Even after attaining ST status, Narikuravars in Tamil Nadu struggle to get community certificate 

Activists and Narikuravars said the officials discriminated against them by delaying providing them with the community certificate.

ByUmar Sharieef

Published Oct 14, 2022 | 8:00 AM Updated Oct 14, 2022 | 8:00 AM

Even after the ST status this community people has a long road ahead in getting a community certificate. (Creative Commons)

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 14 September gave the nod to include the Narikuravas in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category.

Narikuravas — jackal catchers — are primarily from the southern parts of Tamil Nadu. However, they moved to other places in the state for opportunities.

While their quest for ST status has fructified, they continue to struggle to get a community certificate in Tamil Nadu.

In a recent incident, a 45-year-old Narikuravar named Velmurugan from Padappai in the Kanchipuram district set himself on fire on the Madras High Court premises on 11 October because he was depressed over the delay in getting a caste certificate for his son.

It reconfirmed that despite multiple attempts to get a community certificate through protests and petitions, they continue to struggle for them.

Velmurugan eventually didn’t respond to the treatment, and died at the Kilpauk Medical College hospital on 12 October.

Why the delay?

According to the 2011 census, the STs comprise 1.1 percent of the population of Tamil Nadu.

For years, members of these communities have struggled to obtain community certificates, which give them the right to access benefits, schemes, scholarships, and social upliftment programmes targeted at them.

The District Revenue Department must provide the community certificate to these people. However, members from these communities told South First that the officials hardly visit them to verify and give certificates.

“Even if the officials visit us for the verification process, they sit on it and draw it out, which is why we protest against the pace in the progress of the issuance of the certificates,” Vignesh (name changed), a Narikuravar, told South First.

They can also apply for the certificates online. But even that has become a problem. The charge for applying for online certificates is ₹100, which is high for these people.

A relative of the deceased Velmurugan, Manoj (name changed) told South First that Revenue Department officials apparently binned their online applications.

“We cannot spend ₹100 every time they reject our applications. If they continue to reject our online applications, it will delay getting the certificates,” he said.

Besides, most of these people’s predecessors did not have community certificates, which affect their descendants’ getting the certificates.

Access and lack of representation cause further delays?

These community members live mostly in remote areas. Christuraj, an advocate and activist from the Salem People Trust, an NGO that focuses on ensuring children’s rights, told South First that visiting the district revenue officers was difficult.

“It is not easy for them to keep coming to the Revenue Department office and meet the officials whenever they want. They are nomads who keep changing where they stay. Sometimes they live under a bridge in a city or at the foothills. They keep moving in search of opportunities. With officials already delaying the certificates, they lose trust and end up not trying to get them,” he said.

He also accused the officials of acting lethargic.

“Majority of these people are uneducated and don’t have any influence to represent them in public life, other than activists. And with this, they are also unable to please or pressure the officials like the privileged can,” he said.

Saying that the delay in providing community certificates was sheer social neglect of the officials, he added that the government must appoint special officers to meet the Narikuravars’  requirements.

The delivery of education and other basic schemes, besides benefits, continue to be hampered due to the lack of community certificates, he added.

Minister’s order thrown to the wind? 

Tamil Nadu Revenue Minister KKSSR Ramachandran had asked the concerned officials to issue income and community certificates to school and college students immediately last year.

As the delay continues, Christuraj said it was the collective failure of the officials.

“The concerned officials must be penalised for not acting to the demands of these people,” he said.

South First made multiple attempts to reach Kayalvizhi Selvaraj, the Minister for Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare, but did not succeed.