ADIVASI IN INDIA
Context: About 8 million indigenous people in India are in danger of being evicted from forests that their ancestors have lived in for millennia.
- According to the 2011 census, these tribal people number 104 million – almost 9% of the country’s then 1.2 billion populations.
- It is the largest indigenous population in any country in the world, occupying 22% of India’s geographical terrain.
- 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.
MAJOR PROBLEMS FACED BY ADIVASIS
1. LOSS OF CONTROL OVER NATURAL RESOURCES:
- Before the coming of the British, the tribals enjoyed unhindered rights of ownership and management over natural resources like land, forests, wildlife, water, soil, fish, etc.
- With the advent of industrialization in India and the discovery of mineral and other resources in tribal inhabited areas, these pockets were thrown open to outsiders and state control replaced tribal control.
- This resulted in loss of ownership rights over land, owing to chronic indebtedness, unscrupulous landlords, moneylenders, contractors and officials.
2. LACK OF EDUCATION:
- According to the 1991 Census, nearly 70 per cent of the tribals are illiterates.
- Although it cannot be denied that education can act as the instrument for betterment of the tribals ensuring greater participation for them in the development process, still there are certain factors which inhibit the tribals from taking to education.
- These factors include tribal superstitions and prejudices, extreme poverty, nomadic lifestyle of certain tribes, lack of interest in alien subjects taught through an alien language and a lack of suitable teachers and other facilities in the tribal areas.
3. DISPLACEMENT AND REHABILITATION:
- After independence, the focus of the development process was on heavy industries and the core sector.
- As a result huge steel plants, power projects and large dams came up—most of them in the tribal inhabited areas.
- The mining activities were also accelerated in these areas.
- Acquisition of tribal land by the government for these projects led to large scale displacement of the tribal population.
- The tribal pockets of Chhotanagpur region, Orissa, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh suffered the most.
- No settlements were provided for the displaced tribals within the industrial areas, who were forced to live in peripheries in slums or to migrate to adjoining states to work as unskilled workers in conditions of poverty.
- The migration of these tribals to the urban areas causes psychological problems for them as they are not able to adjust well to the urban lifestyle and values.
4. PROBLEMS OF HEALTH AND NUTRITION:
Because of economic backwardness and insecure livelihood, the tribals face health problems, such as prevalence of disease, like malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, diarrhoea and jaundice, problems associated with malnutrition like iron deficiency and anaemia, high infant mortality rates, low levels of life expectancy, etc.
5. GENDER ISSUES:
The degradation of the natural environment, particularly through the destruction of forests and a rapidly shrinking resource base, has had its impact on the status of women.
The opening of the tribal belts to mining, industries and commercialisation has exposed tribal men and women to the ruthless operations of the market economy, giving rise to consumerism and to commoditisation of women.
6. EROSION OF IDENTITY:
- Increasingly, the traditional institutions and laws of tribals are coming into conflict with modern institutions which create apprehensions among the tribals about preserving their identity.
- Extinction of tribal dialects and languages is another cause of concern as it indicates an erosion of tribal identity in certain areas.
FOREST RIGHTS ACT
- The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, is a key piece of forest legislation passed in Indiaon 18 December 2006.
- It has also been called the Forest Rights Act, the Tribal Rights Act, the Tribal Bill, and the Tribal Land Act.
- The law concerns the rights of forest-dwelling communities to land and other resources, denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws in India.
- It is important to go beyond the administrative convention of bracketing Adivasis into a single category.
- Policy framing requires mandatory recognition of their wide diversity so as to address the different problems faced by different groups — by community as well as by region.
- It is also important to abide by the general constitutional rules which are often violated by the state.
- The very common instances of violations of the Forest Rights Act, the Right to Education Act, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act — which affect them — have to be eliminated.
- Adivasis must be respected as active agents of change and involved in all spheres of policy, from planning to implementation.
- SC/ST Commissioner B.D. Sharma once said that we need to empower the traditional governance systems of Adivasis rather than teaching democracy to them.
- U. Wills, a British Indian civil servant who served in the Central Provinces historically observed that there are “embryonic origins of constitutionalism” in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.
- It is high time we understand Adivasis communities in the right perspective and spirit in order to enrich our democracy.
- A strong political will and bureaucratic efficiency are the need of the hour.