Describe the concept of Tribe with particular reference to India, and write about the main features of Tribal exclusion and inclusive policies in India".
In India we come across many social groups or societies who might have some of these characteristics. But all of them are not denoted as tribal groups. The term tribe is more functional in nature in India. There was a purpose to declare or recognize some societies as tribal societies through constitutional Act of the country. Thus when we talk of tribe we talk of the Scheduled Tribes, the social groups recognized or listed in the Schedule of the Constitution of India. Therefore, by definition, the Scheduled tribes are those social groups who are “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”. Today often the peripheral groups, more than million Indians belong to tribal communities distinct from the great mass of Hindu caste society. Inhabiting the undisturbed hills and densely wooded regions in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and the north eastern region primarily, for thousands of years, these ‘Aadivasis’, as they are known in India, have origins, which precede the Vedic Aryans and the Dravidians of the south. The Constitution of India gives recognition to a category of people designated as the Scheduled Tribes and makes special provisions for their political representation and their economic and social welfare. The Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs) are two groupings of historically disadvantaged people that are given express recognition in the Constitution of India. During the period of British rule in the Indian sub-continent they were known as the Depressed Classes. Tribals constitute 8.14% of the total population of the country, numbering 84.51 million (2001 Census) and cover about 15% of the country’s area. The fact that tribal people need special attention can be observed from their low social, economic and participatory indicators. Whether it is maternal and child mortality, size of agricultural holdings or access to drinking water and electricity, tribal communities lag far behind the general population. 52% of Tribal population is Below Poverty Line and what is staggering is that 54% tribals have no access to economic assets such as communication and transport. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 lists 1,108 castes across 25 states in its First Schedule, while the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 lists 744 tribes across 22 states in its First Schedule. The 67.7 million people belonging to ‘Scheduled tribes’ in India are generally considered to be ‘Adivasi’, literally meaning ‘Indigenous People’ or original inhabitants, though the term ‘Scheduled Tribe’ (ST) is not coterminous with the term ‘Adivasi’. Scheduled Tribe is an administrative term used for the purpose of ‘administering’ certain specific constitutional privileges, protection and benefits for specific section of peoples historically considered disadvantaged and ‘backward’. However, this administrative term does not exactly match all the peoples called ‘Adivasi’. Out of the 5653 distinct communities in India , 635 are considered to be ‘tribes’ or ‘Adivasis’. In comparison, one finds that estimated number of STs varies from 250 to 593. Despite this diversity, tribal communities do have similarities, though broad generic ones. They are known to dwell in compact areas, follow a community way of living, in harmony with nature, and have a uniqueness of culture, distinctive customs, traditions and beliefs which are simple, direct and non-acquisitive by nature. Some of these broadly similar characteristics have been used as criteria for the last few decades to identify and declare a particular community as a Scheduled Tribe. The criteria used are: primitive traits, distinctive...
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