The Sixth Schedule under Article 244 of India’s Constitution identifies Autonomous Districts in the Tribal Areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. It also makes provisions for recognition of Autonomous Regions within these Autonomous Districts. These have been specified in the Parts I, II, IIA and III of the table appended to paragraph 20 of the Sixth Schedule. In other words, areas where provisions of Sixth Schedule are applicable are known as Tribal Areas. The State- wise details of Tribal Areas are as under:
Part I-Assam: The North Catcher Hills District; the Kari- Angling District; The Bode Land Territorial Area District.
Part II-Meghalaya: Khas Hills District; Jacinta Hills District; the Agro Hills District.
Part IIA-Tripura: Tribal Areas District.
Part III-Mizoram: The Chaka District; the Mara District; The Lai District.
Some tribal communities have adopted a mainstream way of life at one of the spectrum but there are 75 Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) in 17 States and Union Territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, who are characterised by: (i) a pre- agriculture level of technology, (ii) a stagnant or declining population, (iii) extremely low literacy, (iv) a subsistence level of economy.
Their total population as per the 1991 Census was about 24.12 lakhs. Most of these groups are small in number, but have attained various levels of social and economic progress and generally live in remote habitat, with poor administrative and infrastructure back-up.
Many indicators with regard to Scheduled Tribes like their demography, sex-ratio, education, livelihood profile, health profile have been compiled periodically through the Census operations or by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) or Central Statistical Organisation (CSO).
The population of Scheduled Tribes has been on the increase since 1961. The Census reveals that the tribal population had grown at the rate of 24.45 per cent during the period 1991-2001. The decadal population growth between the Census Year 1981 to 1991 in respect of the tribal population had been higher (31.64 per cent) than that for the overall population (23.51 per cent).
As compared to the sex ratio for the overall population (933 females per 1000 males), the sex ratio among Schedules Tribes is more favourable, at 977 females per 1000 males as per Census 2001. The literacy rate for overall population has increased from 52 per cent to 65 percent between 1991 to 2001. In case of Scheduled Tribes the increase in literacy has been from about 30 per cent to 47 per cent. The literacy rate among tribals is however far below the overall literacy in the country. The female literacy rate among tribals during the period 1991 to 2001 increased from 18.19 per cent to 34.76 per cent which is lower by approximately 20 per cent as compared to literacy rate of the females of the general population.
According to the 1991 Census figures, 42.02 per cent of the ST populations were main workers, of whom 54.50 per cent were cultivators and 32.69 per cent agricultural labourers. Thus, about 87 per cent of the main workers from these communities were engaged in primary sectors activities. Not surprisingly, the cumulative effect has been that the proportion of Scheduled Tribes below the poverty line is substantially higher than the national average. A majority of Scheduled Tribes continue to live below the poverty line, have poor literacy rates, and suffer from malnutrition and diseases.
The Human Development Index (HDI) of tribal population is quite low as compared to the rest of the population. This is mainly because they live in clusters, generally in remote areas, which are remote or in the vicinity of forests. The development programmes meant for the general public often elude the tribal population for the reasons for inaccessibility and difficult terrain. Nevertheless the Government of India and the State Governments have taken a number of measures over the years to improve the conditions of STs and for their development.
The innovative strategy of the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) for STs was launched during 1974. This special strategy was expected to ensure that all the general development sectors, both at the Central and State levels, earmark funds for STs in proportion to their population so that adequate benefits from all the concerned sectors flow to this disadvantaged group.
Thus, the TSP strategy seeks to ensure adequate flow of funds for tribal development not only under every State Plan funds, but also from all the Central Ministries/Departments. TSP is a part of the overall plan of a State/UT or a Central Ministry/Department, and is therefore called a Sub-Plan. Special Central Assistance (SCA) to TSP is provided by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to 21 Tribal Sub-Plan States including North-Eastern States of Assam, Manipur and Tripura. Since 2003-04 the Ministry of Home Affairs is releasing the funds under SCA to TSP meant for the UTS.
The main objective of extending SCA to TSP is to boost the demand based income-generation programmes and thus raise the economic and social status of tribal’s in sectors of agriculture, horticulture, land reforms, watershed development/social and moisture conservation, animal husbandry, ecology and environment, development of forests/forest villages, development of entrepreneurship and SSI and tribal women. During the year 2008-09, an amount of Rs. 1,650 crore was released to the States.
The Ministry of Tribal Affairs releases grants to 21 Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) and four Tribal-majority States to meet the cost of such projects for Tribal Development as may be undertaken by the State Government with the approval of Government of India, for raising the level of administration of the Scheduled Areas therein to that of the rest of the State. Funds are now being released against specific infrastructural projects like roads, bridges, solar electrification, construction of school, hostel building, irrigation facilities, etc.
An amount of Rs. 800 crore was provided to State Governments for infrastructure projects during 2008-09.
Since 1997-08, a part of funds under Article 275(1) of the Constitution is also released for setting up Eluvia Model Residential Schools to provide quality education to the tribal students. This will enable the tribal children to avail of the facility of reservation in higher and professional educational courses as well as in higher levels of job in the Government and Public Sector undertakings. So far 150 such schools have been sanctioned in 24 States.
A Central Sector Scheme was introduced in 1988-89 for the all-round development of these groups under which financial assistance is made available to Integrated Tribal Development Projects, Tribal Research Institutes and Non-Government Organisations for undertaking projects/activities not covered by any of the existing schemes.
TRIs are engaged in the work of providing planning inputs to the State Governments, collection of data and conducting research and evaluation students on problems relating to the tribes living in respective States. The Tribal Research Institutes also conduct training, seminars and workshops for the cause of tribal development and also codify customary law. There are at present 16 TRIs located one each in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Among other measures taken to ameliorate the lot of tribal’s are: (i) Girls Hostel for Scheduled Tribes (Centrally Sponsored Scheme); (ii) Boys Hostel for Scheduled Tribes (Scheduled Sponsored Scheme); (iii) Establishment of Ashram School in Tribal Sub-Plan; (iv) Up gradation of Merit of ST Students; (v) Vocational Training in Tribal Areas; (vi) Education of Girls in Low Literacy Pockets; (vii) Grants-in-Aid to Voluntary Organisations; (viii) Post-Metric Scholarship for Scheduled Tribes Students; (ix) Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship (RGNF); (x) National Overseas Scholarship for Scheduled Tribes (Non-Plan); and (xi) Grants-in-Aid for Minor Forest Produce (MFP) Operations.
Tribals have been living in and around forests for centuries. These are their original habitats for generations from time immemorial. These Forest-Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDSTs) are integral to the forest biosphere. Unfortunately, however, the traditional rights to these FDSTs over the land occupied by them were not adequately recognised and recorded at the time of consolidation of State forests during the colonial period and subsequently, after independence too.
The condition of FDSTs are becoming precarious day by day-owing to displacement threats in view of the ever- increasing demand for conservation of forests on the one hand, and tardy implementation of developmental activities meant for them on the other. As they do not have a ‘legal’ home they do not have an address. As a result they cannot avail themselves of benefits under various schemes of the government such as the Indira Awas Yojana.
The tribal’s inhabiting the forest village do not get the benefit of various welfare schemes due to non-availability of title of land in their favour and the fact that in many cases the jurisdiction of the block and revenue authorities does not cover forest villages. The forest villages are those villages which were set up in remote and inaccessible forest areas during British period, with a view to providing uninterrupted manpower for forestry operations. However, many of these villages are not revenue villages. There are around 3000 forest villages in the country. Consequently, they face the threat of eviction. All these factors have resulted in historical injustice to them.
The Provisions of the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) give the right of ownership of MFP to the respective local communities. The collection of MFP and its marketing thereof constitute the major source of livelihood for a majority tribal population. However, despite the transfer of control and management of natural resources to the STs, the collection and trade in MFP, mainly Tend leaves, is largely monopolized by Corporations belonging to the Forest Department of State Governments.
There are around 3,000 forest villages in the country. Forest villages are those villages which were set up in remote and inaccessible forest areas during the British period with a view to providing uninterrupted manpower for forestry operations. These villages are well recorded in the records of State Forest Department. Many of these villages despite their long existence, are, even today, not revenue villages and the land is recorded as forest land, covered under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. Consequently, the tribal’s inhabiting the forest villages do not get the benefit of various welfare schemes, due to no availability of title of land in their favour, and also because, in many cases, the jurisdiction of the block and revenue authorities does not cover forest villages.
The condition of the tribal’s living in the forest villages is, therefore, very precarious. While the efforts to convert the forest villages to revenue villages continue, it was decided to take up development of all the 3,000 forest villages during the 10th Five-Year Plan, without waiting for such conversion. The development was planned at the average cost of Rs. 15 lakhs per forest village at a total cost of Rs. 450 crore.
The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has formulated the draft of a National Tribal Policy covering various issues such as Alienation of Tribal Land; Tribal-Forest Interface; Displacement, Rehabilitation and Resettlement; Enhancement of Human Development Index; Creation of Critical Infrastructure; Violent Manifestations; Conservation and Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PTGs); Adoption of Tribal Sub-Plan Strategy; Empowerment; Gender Equity; Enlisting Support of Non-Governmental Organisation; Tribal Culture and Traditional Knowledge; Administration of Tribal Areas; the Regulatory and Protective Regime; Scheduling and De-scheduling of Tribes, etc. The draft policy was made available to members of the public through Ministry’s website and copies were sent to Central Ministers. State/UT Governments, the Central Ministries/
Departments concerned academicians, anthropologists, social activists, experts working for the welfare of the tribal people, and other stakeholders, inviting views, comments and suggestions. The Ministry has received an enthusiastic response from various stakeholders and is in the process of examination of the same and hopes to finalise the draft National Tribal Policy at the earliest.
The Central Government and the State Governments have been implementing schemes/programmes for the upliftment of STs like Reservation in Services, Tribal Sub-Plans, Central Schemes, Centrally Sponsored Schemes, etc. However, a lot more is required to be done to achieve the desired development goals for STs after the achievement of Independence, India has made rapid strides in various spheres of development, viz. industry, agriculture, transportation, communication, health care and education, among others. However, tribal’s have least benefitted from this development. They are still living a life of poverty and deprivation. The goal of inclusive growth demands that the hitherto neglected tribal people should be properly taken care of so that they can also contribute to make the country stronger and more prosperous.