There are, already, innumerable existing challenges to Tribal Rights and Development, especially in a country like India. Although there is sufficient material to write about the pitfalls of tribal existence in India in singularity, it is important to understand the hardships of tribal existence with globalization given the extent to which geographical and regional boundaries are vaporizing in a world with a demonstrated history of violence and exploitation towards such groups.

The phenomena of globalization may be analyzed from different perspectives- both positive and negative. While it brings the world closer on one hand, on the other, increased liberalization, privatization, and industrialization displace tribals of their land in the name of development. This is only one example. This blog aims to analyze the ways through which tribal rights are infringed due to increasing globalization.


The phenomena of globalization may be understood in different ways. Simply speaking, globalization denotes the process through which transcultural as well as transnational integration of human activities occurs, in a holistic manner. Till before 1991, India was primarily isolated from the global market to safeguard its budding economy along with promoting self-reliance, relying mainly on the jute, tea, and cotton trade, the demand for which was relatively inelastic.  High rates of import tariffs and export taxes were imposed on foreign trade. However, seeing the increasing stagnancy in the Indian economic sphere caused the country to open up to liberalization and privatization. Along with this move came new liberal economic and trade regulations which were instrumental in the betterment of the Indian economy.

According to a 2015 report by World Trade Organization, India has a contribution of 2.7 percent in world trade, an increase from 1.2 percent in 2006. While globalization has brought about remarkable progress by bringing the world closer, it has also brought about a slew of negative impacts which primarily affects indigenous communities all over the world, including India. This is mainly due to these communities being unaware of the rights at their disposal or their societal predisposition.


India has one of the world’s largest tribal populations. 8.6 percent of India’s total population consists of tribes. By definition, tribes may be understood as a group of people who are dependent on the land for livelihood, primarily self-sufficient, and who generally choose to keep away from urban society. Globalization has caused unprecedented changes in the lives of tribal people. The extensiveness of marginalization and exploitation faced by these tribal groups varies from area to area. Forests are crucial to tribal existence. Tribal life is dictated by forests from birth to death. Globalization-led industrialization is a leading cause of large-scale deforestation that adversely impacts the tribals. Indian tribes in totality have borne the brunt of globalization the most given how large-scale developmental projects have displaced their homes and means of livelihood, ultimately endangering their existence. An example of such activity can be seen in the tribes of Jharkhand, Orissa, and Chhattisgarh where globalization-led developmental activities have affected these people to such an extent that it has displaced them, robbing them of their livelihood. The lack of education among these communities hinders them from acquiring new means of livelihood once displaced, forcing them into a cyclical system of poverty and exploitation. Apart from this, large-scale industrialization degrades natural resources and forest areas which directly impacts tribal life. If not displaced, the increased exposure to industrial chemicals puts the health of these people at risk. This is concerning given that access to healthcare and sanitation is already a luxury for them including immunization. Only 56 percent of the total tribal infant population undergoes immunization which contributes to a high Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in these groups. Apart from these factors, Indian tribes face tribal casteism which makes them doubly disadvantaged since they are considered primitive in the totality of caste consciousness with exclusionist practices existing amongst Dalits themselves against tribal people.

From the aforementioned paragraph, it can be understood how tribal people are deprived of their rights. One of the very first rights of the tribal people that is infringed is the Right to Equality, which is a fundamental right. It can be seen commonly in instances where tribal people are deprived of any form of opportunities, for example- employment or discriminated against in public places due to pre-existing notions of caste present among the higher castes or even the Dalits in India. Their fundamental Right to Education is also deprived given the discrimination faced by them in schools by upper-caste children or teachers or themselves harboring wrongful notions against formal education. Their Right to Life and Right against Exploitation is infringed given the increasing displacement they experience due to globalization-led unchecked industrialization.


The tribes in India have been given extensive legal protection by the Indian government which if implemented properly can be useful in uplifting the conditions of these people, starting with the Indian Constitution that admonishes discrimination of any sort and lays down six fundamental rights that all individuals are equally entitled to. Furthermore, other legislations protect the interests of tribal people for example, the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

There are some provisions put forth by the government with the sole aim of protecting the interests of these groups. However, they have fallen short. The Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 otherwise referred to as PESA was put forth by the government to facilitate tribal Gram Sabhas to govern themselves while protecting their land and natural resources. The tribal Gram Sabhas under this Act proved to have no power as such in practicality given the ignorant and apathetic attitude of the state officials towards these forms of bodies. On top of this, there is a lack of communication and coordination between the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the Gram Sabhas due to which tribal needs are often not met. Apart from this, the Act is ambiguous given that it does not properly define the natural resources to which the tribal groups are entitled.

There is also a failure on the part of the government to protect forest resources from unchecked globalization-led development. There is a lack of regulatory provisions in this area, for example- The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006. The enactment of this provision was proof that discrimination against tribal groups was a long way from over. There was heated debate regarding the implementation of this act given that it was opposed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India. The Ministry exerted that handing over forest rights to tribal people would lead to a loss of forest cover. This however was opposed in the case of Samatha vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and Ors whereby, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a tribal organization Samatha. The case handed over the tribals the right to use their land with the Court holding the view that usage of forest land by private non-tribal entities for commercial purposes alienates the tribal groups from their land. Thus, 20 percent of any profit gained from commercializing forest land was to go into the development of tribal groups residing in those lands. This decision by the Court was thus helpful in reversing the harm caused by unprecedented industrialization in forest areas through the displacement of tribal communities.


It can be concluded that while there is slow progress in the area of tribal development in India it is not enough to compete with unchecked globalization-led industrialization, privatization, and commercialization. Giving more importance to tribal welfare is the only way to ensure that tribal rights do not remain a myth in a globalized world. Certain recommendations may be made about the improvement of tribal conditions in India. The Indian Government has to put better efforts to check in and make comprehensive reports of the restoration of alienated land to the tribal communities. Regarding the development of forest land, tribal groups are given little to no participation. Decisions regarding their land are taken by foreign non-tribal entities. The inclusivity of tribal groups in taking decisions regarding their land is to be monitored and implemented effectively by the government.  When moving forward with the commercialization of tribal land, measures have to be taken to ensure that the tribal communities are given a percentage of the benefits reaped from the commercialization. Introduction of appropriate rehabilitation facilities for displaced tribes with proper provisions for the employment of such tribal people has to be put in place. Further, appropriate penalization of those non-tribal people who have occupied tribal land after repeated notices of eviction from authoritative bodies has to be taken more seriously and proper implementation of existing statutes and regulations to uplift tribal conditions should be monitored.

Author(s) Name: Ekoparna Datta Ray (University of Calcutta)

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