Tanay Akash, B.A. LLB. (H.), Central University of South Bihar
Vulnerable group simply means the group of people who could easily be harmed physically, mentally or emotionally. According to World Bank “one that has some specific characteristics that make it at higher risk of falling into poverty than others” are said to be as vulnerable groups and as far as vulnerable group in India is concerned it mainly covers the class of population deprived from adequate livelihood.
In India there are complex factors of vulnerability- including structural factors, age, disability and discrimination which are responsible for these multiple socio- economic disadvantaged sections. A large amount of population including women, Scheduled castes, Scheduled tribes, Children, Aged persons, Disabled, Poor migrant, Victims of HIV/AIDS and sexual minorities are treated as vulnerable class. There was also a system of dual vulnerability prevalent in almost all the parts of India one of being women and another of being a women of differently abled or from any vulnerable class/ caste.
After the commencement of Constitution of India in 1950 for the first time rights and safeguards were provided to all those classes who were socially forced to have a tag of vulnerability upon their face. Later on after several amendments the arena of these rights as well as safeguards to vulnerable groups enhanced and the limits of being in some articles transformed to related acts and formation of commissions for the welfare of these classes. The remedies to these sections are given through Constitution, Legislature, Executive, Judiciary, Decentralised Administration (At Panchayati Raj Level), National and State Commissions and by different acts.
Vulnerable class and constitutional provisions
- Women and Children– According to constitution of India women and children are said to be as the most vulnerable segment of society. Article15 (3) provides the state to make special provisions for women and children in any matter and these special provisions will be based upon the reasonable classification doctrine of ‘equal to equals’. Article 23 provides prohibition of human trafficking and forced labour which is mostly done of women and children. Article 39 and 42 under directive principles of state policy provides special provisions of equality, just and humane condition for work and maternity relief respectively.
- Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes- the term scheduled caste and scheduled tribes are nowhere properly defined in the Indian Constitution but According to article 341 and article 342 of the Indian Constitution, president after consultation with the governor by public notification, specify the castes, races, tribes or community as scheduled castes or scheduled tribes. Apart from these provisions of the constitution, the actual division lie in the caste system and the hierarchical ambiguity present in the society and as these classes were discriminated, constitution of India provided special provisions for their welfare. Article 17 provided abolition of untouchability whereas Article 18 provided abolition of titles. Articles such as 14 and 15 provided equality before law and prohibition of discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, race, sex, and place of birth or any of them. Article 16(4) prescribes the reservation to these special classes in any of the appointment procedures. Also, Article 16(4A) and 16(4B) provides reservations in the matters of promotion and filling the unfilled vacancies (carry forward) to the next year respectively. Article 19(5) provides special provision regarding the land of scheduled tribes and the right to freedom is reasonably restricted to save the rights of these people. Under directive principles of state policies Article 46 provides for the promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other weaker sections to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. Further, according to Article 164 in the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, a minister in the tribal welfare minister for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and backward classes or any other work. Moreover, Article 330 provides reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the house of the People and Article 332 in the legislative Assemblies of the states. Also, Article 335 considers the claims of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes to services and posts. The concept of National Commission for scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes are also given under article 338 and 338A of the Indian Constitution to investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- Other Vulnerable Classes – Other vulnerable class includes Aged persons, Disabled, Poor migrant, Anglo Indian, Victims of HIV/AIDS and sexual minorities etc. Constitution of India complying with several legislations such as Equal Opportunities Protection of Rights and Full Participation, Act 1955, Disability Act and Article 336-37(for Anglo Indian community) provides the welfare schemes and reservations to these categories for equal opportunities. National AIDS control estimates in 2005 that 5.206 million are HIV infected and that needs to be treated equally with no discrimination in the society as per our constitution. Justice Rangnath Committee also provided recommended reservations for minorities.
All these provisions are provided in the constitution for the welfare of all such vulnerable classes but the question is all about its implementation. The matters of equality, education, skill development initiatives, measures of affirmative action and the proper functioning of public institutions with respect to these classes are still a matter of debate in the contemporary India. There is only 16% antenatal care with maternal mortality rate 190/100,000(2013). The Infant Mortality Rate (Rural- 62/1000) (Urban- 42/1000) is still a reason to worry. The number of Elderly people are 64/1000 in Rural and 55/1000 in Urban areas and the number of disabled population is 21.9 million (almost 2.13% of total population) but still the working machinery is not up to the mark. Dalits include 1/6th of the Indian population including the population of 84.3 million of Scheduled tribes but still their problems remain continue. It’s all about implementation mechanism because without proper implementation mechanism all these provisions given in the constitution are of no use.