushed in on Monday to scotch rumours of the community being taken out of the SC list.
The issue is politically sensitive as Tamil Nadu is going for assembly elections this summer.
Representatives of the seven Dalit communities — Devendrakulathan, Kadaiyan, Kalladi, Kudumban, Pallan, Pannadi, Vathiriyan — had expressed their desire to be clubbed together as Devendrakula Velalar, and the Central government has accepted this plea on the basis of recommendations from the Tamil Nadu government.
On Saturday, the central government introduced a constitutional amendment in Lok Sabha to fulfil the long-standing demand of these communities and Prime Minister Modi spoke at length about this Constitutional Amendment when he visited Chennai on Sunday.
Meanwhile, wrong interpretations of the acceptance of their demands led to rumours that the Devendrakula Vellalar community was being removed from the SC list. This was due to the previous demands from certain leaders that the community will not mind even if it is removed from the SC list.
The merger of seven castes into one grouping named Devendrakula Vellalar is expected to boost the AIADMK-BJP alliance in Tamil Nadu as the demand for the amendment has been pending for a long time. With the rival DMK-Congress pact also pitching hard for Dalit votes, the constitutional amendment is considered well-timed. That it made it to the Lok Sabha on the concluding day of its first part of Budget Session and just a day before Modi’s visit to Chennai makes it even more significant politically.
The Tamil Nadu government recommended only merger of the seven groups into one as Devendrakula Vellalar and no proposal for removing the communities from the SC list was on the table. The merger does not change the status of these seven communities as far as SC reservations are concerned.
The Kadaiyan community in coastal areas of Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Ramanathapuram, Pudukottai, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts are not part of this clubbing exercise, while people of the community in other districts of Tamil Nadu are included.
As news reports appeared about Devendrakula Vellalar community being removed from the SC list, the Press Information Bureau published a quick fact-check and denied the reports.
Apart from political impact, the issue turned extra sensitive since it was attributed to Prime Minister Modi’s Chennai speech on Sunday. “….the reports appearing in media about delisting of Devendra Kula Vellalar community from SC soon are completely misinformed,” said the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
In a statement issued by the ministry, it was clarified that these misleading reports do not reflect the actual position.
“….the Cabinet has approved for categorising (7) SC communities into Devendra Kula Vellalar which would also be a part of the Scheduled Castes list of Tamil Nadu. Therefore, the statement that they will be delisted from SCs and would be made OBCs is completely incorrect and it may be clarified that the statement does not reflect the correct position,” the statement said.
The ministry further clarified that a bill for categorising (7) SC communities into Devendra Kula Vellalar under SC list to Tamil Nadu has already been introduced in the Lok Sabha. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021, was introduced in the Parliament on the concluding day of the first part of the Budget session. The purpose of the bill was to modify the Amendment of Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, for Tamil Nadu and club Devendrakulathan, Kadaiyan, Kalladi, Kudumban, Pallan, Pannadi, Vathiriyan as entry 17 and delete entries 28, 35, 49, 54 and 72 that represent the merged communities as they become redundant.
“The State Government of Tamil Nadu has proposed certain modifications in the list of Scheduled Castes, by way of grouping of seven castes, which presently exist therein as separate castes,” said the bill’s statement of objects and reasons.
Social justice and empowerment minister Thaawarchand Gehlot had taken a proposal to this effect to the Union Cabinet and the bill was then introduced in Lok Sabha. It is expected that the bill will be taken up for discussion during the second half of the Budget session of Parliament that is scheduled to begin on March 8.
It is mentioned in the bill that the Registrar General of India has conveyed concurrence to the proposed modifications recommendations made by the Tamil Nadu government.
“In order to give effect to the above changes, it is necessary to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, in respect of the State of Tamil Nadu,” says the bill. The State government had formed a committee of bureaucrats to study the proposals to this effect before sending its recommendation to the central government.