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Indigenous population still carvings for their basic amenities

Written by: Pooja Vatsh - Student of final yr. ll.b from Bharati Vidyapeet
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The greatest challenge that the Government of India has been facing since independence is the proper provision of social justice to the people belonging to scheduled tribes, by ameliorating their socio-economic conditions, health condition, education which needs to be revamped. Scheduled Tribes and denotified tribes constitute the weakest section of India's population, from the ecological, economic and educational angles. They constitute the matrix of India's poverty. Though the tribal’s are the sons of the same soil and the citizens of the same country, they were born and grew as children of the nature. From the historical point of view, they have been subjected to the worst type of exploitation social. They have been deprived of civic facilities and have been isolated from modern and civilized way of living since centuries.

Prior to independence also the condition of tribes in British regime was very dismal and backward, the British rulers hardly did anything except for providing certain facilities in villages and towns such as, education, transport, communication, medical etc. these facilities were inadequate and mainly to promote self-interest. However, post independence the policy established by British regime was abandoned and new policy was adopted by the Government of Independent India for tribal development and integration with the mainstream was initiated. Particular Provisions were incorporated in Constitution of India for the welfare and up liftment of the various tribes.

It is pertinent to point out in the present context what is basic goal of development, i.e what are the basic necessities that need to be provided to tribes in order to consider them developed.

What precisely has been sought to be achieved by various policies adopted for upliftment of tribes by various Governments in India? What is the end? When, or upon attainment of what shall we say, yes the target of tribal development has been accomplished? Is it parity with the rest of the population? But which section of the rest? Even among the non-tribals there are many sections which are poorer, more deprived, more exploited than at least the agriculturist tribes. That level is obviously not the target. Is it when all the tribals have a pukka house? Eighty percent people in the country do not have a pukka house. Every tribal family has a govt. job? It is not feasible. Every tribal household has a bike or a TV? Again which TV, Black and White or coloured? Which make of the bike? Indian or Chinese ? Or is it a car? Or computer? The point is that it is impossible for the government to provide technological parity. It is impossible for the acts and legislations to provide socio-political parity. And cultural parity is impossible anyway because it shall destroy the separate identity of the tribals. We do not know the target. And that is the crux of the problem.The development planners do not know what they are trying to achieve.

The tribal are the children of nature and their lifestyle is conditioned by the eco-system. India due to its diverse ecosystems has a wide variety of tribal population. Tribes people constitute 8.14% of the total population of the country, numbering 84.51 million (2001 Census). There are 697 tribes notified by the Central Government under Article 342 of the Indian Constitution with certain tribes being notified in more than one State. More than half the Scheduled Tribe population is concentrated in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Jharkhandand Gujarat whereas in Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Pondicherry and Chandigarh no community has been notified as a Scheduled Tribe. Due to isolation, unawareness and exploitation tribes in India facing economic and social problems. They live generally in inhospitable terrain where productivity of soil is low and their hamlets are found in forest areas along with the hill streams., India has the largest concentration of tribal population in the world .A tribe is a group comprising families, alone, or generation having its own customs, occupying a specific geographic territory and being independence of or having little contact with the dominant national society of the country in which they live.. Tribals of our country (India) resides in such a territory, which is marked by the presence of hills, forest, islands, mountains, seacoasts etc. They live in a special geographical territory. That is why, we see tribe as a territorial group.


Tribal’s having to face a number of problems due to their isolated residences situated in remote areas. But they are closely and emotionally related to their lands and forest. There are no communications facilities between the various isolated tribal groups as well as between the tribal and the world at large. They accept all outsiders in their territory that create more problem than benefits to the tribal communities. Due to exploitation from various stakeholders tribals are now facing a lot of problems .For promoting the welfare of schedule tribes and for rising the level of administration of schedules and tribal areas to the state level, Article 275 of the constitution provides grants in aid from consolidated fund of India to states for implementation of developmental programmes. And the article lies down as a Directive Principle of State Policy that the State should promote, with special care, the education and economic interest of the weaker sections.

Numerous of government plans/programmes /schemes were introduced and still are in process which could be best reflected with the new budget that has come within the UPA regime after formulation of new government and pushing up their budget plan in which again a separate amount of money was allocated and kept aside for ministry of tribal affairs which has definitely increased from last budgetary plan. Every year more of scheme has been brought under the preview of “aam adami” which are being implemented and its really proud to be mentioned that under the Schemes/Projects total of 38 plan has be introduced, under AGRICULTURE AND ALLIED SECTOR total 4 plan has already been introduced, under INDUSTRIAL SECTOR total strength of 17 plans has already come up and in pretext of SERVICE INCLUDING TRANSPORT SECTOR by this time already 17 plan have been brought into practice. But when we compare it on ground of reality we find everything as vague though so many plan have been formulated which are followed even but when does it get deviate from the main stream and get bifurcated it get hard to trace.

We know that development has not brought contentment in its wake. In fact the tribals have become more miserable as they have “developed”. They have been displaced from their traditional homes and their lands acquired for the construction of industries, roadways, railways, large dams, power stations, mines etc. The effort to provide education on the basis of common curriculum is the worst culprit. They have acquired “knowledge” which is entirely useless in their life. Worse, it has raised their expectations of secure govt. job which they are not getting. The “educated” tribals are misfits in their societies. They are also unfits in the non-tribal society. They are left in the lurch after “education.” They are subject to similar high expectations and lower economic capabilities as the common middle-class in the country. And here lies the source of disenchantment with the whole development process.

In our view the best goal is the achievement of privileged circumstances. Here affluence means having more than enough of whatever is required to satisfy consumption needs. This satisfaction of needs may be arranged in the traditional set up itself rather than bringing the needy into the wider ambit of market economy with its own set of needs and desires and competitions which are entirely extraneous to the immediate goal. Thus, providing the foragers the education of biology and environment and setting-up of a forest-based economy is far better than to teach them the history of Ashoka the Great or Archimedes’s principle; and forcing them to become settled agriculturists.

In order to make a viable tribal development programme, therefore, there is an urgent need to reclassify the Indian tribes. This new classification should be based on the techno-economic parameters and relative advancements already achieved in the last fifty years. Programmes/schemes should be prepared for each of the class separately. These programmes should aim at achieving affluence rather than “development.” In this context the following points deserve special attention.

1. The scheme to integrate tribal economy with the rest of the economy and hope for the best (throw up the wall and see if it sticks) has failed and will fail. There is a qualitative, not quantitative, difference between a tribal-rural life and the urban-modern life. It is a quantum jump from one into another and finally culminates in total break with the past. The need is to provide scheme and facilitate opportunity to develop skills commensurate with the techno-environmental conditions of the group being developed. It is neither feasible nor desirable to make every tribal group a part of modern market economy for which they are psychologically not ready.

2. Unemployment is a concept that comes with “development”. In traditional tribal setup nobody is unemployed. The term simply means that a person is unable to get the job he wants. An engineer will not be unemployed if he takes up the job of, say, a clerk. But this job he does not want because he has been trained to do something else which he thinks is higher-ranking and will bring in greater rewards. So he is unemployed until he gets the job of an engineer. By linking a traditional economy with the market economy and by creating degree-linked employment opportunity we have created the problem of unemployment in tribal society. Every degree-holder thinks in terms of govt. service rather than self-employment. This nexus needs to be broken if unemployment in tribal society is to be removed, which can be easily achieved with specific vocational training and a little economic and technical support.

3. Education needs to be revamped. A member of primitive society learns to earn his livelihood, to do good works, to obey spiritual beings and also superstitions etc from the elders of the society and bind by its laws and regulations. These are the education for them. We the modern people do mean “education as reading and writing. This is also true. By modern education a person can able to increase his knowledge and expand his vision and avail the fruits or development. Hence modern education can play the role of “Catalyst” in bringing sea changes in the sphere of social, political, economic fields. One of the important reasons for failure of development activities in the society by various developmental agendas is the prevalence of acute illiteracy and ignorance, combined with superstitions among the rural masses. Hence to ward off economic backwardness, social deprivation spreading of education is regarded as one of the most effective and forward-looking instruments. Another reason of failure of education is superstition among the tribal. Superstitions like “reading would make their eyes drop out of their sockets” etc. is also responsible for not spreading of education, so no remarkable progress could be achieved within next 10

4. The forests are the original and permanent abode of the tribals – the two have symbiotic relationship. To a tribal, forest is not only a source of economy, it is also his native place where reside his gods and deities and his dead ancestors. The British, for their own commercial purposes, enacted forest laws and removed these rightful owners from their position as guardians and protectors of forests. Large scale deforestation took place. It is sad that in free India also the same policy, in fact even more stringent policy, is being pursued. The tribals are being made out as destructors of forests. This is entirely baseless. The same people have been living there for thousands of years and the forests were thriving. In just one hundred years we have lost the forests. The tribals live in forests and are the natural protectors. The forest laws only serve to make the ever-watchful people helpless while unscrupulous politicians and bureaucrats are making hay in collusion with contractors. Even for collection of M F P and medicinal plants they have to be beholden to the so-called forest guards and other forest officials. There is an urgent need to restore the forests to the tribals and their right to use the resources of the forests should be recognised. Only then will they be able to combat the illegal deforestation and restore the forests to their original level and at the same time the economic base of the tribal will improve drastically.

5. Coming up to health that their is an exploration in characteristics of reproductive health, beliefs and practices among tribal people of India. The socio-cultural and demographic background characteristics are correlated with natality, fertility processes, morbidity conditions and sexually transmitted diseases. The health seeking behavioral patterns of the tribal women are analyzed in the context of taboos, totems, norms and extra material relations. It identifies dimensions of health care and presents analytical framework of social transformation. Which would help governmental and non-governmental organizations in policy framing and its implementations. As The core set of communicable diseases, non-communicable disease (NCD) risk factors, and environmental factors included in the surveillance system are: malaria, acute diarrheal disease (cholera), typhoid, tuberculosis, measles, polio, plague, meningoencephalitis, hemorrhagic. So in order to see the greener side of the health condition and to wider the ambit of their better healthy condition things could be brought into better picture by Coordinate and decentralize disease surveillance activities ; Integrate and strengthen disease surveillance at the state and district levels, and involve communities and other stakeholders, including the private sector ; Improve laboratory support and Training for disease surveillance and action

6. The threat to the identity of the tribal communities has brought the question of their linguistic and cultural identity to the fore. The bourgeois-landlord State in India has paid no attention whatsoever to fostering their distinctive identity, culture and traditions except for bureaucratic exercises in promoting what is called as tribal folk culture. As far as the cultural aspect is concerned, the positive aspects of the traditional tribal culture particularly their egalitarian and collective ethos must be protected and encouraged. There are, of course, certain regressive social practices in some parts which cannot be upheld as protection of tribal culture. Whether it is witch-hunting, or polygamy or depriving women of certain rights or superstitious practices and so on -- in all such cases, our work among the tribal people should inculcate consciousness to fight such practices from within the community.

So in order to bring the indigenous population/tribes along with the mainstream people or to any par of it to get equivalent charter should be prepared so that they can live up their life with dignity, enjoy the fragrance of education, equality, doctrine of natural justice, service etc so belonging to human community and having the same thought procedure with the same level of basic amenities to sustain a life I would like to bring with humble request certain guideline which would preferably help to overcome the problem from tribal who are also divided among themselves as “ HAVE’S AND HAVE NOT’S”

1. Stop alienation of land belonging to the tribal people; plug loopholes in existing laws and take steps to restore land illegally transferred from indigenous group of people. Register land records for tribal lands. In scheduled areas under Fifth Schedule, adhere to the Samata judgement of Supreme Court regarding use of land for industrial and commercial purposes.

2. Takeover surplus lands above ceiling and distribute them to landless indigenous group of people along with other landless families. Provide irrigation facilities in remote tribal areas.

3. Amend the Forest Act in such a manner as to recognise the rights of indigenous group of people forest dwellers to access and use of forests. People's participation in forests through community management should be introduced.

4. Forest produce must be accessible to forest dwellers and neighborhood indigenous group of communities. The tyranny of forest guards must end. For marketing forest produce, cooperative efforts which are not bureaucratically managed but of the indigenous group of people as producers of forest goods should be set-up.

5. No project industrial or developmental can be undertaken where displacement occurs without a comprehensive and sustainable rehabilitation package. Such a scheme must be put in place before any displacement or work on the project begins.

6. Women should have equal rights in land and other communal resources. Campaign to end practices degrading women's status must be carried out. The practice of dowry infiltrating tribal society must be countered. Practices such as witchcraft must be combated.

7. Provision of drinking water in remote hamlets must be a priority for ending hardships to tribal women in this regard. Sexual harassment by forest guards of indigenous group of people women who go to forests for gathering produce and firewood must be strictly punished. Tribal developmental schemes should pay adequate attention for employment for indigenous group of women. Protection for women at work sites from sexual exploitation.

8. Enforce protection against money-lending/usury which exploits indigenous group of people. Bonded labour and exploitation of indigenous group of men and women by contravening all labour laws must be effectively checked. Strict implementation of atrocities on indigenous group of people under the Prevention of Atrocities on SC & ST Act.

9. The public distribution system should be revamped so that all tribal areas are covered with fair price shops and cooperatives. Instead of BPL cards, all tribal areas scheduled and non-scheduled must be covered by a universal system where all tribal families get food grains and other essential commodities at a subsidized rate.

10. Special composite educational programmes for tribal students should be promoted by the Central Government and all the state governments. Arrangements for setting up of schools in the tribal dominated areas with provision of vocational training and hostel facilities for the tribal youth should be undertaken.

11. Implementation of reservation of ST quotas in all categories of employment and education. Curb issuance of bogus ST certificates to non-tribals. Special allocation for public health facilities and setting up of primary health centres in the remote tribal areas.

12. Tribal languages and scripts should be recognised and developed. Oppose moves to eliminate indigenous cultural traditions, which foster collective consciousness and egalitarianism. Campaign against social evils, which are intensifying among the youth by penetration of bourgeois values of commercialization, and degenerate sex and violence purveyed through the media. Foster cultural expression and creative folk arts based on the rich cultural forms of tribal communities.

13. Strictly, enforce constitutional safeguards for the scheduled tribes. Provision of autonomy under the Sixth schedule should be strengthened by amending the schedule. Extend provisions of Autonomous District Council to other states where compact, majority tribal areas exist. Under Fifth schedule, provide for democratic participation in the Tribes Advisory Council with elected representatives from lower units. Formulate effective laws to protect tribal rights in scheduled areas.

The author can be reached at: vatsh.pooja@legalserviceindia.com / Ph no: 9975410604 / Print This Article

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