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EMPOWERING TRIBAL COMMUNITIES: A COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS OF RIGHTS AND DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES IN INDIA

INTRODUCTION

Indian society is diverse and has a rich cultural legacy. Tribal communities are one of the most disadvantaged and marginalised parts of Indian society. These groups, also referred to as Adivasis, make up a sizeable section of the Indian population. According to the Census of 2011, 104 million people, i.e., 8.6% of India’s population are classified as tribal.[1] They lead a distinctive lifestyle that is firmly steeped in their traditions and customs.

Tribal uprisings like the Khasi-Garo, Mizo, Kol, and other movements played a significant role in India’s history and fight for independence. The nation cannot forget either the bravery of Gond Maharani Veer Durgavati or the sacrifice of Rani Kamalapati. Without the valiant Bhils who battled side by side and made sacrifices, Veer Maharana Pratap’s struggle is impossible to comprehend. Many Adivasi warriors have given their lives in the fight for liberation, including Sidhu Murmu, Kanu Murmu, Baba Tilka Manjhi, Rani Durgavati, and Rani Gaidinliu.[2]

However, they have traditionally encountered social, economic, and political obstacles that frequently result in their exploitation and marginalisation. The Indian Constitution guarantees various rights and laws that are especially suited for the well-being of tribal communities to defend and promote them.

CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF TRIBAL COMMUNITIES

The Indian Constitution recognises the significance of upholding tribal communities’ interests and advancing their welfare. Their rights and cultural identity are safeguarded by several articles and clauses. Key constitutional rights for native communities include the following:

Article 15(4)

The State may establish special regulations under Article 15(4) of the Indian Constitution for the advancement of socially and educationally disadvantaged classes, including indigenous people. With the help of this clause, the government can carry out affirmative action plans that would improve the socioeconomic standing of tribal groups.

Article 16(4)

Similar to Article 15(4), Article 16(4)[3] permit the State to grant reservations for underprivileged groups, including tribal communities, in public employment. The purpose of this clause is to encourage representation and equal access to government services.

Article 244(1)

The President of India has the authority to designate some places having a sizable tribal population as Scheduled places under Article 244(1).[4] The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which allows for self-government and the defence of tribal rights, governs these territories.

Article 275(1)

The Indian government allots funds for the welfare of Scheduled Tribes (STs) and other underprivileged groups per Article 275(1).[5] These funds are used for a range of developmental initiatives, including infrastructure, healthcare, and education.

Article 46

Article 46[6] places a strong emphasis on the state’s obligation to advance the economic and educational interests of marginalised groups, particularly tribal people. It commands the government to safeguard them against all types of exploitation and social injustice.

SPECIAL PROVISIONS FOR TRIBAL COMMUNITIES

A separate Ministry called the Ministry of Tribal Affairs was established in 1999 in addition to the aforementioned constitutional safeguards to deliver a more targeted approach to the integrated socio-economic development of the Tribal population.[7]

In India, tribal people have particular laws that cater to their particular requirements and issues. The Fifth Schedule and the Sixth Schedule are the two most notable of these clauses.

Fifth Schedule

The management and control of Scheduled Areas are governed by the Indian Constitution’s Fifth Schedule. It gives each state’s governor the authority to oversee and defend the rights of the local tribal communities. The schedule also describes how tribal advisory councils operate and how Scheduled Areas are governed.

Sixth Schedule

Tribal communities living in specific geographic areas, referred to as Tribal Areas, are granted autonomous self-governance under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. It creates independent district councils and grants them legislative and executive authority for local government.

Land and Forest Rights

For tribal populations to survive and thrive, land and forest rights are essential. Due to a variety of reasons, indigenous communities have historically been forced to leave their native territories. Nevertheless, measures have been taken to safeguard their land rights.

The Forest Rights Act, 2006 affirms the ownership of ancestral lands and forests by tribal tribes and other traditional forest-dwelling people. It attempts to correct historical injustices and gives these people the tools they need to effectively manage and protect their natural resources.

Education and Employment Opportunities

The socioeconomic growth of tribal groups depends on access to education and work opportunities. The government has put in place several programmes to close the educational gap and improve indigenous youth’s career opportunities.

The Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) were established to offer ST students in outlying locations (Classes VI–XII) a high-quality education. Currently, 392 ERMS are enrolling more than one lakh students. Additionally, a variety of fellowship and scholarship programmes have been developed to help ST students with the costs of their studies, from pre- and post-matric levels through higher education and international studies.[8]

Health and Welfare Initiatives

The living conditions and well-being of indigenous tribes are significantly improved through welfare and healthcare programmes. To meet the healthcare requirements of tribal groups, the government has put in place several programmes.

Providing healthcare, infrastructure, and medical facilities in tribal communities has been the focus of programmes like the National Rural Health Mission and the National Health Mission. Additionally, specialised programmes have been launched to address endemic diseases and malnutrition, two common health problems among indigenous populations.[9]

Cultural Preservation and Promotion

The rich cultural history of India’s tribal groups has to be protected and encouraged. To protect their cultural identity and traditions, efforts are being made.

To preserve and develop tribal arts, crafts, music, and dance forms, the government established Tribal Research Institutes and Tribal Cultural Centres.[10] The unique cultural diversity of tribal communities is celebrated through festivals and cultural activities.

CHALLENGES FACED BY TRIBAL COMMUNITIES

Tribal communities still encounter several issues that hinder their development and well-being despite constitutional provisions and governmental measures.

  1. Land Acquisition and Relocation

Land acquisition for development projects frequently affects tribal populations, causing eviction and the loss of livelihoods. Their vulnerability is made worse by the lack of appropriate compensation, rehabilitation, and counsel.

  1. Insufficient Infrastructure

Roads, power, and access to clean drinking water are among the infrastructure issues that plague many indigenous areas. Access to necessary services, institutions of higher learning, and healthcare facilities is hampered as a result.

  1. Discrimination and Marginalisation

Due to the unique cultural practises, languages, and lifestyles of tribal societies, these groups experience social prejudice and marginalisation. Their chances for development and integration are limited by the discrimination and unfair treatment they frequently experience.

GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES FOR TRIBAL UPLIFTMENT

The Indian government has launched several projects and programmes targeted at improving tribal communities to solve the issues they confront.

  • Tribal Sub-Plan

A planning tool called the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) makes sure that resources are allocated for tribal development in proportion to their population. States are required to set aside a specific amount of their budgets for the welfare of indigenous populations.[11]

  • Forest Rights Act

A significant piece of legislation that recognises and defends the rights of communities that live in forests, especially tribal communities, is the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006. It gives them the ability to sustainably manage and preserve their ancestral lands and forests.

  • Tribal Development Funds

To help the economic and social development of tribal groups, the government has established specialised funds, such as the Tribal Development Fund and the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED). These subsidies support tribal farmers and craftspeople in developing their businesses, their skills, and their connections to markets.[12]

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TRIBAL RIGHTS FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The difficulties that Indigenous people experience and the initiatives taken to address their rights and well-being are highlighted by several case studies. These case studies serve as illustrations of the various problems that tribal groups face and the significance of successful interventions.

Tribal communities’ rights must be acknowledged and upheld not just for their welfare but also for the country’s general progress. Tribal communities support the nation’s cultural diversity, ecological harmony, and long-term growth. To achieve inclusive and equitable growth, they must be involved in decision-making processes and development programmes.[13]

CONCLUSION

The empowerment, security, and overall well-being of India’s indigenous groups depend on the protection of their legal rights. Their particular requirements and concerns are intended to be addressed by constitutional provisions, distinct schedules, and government programmes. However, additional initiatives are required to guarantee the efficient application of these rules and to deal with the underlying problems with land rights, healthcare, education, and socioeconomic inequities. It is crucial to establish a welcoming and supportive environment that respects cultural diversity and fosters tribal groups’ socioeconomic development.

Author(s) Name: Manish Kumar Mahto (ICFAI University Jharkhand)

References:

[1] Census of India, 2011, Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India, available at https://censusindia.gov.in/nada/index.php/catalog/42555/download/46181/2011-IndiaState-0000.xlsx, accessed 11 June 2023.

[2] ‘Honouring and Empowering the Adivasis of India’ (Press Information Bureau, 2 December 2022) https://pib.gov.in/FeaturesDeatils.aspx?NoteId=151222&ModuleId%20=%202#:~:text=Unity%20in%20diversity%20is%20one,the%20total%20population%20in%20India, accessed 11 June 2023.

[3] Constitution of India, 1950

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] ‘Health Schemes in Tribal Areas’ (Press Information Bureau , 11 February 2022) https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx?PRID=1797700, accessed 11 June 2023

[8] ‘Schemes Launched by Ministry of Tribal Affairs for the Welfare of Scheduled Tribes’ (Press Information Bureau , 23 July 2018) https://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=180875,  accessed 11 June 2023

[9]  ‘Health Schemes in Tribal Areas’ (Press Information Bureau , 11 February 2022) https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx?PRID=1797700, accessed 11 June 2023

[10] Samvaad D, ‘Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India’ (Ministry of Tribal Affairs – Government of India) https://tribal.nic.in/TRI.aspx, accessed 11 June 2023

[11] ‘Press Information Bureau ’ (Tribal Sub-Plan, 9 December 2011) https://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=78374, accessed 11 June 2023

[12] ‘Tribal Development Fund (TDF) Will Be Used to Support; – Nabard’ (nabard.org) https://www.nabard.org/demo/auth/writereaddata/File/FSDD-Tribal%20Development%20Fund%20Support.pdf accessed 11 June 2023

[13] Pathak V, Kumar M and Ruikar M, ‘Tribal Population in India: A Public Health Challenge and Road to Future’ (2020) 9 Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care 508