Tribal Issues

With India emerging as a fast developing global economy, competitive demand for land & natural resources is putting immense pressure on forests. Meanwhile, there are growing demands from forest dependent communities for increased autonomy in forest management.

Health Concerns – Infant mortality rate, child mortality rate, poor maternal health, malnutrition, high prevalence of anaemia, sickle cell disease etc. (ICMR has started the screening programmes for sickle cell disease)

Education Concerns

  • Tribal children are ill-served by the government schools – lack even basic literacy skills
  • lack of trained teachers especially after 2001, when government decided to recruit only teachers from the tribal community
  • Unable to read scripts given by an official & obliged to put their thumb impressions on documents – easy victims of any fraud or misrepresentation
  • Students from Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups are losing out on their native culture in the schools viz. distinct languages and dialects, culture and food habits vs what is enforced at the Ashram schools

 

The vulnerability of tribal populations to exploitation by minor government officials, as well as moneylenders can largely be traced to their illiteracy and general ignorance of the world outside.


Forest Right Act, 2006 

  • Title Rights – ownership of land being framed by Gram Sabha
  • Forest management rights – to protect forests and wildlife
  • Forest use rights – for minor forest produce, grazing, etc.
  • Rehabilitation- in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement
  • Development Rights- to have basic amenities such as health, education, etc.

 

Provides for diversion of forest land for public utility facilities managed by the Government, such as schools, dispensaries, fair price shops, electricity & telecommunication lines etc. with the recommendation of Gram Sabhas

Challenges in Implementation of FRA 

  • Overlapping legislations such as amendments to Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act etc. undermine the rights & protections given to tribals in FRA
  • Process of documenting communities’ claims under the FRA is intensive with lot of discretion & subjectivity
  • There is a reluctance of the forest bureaucracy to give up control in light of FRA rules
  • In almost all States, instead of Gram Sabhas, Forest Department has been given effective control over the FRA’s rights recognition process. This has created a situation where the officials controlling the implementation of the law often have the strongest interest in its non-implementation.

 

Way Forward – In spite of its inadequacies, there can be little doubt that the Forest Rights Act (FRA) stands as a powerful instrument to protect the rights of tribal communities. There is a clear need to strengthen the nodal tribal departments, provide clear instructions to the State & district administrations, and encourage civil society actors.


Scheduled, Nomadic and Denotified Tribes

ST 

  • They are basically people who lived in tribal areas (mainly forest)
  • They are called Scheduled because they are included in one of the Schedule of the Constitution.

 

Nomadic Tribes and Denotified Tribes

  • Literally meaning, nomadic tribes are those who wander from place to place.
  • They are the ones that were regarded as criminal tribes under Criminbal Tribes Act, 1871
  • During the British colonial rule, if the local government had reason to believe that a gang or a tribe had “addicted to systematic commission of non-bailable offences” then it was registered as criminal tribe under CTA, 1971
  • Restrictions were imposed on their movement and adult male members of the community had to report to the police on regular intervals
  • CTA was repealed in 1949 and was replaced by the Habitual Offenders Act, 1951.
  • On the recommendations of Justice Venkatchaliah Commission a National Commission for Denotified Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes was constituted in 2005

 

Challenges for the Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Tribes 

  • People of this community continue to be stereotyped & labeled as ex-criminal tribe
  • Face alienation and economic hardships
  • Most of their traditional occupations such as snake charming, street acrobatics and performing with animals have been notified as criminal activity making it difficult for them to earn a livelihood.
  • They do not come under any reserved category therefore they do not enjoy reservation offered by the government in educational institutions or government jobs

 

Recommendations 

  • The community needs to be included in SCs/STs and OBCs so that they can enjoy much needed reservation.
  • Grievance redressal committees need to be setup at the state level in order to identify the problems of this community and provide the required aid

 

Even 68 years after Independence, the problems of tribal communities are about access to basic needs. For them, equality of opportunity remains largely unfulfilled. The tribals must be developed so that they become a part of India’s mainstream and contribute to the country’s social, economic and cultural development.

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