Tribes not only contribute to the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of India but also play a major role in forests and biodiversity conservation and protection. As per Census 2011, 8.6% of India’s Population constitutes Schedule Tribes. The Constitution of India ensures various provisions for the socio-economic development of the tribes.
Constitutional provisions for the development of Scheduled Tribes
Article 46 of the Constitution provides that the State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the society and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
Reservation in the educational institution has been provided in Article 15(4) while reservation in posts and services has been provided in Articles 16(4), 16(4A) and 16(4B) of the Constitution.
Article 23 which prohibits traffic in human beings and beggars and other similar forms of forced labour has a special significance for Scheduled Tribes. In pursuance of this Article, Parliament has enacted the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.
Article 24 which prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or any other hazardous activity is also significant for Scheduled Tribes as a substantial portion of child labour engaged in these jobs belong to Scheduled Tribes.
Article 243D provides reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in Panchayats.
Article 330 provides reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People.
Article 332 provides reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in Legislative Assemblies of the States.
Article 334 provides that reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha and the State Vidhan Sabhas (and the representation of the Anglo-Indian Community in the Lok Sabha and the State Vidhan Sabhas by nomination) would continue up to January 2020.
Other specific safeguards have been provided in Article 244 read with the provisions contained in the Fifth and Sixth Schedule to the Constitution.
Other provisions are applicable in specific states-
Article 164(1) provides that in the States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha there shall be a Minister in charge of tribal welfare who may, in addition, be in charge of the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and backward classes or any other work.
Article 371A has special provisions concerning the State of Nagaland.
Article 371B has special provisions concerning the State of Assam.
Article 371C has special provisions concerning the State of Manipur.
Article 371F has special provisions concerning Sikkim.
Schemes and Programmes for Tribals Welfare-
Eklavya Model Residential Schools
The objective of EMRS is to provide quality middle and high-level education to Scheduled Tribe (ST) students in remote areas, not only to enable them to avail of reservation in high and professional education courses and as jobs in government and public and private sectors but also to have access to the best opportunities in education at par with the non-ST population. This would be achieved by:
Comprehensive physical, mental and socially relevant development of all students enrolled in every EMRS. Students will be empowered to be change agents, beginning in their school, in their homes, in their village and finally in a larger context.
Focus differentially on the educational support to be made available to those in Standards XI and XII, and those in standards VI to X, so that their distinctive needs can be met.
Support the annual running expenses in a manner that offers reasonable remuneration to the staff and upkeep of the facilities.
Support the construction of infrastructure that provides student life education, and physical, environmental, and cultural needs.
Education-related schemes For Schedule Tribe students.
Vocational Training Centres in Tribal Areas
National Overseas Scholarships for Scheduled Tribe Students
Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship for ST Students
Post Matric Scholarship (PMS) for ST students
Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Hostels for ST boys and ST Girls
Establishment of Ashram Schools in Tribal Sub-Plan Areas
Special Central Assistance to Tribal Sub Plan (SCA to TSP)
Grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution of India
Allocation under Article 275 -1 of the Constitution for the years 2013-2014
Eklavya Model Residential School
Development of Forest Village
Scheme of Coaching for Scheduled Tribes
Scheme of Grant in Aid to Voluntary Organizations working for the welfare of STs
Scheme of Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PTGs)
Schemes of strengthening education among Scheduled Tribes Girls in low literacy Districts
Vocational Training Centres in Tribal Areas
About Tribes India
The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India, (TRIFED), under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, is engaged in the marketing development of tribal products including art and craft items. TRIFED has been marketing tribal products through its shops called "TRIBES India" and through the outlets of the state emporia on a consignment basis.
TRIFED has developed a system of sourcing products of art and craft made by empanelled tribal suppliers. The suppliers comprise individual tribal artisans, tribal SHGs, and Organisations/ Agencies/NGOs working with tribals, who are empanelled as suppliers of TRIFED as per the guidelines for empanelment of suppliers. The products procured by TRIFED are then sold through its marketing platform of "Tribes India".
Tribes India E-Marketplace
Tribes India E-Marketplace is India’s largest handicraft and organic products marketplace. The initiative aims to onboard 5 lakh tribal producers for sourcing various handicraft, handloom, and natural food products across the country and brings to you the best of tribal produce. The suppliers comprise individual tribal artisans, tribal SHGs, and Organisations/ Agencies/ NGOs working with tribals.
The platform provides the tribal suppliers with an Omni-channel facility to sell their goods through their retailers and distributors, TRIFED’s network of Outlets and eCommerce partners as well as their account in e-Marketplace.
Categories of products sold
The categories of tribal products sold on the platform include
Cane & Bamboo
Terracotta & Stone Pottery
Gift and Novelties
Organic and Natural Food Products
Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana
The Government of India, Ministry of Tribal Affairs has launched the Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana (VKY) for the welfare of Tribals. KY aims at creating enabling environment for need-based and outcome-oriented holistic development of the tribal people. This process envisages ensuring that all the intended benefits of goods and services under various programmes/schemes of Central as well as State Governments reach the target groups by the convergence of resources through the appropriate institutional mechanism.
It covers all tribal people and all areas with tribal populations across the country.
Improving the quality of life in tribal areas
Improving the quality of education
Qualitative and sustainable employment for tribal families
Bridging infrastructure gaps with a focus on quality
Protection of tribal culture and heritage
Component of VKY
Qualitative & Sustainable Employment.
Quality Education & Higher Education.
Accelerated Economic Development of tribal areas.
Health for all.
Housing for all.
Safe Drinking Water for all at doorsteps.
Irrigation facilities suited to the terrain.
All-Weather Roads with connectivity to the nearby town/cities.
Universal Availability of Electricity.
Robust institutional mechanism. (ITDAs/IDPs)
Promotion and conservation of Tribal Cultural Heritage
Promotion of Sports in Tribal Areas.
Minor Forest Produce
Minor Forest Produce (MFP) is more often than not determined by the traders instead of the self-sustained process of demand and supply. Implementing a scheme to ensure that such forest dwellers are not deprived of their due. Under the scheme maximum selling price for MFP is being implemented in schedule V States initially. A web-based portal has also been developed which indicates the current price of MFPs on a real-time basis across different mandis of States.
12 MFP products have been included in the programme namely
Gums (Gum Karaya) and
The Scheme also referred to as the Forests Rights Act was landmark legislation to recognize the pre-existing rights of tribals and other traditional forest dwellers.
Van Dhan Scheme
The Van Dhan Scheme is an initiative of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and TRIFED. It was launched on 14th April 2018 and seeks to improve tribal incomes through the value addition of tribal products.
The scheme will be implemented through the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and TRIFED as Nodal Agency at the National Level. At the State level, the State Nodal Agency for MFPs and the District collectors are envisaged to play a pivot role in scheme implementation at the grassroots level. Locally the Kendras are proposed to be managed by a Managing Committee (an SHG) consisting of representatives of Van Dhan SHGs in the cluster.
Minor Forest Produce and tribal livelihoods
Minor Forest Produce (MFP) is a major source of livelihood for tribals living in forest areas. The importance of MFPs for this section of society can be gauged from the fact that around 100 million forest dwellers depend on MFPs for food, shelter, medicines and cash income.
It provides them critical subsistence during the lean seasons, particularly for primitive tribal groups such as hunter-gatherers, and the landless. Tribals derive 20-40% of their annual income from MFP on which they spend a major portion of their time. This activity has a strong linkage to women’s financial empowerment as most of the MFPs are collected and used/sold by women. The MFP sector can create about 10 million workdays annually in the country.
Key Highlights of the Van Dhan Initiative
At the unit level, aggregation of produce would be done by SHGs having about 30 members each forming Van Dhan Vikas ‘Samuh’. The SHGs would also undertake primary value addition of the MFPs using equipment such as small cutting and sieving tools, decorticator, dryer, packaging tools etc based on MFPs available in the area.
A typical Van Dhan Vikas Samuh would have the following facilities:
Provision for required infrastructure, Equipment, Fully equipped training facilities for a batch of 30 trainees with provision for raw material for training purposes, working capital for the SHGs through a tie-up with financial institutions, banks, NSTFDC etc.
A cluster of ten such SHGs within the same village shall form a Van Dhan Vikas Kendra.
Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition Of Forest Rights) Act, 2006
The Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 recognizes the rights of the forest-dwelling tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers to forest resources, on which these communities were dependent for a variety of needs, including livelihood, habitation and other socio-cultural needs.
To undo the historical injustice that occurred to the forest-dwelling communities
To ensure land tenure, livelihood and food security of the forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers
To strengthen the conservation regime of the forests by including the responsibilities and authority of Forest Rights holders for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological balance.
The Act encompasses:
Rights of Self-cultivation and Habitation which are usually regarded as Individual rights,
Community Rights such as Grazing, Fishing and access to Water bodies in forests,
Traditional Seasonal Resource access of Nomadic and Pastoral community, access to biodiversity,
Community right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge,
Recognition of traditional customary rights and right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource for sustainable use.
It also provides rights to the allocation of forest land for developmental purposes to fulfil the basic infrastructural needs of the community. In conjunction with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Settlement Act, 2013 FRA protects the tribal population from eviction without rehabilitation and settlement.
The Act further enjoins upon the Gram Sabha and rights holders the responsibility of conservation and protection of biodiversity, wildlife, forests, adjoining catchment areas, water sources and other ecologically sensitive areas as well as to stop any destructive practices affecting these resources or cultural and natural heritage of the tribals.
The Gram Sabha is also a highly empowered body under the Act, enabling the tribal population to have a decisive say in the determination of local policies and schemes impacting them.
Thus, the Act empowers the forest dwellers to access and use the forest resources in the manner that they were traditionally accustomed to, to protect, conserve and manage forests, protect forest dwellers from unlawful evictions and also provides for basic development facilities for the community of forest dwellers to access facilities of education, health, nutrition, infrastructure etc.
Editorial-An outreach to tribals that checks all the boxes
‘Janjatiya Gaurav Divas’ is a part of the steps being taken to secure the culture and welfare of India’s tribal communities
In the Ayodhya Kanda of the Ramayana, when Lord Rama is exiled from the kingdom of Ayodhya and reaches the northern bank of the Ganga at Sringaverapura, he is received by the king of the neighbouring kingdom of Nishadha, Guha. Rama treats the tribal leader, Guha, as his conscience. Rama stays at Guha’s place and the Nishadha king helps Rama cross the river the next day.
In the Mahabharata, Arjuna’s travels in the Northeast lead to his encounter with Ulupi, the princess of the Naga tribe, who he marries and has a son with, Iravan.
The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are replete with harmonious relationships between forest dwellers and the “city dwellers’’.
Despite a place for tribals in Indian culture and history, the enactment of the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 by the British government, branded the very ‘descendants’ of Guha as criminals.
With its racist overtones and the stereotyping of tribes as uncivilised, this Act aimed to create a sense of fear against tribal communities. Various tribes across India resisted British rule vehemently and the law was aimed at dealing with these tribes with an iron fist.
Contribution of Tribal Leaders and importance of November 15
From Birsa Munda and Tantia Bhil in the north and central parts, Komaram Bheem and Thalakkal Chandu in the south to the likes of Rani Gaidinliu in the northeast, tribal movements in different regions of the country waged spirited battles against the British colonial rule. A lot of their contributions today are either not known or not fully appreciated.
The aim of commemoratingNovember 15, the birthday of Bhagwan Birsa Munda, as Janjatiya Gaurav Divas is to ensure that the freedom fighters from various tribal communities who fought for India’s Independence get their rightful recognition.
It will also ensure that the heritage, culture and values of the 705 tribal communities (Scheduled Tribes) that constitute approximately 10% of our population are protected and is made accessible across the nation.
Bhagwan Birsa Munda was only 25 when he died in prison (1900). He fought bravely against the exploitative system of the British Raj and spearheaded a movement against the British colonial oppressive system. Unfortunately, the contributions of several other tribal freedom fighters including those of tribal women freedom fighters such as Rani Gaidinlu, Jhano Murmu, Helen Lepcha and others have nearly been forgotten.
Since Independence, there have been efforts to improve the social, political and economic conditions of the tribal populations. Ensuring political representation by reserving electoral constituencies with large tribal populations was one such vehicle.
However, representation at ministerial levels was still restricted to the odd figurehead Ministry such as Tribal Affairs. The recent expansion of the Union Council of Ministers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw the inclusion of eight Ministers belonging to the Scheduled Tribes representing the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal.
They represent the Gond, Santal, Miji, Munda, Tea Tribe, Kokana and Sonowal-Kachari communities.
The Union Cabinet now has three Ministers who belong to various tribal communities.
Apart from political representation, it is also important to ensure that tribal communities see economic progress and better human development indicators.
This received renewed impetus in 1999 when former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee set up a separate Ministry for Tribal Affairs.
After close to 90 years, the Indian Forest Act of 1927 was amended in 2017 (The Indian Forest (Amendment) Act, 2017; so that bamboo is no longer classified as a tree.
This has allowed for the economic value of bamboo to be leveraged to its fullest potential and also brought the Act in consonance with the Forest Rights Act of 2006.
The biggest beneficiaries of this are the forest-dwelling tribal communities who are now able to use such forest produce to make value-added utility products. The role of tribal marketing development corporations in building market linkages is further increasing the incomes of tribal communities.
Sustainable development also needs to ensure that human development indicators (HDIs) in nutrition, health and education are being improved. The National Education Policy (NEP) acknowledges the additional focus required for tribal communities to address issues such as higher dropout rates.
The NEP, by ensuring that the medium of instruction until at least Class 5, will be the mother tongue or local language of the child has ensured that tribal languages are protected and are treated on a par with languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
The expansion of the Eklavya Model Residential Schools, from 90 to 472 new schools sanctioned since 2014, will ensure that tribal children will see better education outcomes. This coupled with health interventions in the form of primary health and wellness centres and nutrition programmes will see improved HDIs among tribal communities in the long run.
There are records of over 200 tribal freedom fighters across India who participated in about 85 instances of revolts and uprisings against colonial rule.
To recognise this, 10 tribal freedom fighter museums are being set up in the States of Andhra Pradesh (Lambasingi), Chhattisgarh (Raipur), Goa (Ponda), Gujarat (Rajpipla), Jharkhand (Ranchi), Kerala (Kozhikode), Madhya Pradesh (Chhindwara), Manipur (Taminglong), Mizoram (Kelsey) and Telangana (Hyderabad) will showcase the contribution of tribal freedom fighters.
As India celebrates its 75th year of Independence with ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahostav’, Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas would be a thoughtful gift for our tribal community and a recall to Ram Rajya — where the likes of Guha are given due respect, their cultural diversity is respected, and their contributions celebrated.