[Sansad TV] Perspective: Protecting the Tribes

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)


  • The last known member of an indigenous tribes in the Amazon rainforest has died after living alone for decades.
  • The unidentified man from an uncontacted Indigenous tribe in Brazil was known as the ‘man of the hole’ because he was often spotted taking shelter in pits dug in the ground.
  • His death has now resulted in a lot of discussion among activists, once again bringing to the spotlight the need to protect the indigenous people.

Tribes in India

  • In India, most of the tribes are collectively identified under Article 342 as “Scheduled Tribes”.
  • There are 110 million tribals in the country, distributed across 18 states.
  • The tribal population is known to live sustainable lives, in harmony with nature.
  • However, with their numbers dwindling due to various contributing factors, the concern is on how not just to protect their population, but also to preserve their heritage, culture, language, art, traditions and sensibilities.

What’s being done towards the protection and economic upliftment of the tribals in India? How are their concerns & challenges being addressed?

Why do Tribal communities matter?

  • Safeguarding Biodiversity: India’s ethnic people have played a vital role in preserving the biodiversity of several virgin forests and have conserved flora and fauna in sacred groves of tribals.
  • Repository of traditional knowledge: They hold vital ancestral knowledge and expertise on how to adapt, mitigate, and reduce climate and disaster risks.
  • Sustainable livelihood practices: The crops grown by indigenous people are highly adaptable. They can survive drought, altitude, flooding, and any kind of extremes of temperature. As a result, these crops help create resilient farms.
  • Gender and social harmony: Tribal communities are one of the most liberal communities. Status of women is very high as they contribute substantially to primary subsistence activities.

Various Protection to tribes in India

(1) Constitutional Protection

  • The term ‘Scheduled Tribes’ first appears in the Constitution of India.
  • Article 366 (25) defined scheduled tribes as “such tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 to be Scheduled Tribes for the purposes of this constitution”.
  • Article 342 prescribes procedure to be followed in the matter of specification of scheduled tribes.
  • Among the tribal groups, several have adapted to modern life but there are tribal groups who are more vulnerable.
  • The Dhebar Commission (1973) created a separate category “Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs)” which was renamed in 2006 as “Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)”.
  • As per Article 338-A of the Constitution of India, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has been set up.

(2) Civil Rights Protection

  • Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955: It prescribes punishment for the preaching and practice of untouchability against the downtrodden sections of society.
  • Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989: It is an Act to prevent the Commission of offences of atrocities against the members of the SCs and STs; to provide for special Courts for the trial of such offences.
  • Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996: It gives special powers to the Gram Sabhas in Scheduled Areas especially for the management of natural resources.
  • Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006: The rights provided to tribals under the Forest Rights Act seek to secure individual and community ownership on landholding, exploitation and habitation in forests by indigenous people in India.

(3) Protecting their Political Aspirations

  • Scheduled Areas are areas in India with a preponderance of tribal population subject to a special governance mechanism wherein the central government plays a direct role in safeguarding cultural and economic interests of scheduled tribes in the area.
  • The Fifth schedule deals with the administration and control of Scheduled Areas as well as of Scheduled Tribes residing in any State other than the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
  • The Sixth Schedule consists of provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, according to Article 244 of the Indian Constitution.

Issues faced by Tribal population in India

  • Acute Poverty: Many of indigenous communities live in extreme poverty. They suffer from malnutrition and lack access to basic education and health facilities. Ex. Melghat in Maharashtra.
  • Dwindling Population: Indigenous communities are facing a dwindling population. Most of them are desolated from their native places.
  • Degradation of Forests: Unrestrained development in forest areas has led to the degradation of the forest areas which account for the major basis for the survival of the tribal community.
  • Forest Rights Issues: Inability to recognize indigenous communities’ rights to forest resources is also a concern. This has given rise to left wing leanings.
  • Displacement: Acquisition of tribal land by the government for ‘development’ purposes has led to large scale displacement and alienation of tribal population.
  • Discrimination: The tribal people were compelled to perform duties that were considered inferior because of their economic backwardness and illiteracy.

Major challenges in the tribal areas

  • Remoteness: The tribal hamlets and habitations are located either in a valley or on the hill tops in most of the places. Due to which they are excludes from major developmental activities, improved cultivation practices, education and health facilities.
  • Exploitation: The agriculture produces, local non timber forest produce and other valuable forest resources are being siphoned out by the middlemen from the innocent tribals for the paltry prices thus leaving the tribals exploited financially.
  • Superstition: Poverty, health issues, illiteracy and underdevelopment is often ascribed to the fate, star and supernatural events. Even preventable deaths are sometimes construed as may be due to bad omen; the scientific temper is a remotest aspiration.  
  • Road and Telecom lacunae: Due to tough terrain and difficult areas of tribal locations, it requires huge resources to establish connectivity to all the habitation. The telecom connectivity is also as sparse as the roads. Hence the penetration of digital literacy is hampered in typical tribal areas.
  • Lack of health awareness: Unscientific practices, local beliefs, self-medication, customary doctor etc. have deprived them from availing the institutional health facilities.
  • Illiteracy: It is the main hurdle in improving living standards of tribals in the tribal belts. The spill over effect of illiteracy is ‘lack of confidence’ to adopt progressive steps.
  • Primitive agriculture: The traditional areas where tribal live are mostly forests and hill terrains, having no proper potential for the adoption of modern agriculture on a large scale. Even now the PVTG’s are practicing shifting cultivation (Podu farming) on the hill slopes of eastern states.
  • Unemployment: Inability to catch up with the skilled jobs in the open market due to lack of exposure to formal skill training, the unemployment is haunting the qualified tribal youths.

Various welfare schemes for Tribals

  • Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana: VKY aims at creating enabling environment for the need-based and outcome-oriented holistic development of the tribal people.
  • Minor Forest Produce (MFP): Scheme of Mechanism for Marketing of MFP through Minimum Support Price (MSP) and Development of Value Chain for MFP
  • Van Dhan Vikas Karyakram: 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.
  • Higher education: Pre and Matric Scholarship Scheme for ST students, Eklavya Model Residential Schools
  • Classification as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs):  PVTGs have some basic characteristics -they are mostly homogenous, with a small population, relatively physically isolated, social institutes cast in a simple mould, absence of written language, relatively simple technology and a slower rate of change etc.

Way forward

  • There is a need to take up massive awareness creation activities among the tribal to make them realise their development potential.
  • Area based approach should be adopted to create infrastructure and road connectivity.
  • Effective monitoring of the funds meant for various tribal development activities is necessary.
  • Comprehensive skill development programs customized to the local tribal markets and local consumers have assured a future for the tribal youth.
  • Formal education and institutional finance through village institutions and Self Help Groups need to be intensified in the tribal areas by a focused approach.

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch