In a memorandum to the Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, Tamil Nadu state president C Sanjeevi of ABAVP said that there are 36 endemic tribes in Tamil Nadu and there is no adequate political representation for the majority of the tribal community. As of date, there are only two Assembly seats reserved for tribes and all these years, the hill area Malayali community, which according to the ABAVP is a settled tribal community, enjoying the benefits of reservation and there are no level playing fields for the other 35 tribal community people, who are part of the lower substrata.
Majority of the ST Malayali people are those who have migrated to the hills and their ancestors were not traditional tribes, Sanjeevi said in his memorandum.
At present, Yercaud in Salem, and Senthamangalam in Namakkal are reserved for ST and in both the constituencies only ST Malayalis have been representing the constituency for the past five decades. Districts like The Nilgiris, Tiruvallur, Kanniyakumari, Tiruvannamalai, Vellore and Villupuram have a large tribal population and the communities in these districts are denied social justice. The EC should either increase the reservation for STs or at least it should consider some internal reservation policies for other communities, Sanjeevi said.
“Tribes like Irulas, Kattunayakkan, Kondareddis, Todas, Kurumans, Malaivedan, Malaikuravan, Sholaga, Kurichaan, Kammara are tribes who are still depending on the forest produce for their livelihood. But Malayalis, who also come under tribal sect are mostly workers who had migrated to tea and coffee estates and other commercial areas adjoining forests,” explained M Balaji of Tamil Nadu Veterinary Graduates Federation.
The reservation benefits for tribes in several areas are yet to benefit the tribes in The Nilgiris, Kodaikanal, Tiruvallur, Vellore and other districts. There are also tribes living in plains and they should also be considered for electoral reservation opportunities, added Balaji.
The current reservation is based on the previous census records and tribes contribute to one per cent of Tamil Nadu population, but there is no adequate representation for tribes like Kattunayakans, Irulars, Malaivedans, Todas and Kurumans, Balaji added.