Tribal Issues – UPSC GS1

Tribal Ministry Report:
  • Vast majority of tribal population is engaged in agricultural labour.
  • It has the largest number of anaemic women.
  • Mortality rates: The community also has registered the highest child mortality and infant mortality rates compared to other social groups.
  • Education: The gross enrolment ratio (GER) among tribal students in the primary school level has declined from 113.2 in 2013-14 to 109.4 in 2015-16. Besides, dropout rate among tribal students is alarming.
  • Poverty: The overall poverty rates among the tribal population have fallen compared to previous years. They remain relatively poor when weighed against other social groups.
  • Health infrastructure: It has also been found wanting in tribal areas. There is a shortfall of 6,796 sub-centres, 1,267 primary health centres (PHCs) and 309 community health centres (CHCs) in the tribal areas at an all-India level as on March 31, 2015.
  • Gaps in rehabilitation: There are gaps in the rehabilitation of the tribal community members displaced by development projects. Only 21 lakh tribal community members have been rehabilitated so far of the estimated 85 lakh persons displaced due to development projects and natural calamities.

What approaches were tried and tested to address various issues related to tribes of India soon after independence? In your opinion, were these approaches successful in addressing tribal issues effectively? Critically discuss. (200 Words)
Tribal were mostly in isolation although British policies had some impact like Christian missionaries, indebtedness, agriculture and no more absolute rights over forests. So after 1947, we could have either left tribal in isolation and in their own pristine environment in nature’s lap or brought then into mainstream society at a sudden. Rather we adopted a mix of both and proceeded to integrate them successively by various measures:
  1. Constitutional protection for their land, culture, customs, language and manners. For this 6th schedule mentions formation of autonomous district councils which can exercise legislative, executive and judicial functions on limited scope. Tribal advisory councils in 5th schedule areas also give certain autonomy to tribal. Also Governors have been empowered to amend laws for better applicability in their regard.
  2. Appointment of National Commission of SCs and STs which see the safeguards and implementation of schemes for tribes and backwards.
  3. Prevention of Atrocities on SCs and STs act which aims at protecting these people from encroachments and excesses of upper castes and non-tribal
  4. Reservation in legislature, government jobs and educational institutions for their welfare and promotion.
  5. Creation of separate states on language issues like Nagaland, Mizoram form Assam due to protests against enforcement of Assamese language
  6. Empowering and continuing army with special powers for safeguarding people in these areas from armed insurgencies.
  7. Forests act, Wildlife preservation act, etc. have recognised tribal right to their lands and forests. Supreme Court judgements have upheld tribal rights to sharing wealth arising out if their land.
  8. Scholarship, hostel, special schools, ambulance, hospitals, jobs in ST dominated areas.
  9. Tribal sub-plan to increase level of development in tribal areas.
So far we have contained secessionist demands and provided for various states in the North East. But yet sporadic skirmishes and violence with local people and allegations of misconduct on army do happen. There is growth of Left wing extremism and cross border infiltrations and havens. Also there is an increased encroachment of tribal areas for industrial activities like mining, etc. They continue to live on the margins and are not fully integrated with the mainland.


Do you think Adivisais in India have been unfairly treated and are victims of development agenda of governments and corporate world? Critically comment. (200 Words)
Adivasi have remained historically backward sections both socially and economically.
They were exploited and suppressed during British and despite many Constitutional and legislative measures, today also they remain excluded from the mainstream.
The govt has been taking away the forest land for establishment of the industries, dams and urbanization without the consent of the tribals. Mines and minerals (development and regulation) amendment act 2015 has been enacted. It has no provisions for consent or even consultation of gram sabha which would be affected by mining operations. They have the right to compensation. But the rules specify that if they don’t agree to the mining plan or to the amount of compensation, the state govt shall order the occupier to allow the licensee to enter upon the said land and carry out such operations as may be necessary
Lakhs of Adivasi families have been displaced, turned into migrants or daily contract labourers in the mines that have destroyed their forests, lands and water. Out of the 60 million displaced people, Adivasi form more that 40% of the same. They get no proper rehabilitation as well. Further, even the Government has abdicated its responsibility of providing access to basic resources [education, health, nutrition etc. to tribal areas.
Though, reservations and government measures like PESA and FRA have led to upliftment of Adivasi, the impact has been close to negligible and most of the legislations to protect their right have been only paper tigers. In spite of SC intervention in case of Vedanta mining project, govt and corporates are keen on mining even if it means forced eviction of tribals.
There is no dispute that a country’s mineral wealth should be mined and used for  development. However, predominant understanding of “development” have privileged profit in the case of mining, over the more sustainable and equitable use of minerals in partnership with local communities.
Way forward:
  1. State govt should be made to obtain permissions from owners and occupiers of land for major minerals, and consult with gram sabha in 5th and 6th schedule areas for minor minerals.
  2. It should be mandated that all clearances (forest and environment) under forest conservation act and wildlife protection act should be taken before a lease was given.
  3. Tribal cooperatives should be made eligible for grant of license of minor minerals in 5th and 6th schedule areas.
Economic development is important. But it should not attempt to bypass gram sabha and environmental norms in the name of speedy clearances and ease of doing business.


“The early school of anthropologists tended to emphasise the cultural aspects of tribal absorption into the mainstream, while the later writers have concentrated on the exploitative and political nature of the incorporation.” Which of the views did the government of India and its visionary leaders adopt for tribal development in post-independence era and why? (200 Words)
Our national leaders saw three options for incorporating tribals-
  1. The policy of isolation i.e. “hands off policy”, which was followed by the British policy of marking reserved areas for tribals thus pretending not to impinge on their culture, when in fact they did for their profit.
  2. The policy of assimilation– which they were afraid the civilization arrogance of assimilation, which the Christian missionaries tried to do, albeit in a religious sense.
So, they decided to follow a policy of integration, where tribal culture and customs will be respected, and they should grow according to their own geniuses and traditions, not make a second rate copy of us.
This was laid out in Nehru’s Tribal Panchsheel policy:
  1. Non imposition- where tribals should be allowed to grow at their own pace and understanding of the situation.
  2. Respect of tribal customs, esp. land ownership, forest resources etc.
  3. Development of tribal youth to grow leaders among them for development and social change
  4. Simplicity in administration, with voluntary agencies and local bodies playing a prominent role rather than bureaucracy.
  5. Emphasis on human growth.
The aim was to protect the tribals from the onslaught of development, to protect their forest rights, and areas which are the most richly endowed. But unfortunately, as the present situation shows, much leaves to be desired.


“In the name of ‘national development’ and ‘economic growth’, government policies have resulted in internal colonialism, subjugating tribes and alienating their land and forest resources upon which they depend.” Elucidate. (200 Words)
 The economic development of India is often criticized by the scholars, for its loop sided development, they argued that the development of the nation is just like the internal colonialism.
They held that just like in the British era the development of the nation and the benefit of the resources not reached to the common Indian’s and they only get exploited. Similarly contemporary development and growth alienated the tribals and marginalized section to reap the economic benefits. Government is only exploiting their forest resources but they are not getting any adequate return for that.
The statement can be proved by the simple statics that the 8-9% of the tribal population is the 40% of the migrants due to the development projects. In which some of them witnessed the multiple displacement 5 times in a single generation.
Thus the urges of growth eliminated one of the strata of the Indian society. Here it should to be noted that such marginalized growth creates lots of predicaments for the nation.
On one side it hinders the political, social and economic justice obligations of the Preamble, on other side it also creates a vulnerability for nation to tackle its internal security. Rise of Left Wing Extremism is empirical evidence in this regard.
More on studies also shows that the role of these tribals in the other sphere is also negligible. There is very minor percentage of the tribals engage in the public service delivery or in the apex level administration which promotes the notion of insecurity and antagonism in the nation.
Here it should to be worth to mention that GOI itself realize the fact and the 11th five year plan comprehensively deals with the inclusive growth which is aimed at growth of every strata of the Indian society.
Furthermore GOI also passed several legislations in recent years maintain the sovereignty of the tribals on their land, role of SC is also laudable in this regard.
So while considering all these it is very clear that although government is working on it, but still an intensified effort is needed to get the full-fledged results
Related Questions:
  1. Why are the tribals in India referred to as ‘the Scheduled Tribes’? Indicate the major provisions enshrined in the Constitution of India for their upliftment. (UPSC Mains 2016)

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