The term “tribal” or “Adivasi” creates an image of half-naked men and women in our mind, wielding arrows and spears, wearing feathers on their heads, and speaking an unintelligible language.
Even as the majority of the world’s communities continued to change their lifestyles to keep up with the world’s “progress,” there were communities that remained true to their traditional values, customs, and beliefs, allowing them to live in harmony with nature and their unpolluted environment.
The so-called civilised world labelled these communities as natives, uncivilised people, Aboriginals, Adivasis, Tribals, Indigenous, uncontacted people, and many other such terms. In India, they are commonly referred to as Adivasis/Girijans.
Be it social or technological, the problems faced by tribals in India are many. They are educationally backward and face numerous social and religious troubles; they are in poverty and go through exploitation and forced displacement with several health issues. Every day, new tribal problems emerge throughout India.
Tribals people are estimated 104 million and they cover 8.61 percent of the country’s total population, and the 2011 census has given this report. The seven states of northeast India and the “central tribal belt” stretching from Rajasthan to West Bengal have the highest concentrations of indigenous people.
More than half of the Scheduled Tribes population lives in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Gujarat.
Article 342 of the Indian Constitution has identified almost 700 Scheduled Tribes, spread across various states and union territories. Many tribes are found in multiple states.
Orissa and Madhya Pradesh have the most scheduled tribes (i.e., 62). Santhals, Gonds, Angamis, Bhils, Khasis, Bhutias, and Great Andamanese are some of India’s major tribal groups.
Each of these tribes has its own unique culture, language, tradition, and way of living life. Many more such tribes in the country live away from the mainland.
Many such ethnic groups are there in India who are not yet qualified for their scheduled tribe status, and that is the reason they have not been officially recognized yet,
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Major Issues of Tribes of India
Scheduled tribes have primitive characteristics, distinct culture, geographical isolation, shyness of contact with the larger community, and backwardness. As a result, they face numerous challenges throughout their lives. Tribal problems in India are many, with various social, religious, educational, and health-related issues.
- The Literacy Rate (LR) for Scheduled Tribes (STs) has increased from 8.53 percent in 1961 to 58.96 percent in 2011, whereas the LR of the total population has increased from 28.30 percent from 1961 to 72.99 percent in 2011.
- From 2001 to 2011, the LR increased by 11.86 percentage points for STs and 8.15 percentage points for the entire population.
- The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is currently implemented as India’s most important program for universalizing elementary education.
- Dropout rates among the tribal students are incredibly high, especially at the secondary and senior secondary levels.
- Higher education suffers as well; they have a dropout rate of 73% in Class X, 84% in Class XI, and 86% in Class XII.
- According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, the Principal of one of the schools in Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadra District stated that tribal children were a “big problem” in the school.
- Such prejudice prevents tribal children from learning in the classroom and encourages discrimination and exclusion, adding more to Tribal problems in India.
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- Tribal people believe in superhumans and supernatural powers, and they worship them as well. This raised many questions in the minds of young educated people. The tribal culture is undergoing a revolutionary change as they contact other cultures.
- The tribal people match Western culture in many aspects of their social lives, while they are abandoning their own culture.
- It has resulted in the decline of tribal life and tribal arts such as dance, music, and various types of craft.
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- Child marriage among tribes is still practiced in states such as Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, which is constitutionally wrong and has many negative consequences. Some Himalayan tribes practice polyandry and polygamy.
- Such practises are not accepted by mainstream society. Infanticide, homicide, animal sacrifice, black magic, wife swapping, and other harmful practices are still practiced by tribes, which are considered a significant Tribal problem in India.
- Language is also one of the barriers to tribal education promotion.
- There are questionable issues among the tribal populations in terms of healthcare. One of the weakest links is public health services to Scheduled Tribes.
- The lack of health care personnel who are willing, trained, and equipped to work in Scheduled Areas is a significant barrier to providing public health care to tribal populations.
- In the public health care system in Scheduled Areas, there is a shortage, vacancy, absenteeism, or apathy among doctors, nurses, technicians, and managers.
- The near-complete absence of participation of Scheduled Tribes people or their representatives in shaping policies, making plans, or implementing services in the health sector is one of the reasons for inappropriately designed and poorly organised and managed health care in Scheduled Areas.
- Medical insurance coverages such as Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) are very low in Scheduled Areas. Therefore, the scheduled tribes people live without protection towards catastrophic and acute illnesses.
- The infant mortality rate (IMR) among tribal people is estimated to be between 44 and 74 per 1,000 live births.
Consumption of Tobacco and Alcohol
- Data from the Xaxa Committee Report 2014 show that men aged 15 to 54 years consume a lot of tobacco, either smoking or chewing. Tobacco use was prevalent in approximately 72 per cent of Scheduled Tribes and 56 per cent of Non-Scheduled Tribes, respectively.
- Alcohol consumption is a part of many tribal communities’ social rituals. On a national level, it is noted that approximately half of Scheduled Tribe men (51 percent) consume alcohol in some form.
- Tobacco was consumed by approximately 73 percent of rural Scheduled Tribe men compared to 60 percent of urban counterparts. Tobacco use was widespread among Scheduled Tribe men in states such as West Bengal, Bihar, Mizoram, and Odisha (more than 80 percent). This also contributes to serious health issues.
Poverty and Indebtedness
- The majority of tribes are impoverished. The tribes engage in a variety of simple occupations based on rudimentary technology.
- The majority of the occupations are primary occupations such as hunting, gathering, and agriculture. The technology they utilise for such purposes is of the most basic type. In such an economy, there is no profit or surplus.
- As a result, their per capita income is meagre, much lower than the Indian average. The majority live in extreme poverty and are in debt to local moneylenders and Zamindars.
- They frequently mortgage or sell their land to the moneylenders to repay the debt. The debt burden is an almost unavoidable tribal problem in India, considering the high-interest rates charged by these moneylenders.