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DNTs are a sizeable part of electorate, yet go unheard, unnoticed in Gujarat

By Shubham Aggarwal, Richi Mishra, Rajarshi Maji, Payal Baisla, Kiranmayee*

A lesser known fact about Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, known for giving world class business leaders to the country and the world, is actually a management school and not only a business school. In effect this means the students are not only taught the business concepts but are also sensitized towards other sectors/areas which needs management to survive. One such area is the social movement(s) which comes under the course of “Transformational Social Movements”. We, the course's students, want to draw attention to the De-Notified Tribes (DNTs), who, despite making up a sizeable portion of Gujarat's electorate, are still unheard and their struggles go unnoticed by society.
First let us understand who are these DNT tribes. These are the communities that were first listed under Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 which criminalized entire communities by stating them as habitual criminals as they were “addicted to the systematic commission of non-bailable offences". However, our Indian government repealed the laws in 1952, which is how "De-Notified Tribes"(DNT) came to be known.
While habitable living lands, seat in politics, educational institutions, subsidies etc. are allocated for the development of scheduled caste, tribes, other backward classes – the De-Notified tribes are found to be living near potholes and sewage of the state and depending upon menial jobs such as cleaning the ear of individuals for their day to day survival. They are in such a humiliating situation, and it will only get worse if our government does not take immediate action.
Unfortunately, the quid pro quo nature of our government is such that if you require an immediate action by the government you should be an active and substantial voting bank for them. But the fact is – these communities are ~1 crore in number in Gujarat out of its ~6.3 crore population forming them a significant part (~15%) of the Gujarat’s electorate. Such a number can be the deciding factor of victory in the upcoming elections. So, it would benefit our political parties themselves by helping them not as “citizens of the country” but atleast as an “active votebank”.
Despite being the significant part still they go unnoticed and unheard. This is due to number reasons – top of them as of now being of no unity as a community for political parties to see them as a strong and significant force, and their adjustment and acceptance with the status quo. The DNTs should take on this situation by becoming influential in politics. One way is by bringing together all the leaders of the 40 communities that make up the DNT and joining a political party, so that they too have representation at the highest level of politics that can benefit their constituents. There is still a long way to go, but there are rumblings in the electoral corridors that political parties are beginning to recognise their substantial number. Let's wait and see how this election turns out!
*IIM Ahmedabad | PGP 2023



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