- The Scheduled Tribes (ST) are recognized in 30 States/UTs in India.
- The number of individual ethnic groups recognized as STs is approximately 705.
- The ST population constitutes 8.6% of the total population (43 crores) as per the 2011 census.
- 89.97% of the ST population lives in rural areas and 10.03% in urban areas.
- 1.57% of the ST population belongs to Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs), which is approximately 1.32 million people.
- The ST population is a heterogeneous group with differences in language, cultural practices, socioeconomic status, and pattern of livelihood.
- More than two-thirds of the ST population is concentrated in seven states: Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh.
- Three states (Delhi NCR, Punjab, and Haryana) and two UTs (Puducherry and Chandigarh) do not have any ST population.
- Lack of basic amenities such as access to tap water, sanitation facilities, drainage facilities, and clean cooking fuel is a major issue among the tribal population, as per the 2011 census data.
Characteristics of Tribal Community
Tribal communities in India are diverse and varied, but some essential characteristics of tribal communities include:
- Distinctive Culture: Tribal communities have their own unique culture, traditions, and customs, which sets them apart from other communities in India.
- Collective Identity: Tribal communities have a strong sense of collective identity based on their shared history, language, and cultural practices.
- Communal Ownership of Land: Tribal communities traditionally have a communal ownership of land, where the land is seen as a community resource rather than an individual property.
- Rural Livelihoods: Many tribal communities in India still live in rural areas and rely on agriculture, forest-based activities, and other traditional livelihoods for their sustenance.
- Animistic Beliefs: Many tribal communities in India practice animistic religions that are based on the belief in spirits and supernatural powers.
- Marginalization and Discrimination: Tribal communities in India have historically faced marginalization and discrimination due to their distinctive culture, identity, and lifestyle.
- Limited Access to Basic Amenities: Many tribal communities in India have limited access to basic amenities such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure, leading to a lower standard of living compared to other communities.
- Linguistic Diversity: Tribal communities in India speak a variety of languages and dialects, which are often distinct from the languages spoken by the rest of the Indian population.
- Socio-Economic Backwardness: Many tribal communities in India face socio-economic challenges such as poverty, unemployment, lack of access to education and healthcare, and inadequate infrastructure. These communities often lack basic amenities like clean drinking water, electricity, and sanitation facilities, and have limited opportunities for economic development. As a result, they often have lower standards of living compared to other communities in India.
- Geographical Isolation: Many tribal communities in India live in remote, isolated regions such as forest areas, hills, and mountains, where they have limited interaction with mainstream society. This geographical isolation can result in a lack of access to basic services such as healthcare, education, and transportation, and can also contribute to a sense of cultural and social isolation.
- Endogamy is a common practice among tribal communities in India, which involves marrying within the same tribe and can serve as a form of self-segregation to resist integrating with surrounding populations.
- Tribal communities live in diverse ecological and geo-climatic conditions, including plains, forests, hills, and inaccessible areas.
- Different tribal groups are at varying stages of social, economic, and educational development, with some having adopted a mainstream way of life, while others remain less developed and more vulnerable.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs has identified 75 Scheduled Tribes as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) who reside in 18 states and UT of A&N Islands.
- The Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category in 1973, which were renamed as PVTGs by the government in 2006.
- PVTGs are not a constitutional category, nor are they constitutionally recognized.
- The highest number of PVTGs are found in Odisha.
- The Saharia people of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are the largest among the PVTGs with a population of more than 4 lakhs.
PVTGs (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups) are characterized by several distinct traits that distinguish them from other tribal groups in India. Some of the key characteristics of PVTGs are:
- Pre-agriculture level of technology: PVTGs are often described as “pre-agricultural” or “pre-modern” because they have not adopted modern agricultural practices and still rely on traditional hunting, gathering, and fishing practices for their livelihood.
- Mostly homogenous: PVTGs are typically small communities that are relatively homogenous in terms of their cultural, linguistic, and ethnic characteristics. They often have their own unique dialects and cultural practices that set them apart from other tribal communities in the region.
- Stagnant or declining population: PVTGs are often characterized by a stagnant or declining population due to a variety of factors, including low birth rates, high mortality rates, and out-migration to urban areas.
- Relatively physically isolated: PVTGs are usually located in remote and isolated regions that are difficult to access. This isolation can make it challenging for these communities to access education, healthcare, and other essential services.
- Extremely low literacy: PVTGs have extremely low literacy rates, often below 10%, due to a lack of access to education and limited exposure to mainstream society.
- Slower rate of change: PVTGs are often resistant to change and have a slower rate of adopting new technologies, cultural practices, and social norms.
- Subsistence level of economy: PVTGs typically have a subsistence level of economy, relying on traditional practices such as hunting, gathering, and fishing for their survival. They often lack access to modern markets and are not fully integrated into the larger economy.
|Dongria Kondh||Odisha||8,000||Kui, Kuvi|
|Hill Korwa||Chhattisgarh||15,000||Korwa, Hindi|
|Konda Kapus||Andhra Pradesh||25,000||Telugu, Konda Kapu|
|Sahara||Uttar Pradesh||3,500||Hindi, Bhojpuri|
|Chuktia Bhunjia||Odisha||7,000||Bhunjia, Oriya|
|Lodha||West Bengal||12,000||Lodhi, Hindi|
|Korku||Madhya Pradesh||145,000||Korku, Hindi|
|Saharia||Madhya Pradesh||4,00,000||Saharia, Hindi|
Note: This table is not exhaustive and there may be other PVTGs not listed here. Additionally, the population figures are approximate and may vary depending on the source.
Constitutional Provisions for STs
|Article 29||Protects the interests of minorities who have a distinct language, script or culture by providing them the right to conserve it.|
|Article 46||Directs the state to promote the educational and economic interests of weaker sections of society, particularly scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, under the DPSP.|
|Article 275 (1)||Provides grants-in-aid to states having scheduled tribes that are covered under the fifth and sixth schedules of the constitution.|
|Article 350A||States that the state shall provide adequate facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at the primary stage of education.|
|Fifth Schedule Art. 244(1)||Defines scheduled areas as areas mentioned in the fifth schedule of the Constitution, which are defined by the President of India. There are 10 states in India that have scheduled areas.|
|Sixth Schedule Art. 244||Deals with the administration of tribal areas in the four northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram as per Article 244 of the Constitution.|
Legislative Provisions for Protection of STs
|Legislative Provisions for Tribals||Description|
|The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA)||Recognises the forest and habitat rights of PVTGs and has a special section for the 75 PVTGs.|
|The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA)||Extends the national framework of Panchayat to the Scheduled Areas of India, except for Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and certain other areas, including scheduled and tribal areas.|
|The Andaman and Nicobar (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation, 1956||Provides protection to the Sentinelese and other aboriginal tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.|
|Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963||The Andaman & Nicobar Islands are a “Restricted Area” in which foreigners with a restricted area permit (RAP) can stay.|
|Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation, 1956||Protects the habitats of PVTGs in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with Tribal Reserves.|
|Exclusion of 30 islands from RAP||In August 2018, the Ministry of Home Affairs excluded 30 islands from the RAP regime to promote tourism and encourage investment, including the North Sentinelese Island.|
- Prof. Virginius Xaxa was the chairperson of the High-Level Committee (HLC) set up by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in 2013.
- The committee was formed to examine the socio-economic, educational and health status of tribal communities in India and suggest measures for their welfare.
- The committee submitted its report in May 2019 and made several recommendations for the upliftment of tribal communities, including issues related to land rights, education, health, governance, and economic development.
- Some of the key recommendations of the committee include
- Granting of community forest rights to tribal communities
- Enhancing the role of traditional tribal institutions in governance
- Providing quality education in tribal areas
- Ensuring adequate healthcare facilities, and
- Promoting sustainable livelihoods for tribal communities.
The report of the committee is considered an important reference for policy-making and implementation for the welfare of tribal communities in India.
Issues faced by Tribals in India
|Forests||– The livelihood of tribal communities is based on forests, but modern government restrictions have stopped their traditional practices of hunting, gathering, and shifting cultivation, leading to questions about their existence.<br>- Lands belonging to tribal communities are being taken over by government agencies and private sectors for minimal compensation.|
|Poverty and Exploitation||– Tribal communities are often exploited due to their innocence, leading to poverty and even bonded labor.<br>- More than half of Scheduled Tribes (STs) in India live below the poverty line, and 54% of them lack access to economic assets such as communication and transport.|
|Literacy Rate||– While the literacy rate among tribes in the northeastern and island regions is relatively higher, high dropout rates and infant mortality rates are still prevalent in the northeastern region.|
|Health Issues||– PVTGs suffer from various health problems such as anaemia, malaria, gastro-intestinal disorders, micronutrient deficiency, and skin diseases due to poverty, lack of safe drinking water, bad sanitation, lack of health services, superstition, and deforestation.|
|Agriculture||– Poverty in states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh is attributed to factors such as dependency on agriculture, natural calamities, crop failure, reduced access to land, and lack of employment opportunities.|
|Unemployment||– High rates of unemployment are prevalent among tribals living on islands, leading to problems such as forced migration, exploitation, displacement due to industrialization, loss of command over natural resources, and difficulty in coping with new work patterns and resources for living.|
|Lack of Baseline Surveys||– Even after being declared as PVTGs, only baseline surveys for about 40 of the 75 groups exist, hindering the effective implementation of welfare schemes.|
|Outdated List||– The list of PVTGs is often overlapping and repetitive, containing synonyms of the same group such as Mankidia and Birhor in Odisha, both referring to the same group.|
|Dependency on MFP||– Minor Forest Produce (MFP) is a significant source of livelihood for tribals in forest areas, but due to the unorganized nature of trade, gatherers receive low returns and high wastage due to limited value addition.|
|Low Level of Technology||– Tribes often have a low level of technology that is not suitable for modern times, such as practicing shifting cultivation, which is problematic for the environment.|
|Loss of Identity||– As tribes assimilate into non-tribal populations, they risk losing their tribal culture, social institutions, and language, among other aspects of their identity.|
Certain initiatives by GOI
- The Van Dhan Scheme involves the formation of 10 Self Help Groups of 30 Tribal gatherers to add value to the products collected from the jungle.
- The scheme also establishes Van Dhan Vikas Kendras which provide skill upgradation, capacity building training, and primary processing and value addition facilities.
- The scheme provides concessions for tribal representation in services such as age limit exemption, reduction in suitability standards, and inclusion in lower categories for promotions.
- The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution requires each state with scheduled areas to set up a Tribal Advisory Council to advise the government on matters related to the welfare and development of scheduled tribes.
- Tribal and Harijan Research Institutes have been established in MP, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, and Rajasthan to study tribal lifestyle, art, and customs for protection and documentation.
- The Stand Up India scheme aims to provide loans between Rs. 10 lakhs to Rs. 1 crore to scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, or women entrepreneurs.
- The Commissioner for the Scheduled Castes and Tribe investigates matters related to safeguards for these communities under the Constitution and reports to the President on the working of these safeguards.
- A region-specific approach should be adopted to address the issues faced by tribal communities.
- The island region’s unemployment problems can be solved through the development of fisheries and tourism.
- Raising awareness among tribal communities about existing schemes and programs is necessary.
- More access to forest products should be facilitated for forest dwellers.
- Promote sustainable economic activities such as cottage industries, plantation crops, fishing, and animal husbandry.
- Protect cultural heritage through institutions like ANTRI that formulate policies for tribal integration and protection of PVTGs.
1. What is a Scheduled Tribe?
A Scheduled Tribe (ST) is a group of indigenous people or ethnic communities in India that are officially recognized by the government as marginalized and disadvantaged due to historical social and economic factors. These groups are listed in the Constitution of India, and they receive special safeguards, protection, and affirmative action measures to improve their socio-economic status and overall well-being.
2. Where can I find the Scheduled Tribes caste list in India?
The Scheduled Tribes caste list in India is maintained by the government and is periodically updated. You can find the official list on the website of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India. It includes the names of tribes and communities eligible for ST status.
3. What is the Scheduled Tribes Commission in India?
The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) is a constitutional body established to safeguard the rights and interests of Scheduled Tribes in India. The commission monitors and ensures the implementation of policies and programs aimed at the welfare and development of ST communities. It also investigates and addresses complaints and grievances related to the rights of Scheduled Tribes.
4. What is the meaning of Scheduled Tribes in Hindi?
In Hindi, Scheduled Tribes are referred to as “अनुसूचित जनजाति” (Anusuchit Janjati). This term is used to describe the indigenous or tribal communities officially recognized by the Indian government under the Scheduled Tribes category.
5. How many Scheduled Tribes are there in India?
India is home to a diverse range of Scheduled Tribes, and the exact number can vary over time. As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, there were over 700 recognized Scheduled Tribes in India. The specific number may have changed since then, and you can refer to official government sources for the most up-to-date information on the list of Scheduled Tribes in India.
Scheduled Tribes in India represent a rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and traditions, and the government’s efforts are aimed at preserving their unique heritage while ensuring their socio-economic development.
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