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Scheduled Tribes and the Politics of Preference in Employment in Orissa, India.
Jagannath Ambagudia, Department of Political Science, Rajdhani College, University of Delhi.

Exploring the structure of the Indian society, there is an agreement that some groups (such as Scheduled Tribes) were suffering from heritage of invidious discrimination, exclusion and/or isolation that made their condition distinct from that of their fellow citizens. Years of subordination had seriously handicapped them and placed them at a disadvantaged position. In addition, the STs are remaining socially discriminated, economically exploited and politically marginalised in India. Given the sensitivity and complexities of the problem, countries with history of discrimination often use preferential treatment policies to promote social and economic equality.

The policies and programmes of the central and state governments for the benefit of STs cover several areas and they vary from state to state in India. While STs are legally entitled to preferences nation-wide, they are also entitled to analogous benefits in their own respective state. Within this backdrop, the paper contributes to a deeper understanding of policies of preferential treatment in India. The case study reveals the nature of implementation in public employment in the context of an Orissan state and its ramification for STs. It sketches some of the controversial issues revolving around preferential treatment, which sometimes obtain the form of violent conflicts between tribals and non-tribals in Orissa. It also explores various constraints of the poor implementation of preferential treatment policies in employment. The premise behind this paper is that though the achievements of preferences are significant, the existing preferential policies and programmes in employment are unable to encompass the complex social reality within a widespread framework and are, therefore, unable to bridge the gap between policy and practice.

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