IAS Gyan



25th February, 2023


  • India’s tribal population is spread all over the country in different geographic zones and has a rich cultural and economic diversity.
  • Inaugurating Aadi Mahotsav, the mega National Tribal Festival in the national capital, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized that the country is moving with unprecedented pride with regard to its tribal glory.
  • Prime Minister highlighted the efforts of the government in promoting tribal products, tribal arts and skill development for the tribal youth. He also said that the tribal community of India has a lot to inspire and teach with regard to sustainable development. Today we will discuss and analyse all aspects of Tribal diversity and efforts to empower the tribal communities.

Tribes in India

  • The Term “Tribal” literally means ‘original inhabitants’ – are communities who lived and often continue to live, in close association with forests. They are very old Communities, being among the oldest inhabitants of the Sub-Continent.
  • They are not a homogeneous population:there are over 500 different tribal groups in India.
  • Their societies are also the most distinctive because there is often very little hierarchy among them. This makes them radically different from communities organised around principles of jati-varna (caste) or those that were ruled by kings.
  • They practise a range of tribal religions that are different from Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. These often involve the worship of ancestors, village and nature spirits, the last associated with and residing in various sites in the landscape – ‘mountain spirits’, ‘river spirits’, ‘animal spirits’, etc.
  • They have their languages (most of them radically different from and possibly as old as Sanskrit), which have often deeply influenced the formation of ‘mainstream’ Indian languages, like Bengali.
  • Santhali has the largest number of speakers and has a significant body of publications including magazines on the internet.
  • In terms of language, tribes are Categorized into 4 Categories:
    • Indo-Aryan
    • Dravidian
    • Austric
    • Tibeto-Burman
  • In terms of size, the biggest tribes are Gonds, Bhils, Santhals, Oraons, Minas, Bodos and Mundas.
    • The total population of tribes amounts to about 8.6% of the population of India.
  • Based on livelihood, tribes Can be Categorized into Fishermen, food gatherers and hunters, Shifting Cultivators, Peasants, Plantation and industrial workers.
  • Tribal Society is a more egalitarian and kinship-based mode of Social organization.
  • Tribals were not always the oppressed groups they are now; there were Several Gond kingdoms in Central India.
    • Many of the So-Called Rajput kingdoms of Central and western India emerged through a Process of Stratification among Adivasi Communities themselves.
    • Adivasis often exercised dominance over the Plains People through their Capacity to raid them, and through their Services as local militias.
    • They also occupied a Special trade niche, trading forest Produce, Salt and elephants.
    • Capitalist economics to exploit forest resources and minerals to recruit cheap labour has brought tribal Societies into Contact with mainstream Society a long time ago.
    • They were losing their land to non-tribal immigrant Settlers, and their access to forests because of the government policy of reservation of forests and the introduction of mining operations.

Challenges faced by Tribes

  • Land and forests were taken away from Tribal Societies in the name of development.
  • Development involves the building of large dams, factories and mines. Because the tribal areas were located in mineral-rich and forest Covered Parts of the Country, tribals have paid a huge Price for the development of the rest of Indian Society. This kind of development has benefited the mainstream at the expense of the tribes.
  • Forests Started to be systematically exploited in British times and the trend continued after Independence. The Coming of Private Property in the land has also adversely affected tribals, whose Community-based forms of Collective ownership were placed at a disadvantage in the new System.
  • Many tribal Concentration regions and States have been experiencing the Problem of heavy in-migration of non-tribals. This threatens tribal Communities and Cultures, besides accelerating the Process of exploitation of tribals.
    • In Tripura, the tribal Share of its Population halved within a Single decade, reducing them to a minority. Similar Pressure is being felt by Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Many Tribals in the North-East States have been living for decades under Special laws that limit the Civil liberties of Citizens, States have been declared as ‘disturbed areas’.
  • The vicious Circle of armed rebellions Provoking State repression which in turn fuels further rebellions has damaged the economy, Culture and Society of the North-eastern State.

Schemes for the development of Tribes in India

Centrally Sponsored Schemes:

The following Centrally Sponsored Schemes are presently being run by the Ministry

of Tribal Affairs for development of Scheduled Tribes.

(i) Post Matric Scholarship for STs /Book Bank

(ii) Upgradation of Merit of ST Students

(iii) Pre matric scholarship for ST students

(iv) Girls Hostels

(v) Boys Hostels

(vi) Establishment of Ashram Schools

(vii) Research and Training

(viii) Information and Mass Media

(ix) National Tribal Affairs Awards

(x) Centre of Excellence

(xi) Supporting Projects of All-India nature or Inter-State nature for Scheduled Tribes

(xii) Organisation of Tribal Festival

(xiii) Exchange of visits by Tribals

(xiv) Monitoring and Evaluation

(xv) Information Technology

(xvi) Lump-sum Provision for N.E.

Central Sector Schemes under which 100% Grant is given to States and UTs

The following Central Sector Schemes are presently being run by the Ministry of

Tribal Affairs for development of Scheduled Tribes:

(i) Grants-in-Aid to Voluntary Organisations

(ii) Special Incentives to NGOs performing exemplary tasks

(iii) Coaching & Allied Schemes

(iv) Vocational Training in Tribal Areas

(v) Strengthening of Education among ST Girls in Low Literacy Districts

(vi) Market Development of Tribal Products/ Produce (Tribal Cooperative Marketing

Development Federation of India Ltd. (TRIFED)

(vii) State Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation for Minor Forest Produce

(viii) Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)

(ix) National Scheduled Tribes Finance & Development Corporation

(x)Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship for ST Students

(xi) Scheme of Institute of Excellence/ Top Class Institute

(xii) National Overseas Scholarship Scheme

(xiii) Mechanism for Marketing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) through Minimum Support

Price (MSP) and Development of value Chain for MFP

(xiv) World Bank Project- Improving Development Programmes in the Tribal Areas

  • The Pre and Post Matric schemes are demand-based schemes and every ST student whose family income is up to Rs 2.5 lakhs is entitled to a scholarship for pursuing education from class IX to Post Doctorate across India.
    • The states send the proposal for the estimated expenditure during the financial year based on the expenditure incurred in previous years and advance up to 50% of the Central share is released to the States.
    • After the State has disbursed the scholarship to the students and has submitted certificates, the balance amount is released to the State provided the State has contributed its share.
  • Pradhan Mantri Adi Adarsh Gram Yojna:
    • Comprehensive development of 36,428 villages will be undertaken to develop these villages as Adarsh Gram, under ‘Pradhan Mantri Aadi Adarsh Gram Yojana’.
    • These villages have a tribal population of more than 500 and are 50% tribal.
  • Pradhan Mantri Janjatiya Vikas Mission
    • The Mission seeks to achieve livelihood-driven tribal development in the next five years through the formation of Van Dhan groups that have been organized into Vandhan Kendras.
    • New haats bazaar and warehouses will be developed in the next 5 years as part of “Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhyan”.
    • TRIFED would be the nodal agency for implementing the scheme. The products produced will be marketed through Tribe India Stores.
  • Venture Capital Fund for STs
    • An amount of Rs. 50 cr. has been sanctioned for the new scheme of ‘Venture Capital Fund for Scheduled Tribes’ (VCF-ST), which is aimed at promoting Entrepreneurship among the STs.
    • The VCF-ST scheme would be a social sector initiative to promote ST entrepreneurship and to support and incubate the start-up ideas of ST youth.
  • Central Sector Scholarship Scheme for ST students was introduced in the academic year 2007-08 to encourage meritorious ST students for pursuing studies at the Degree and Postgraduate level in any of the Institutes identified by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs for the purpose.

Vocational Training Centers in Tribal Areas

  • The main aim of this scheme is to upgrade the skills of the tribal youth in various traditional/ modern vocations depending upon their educational qualification, present economic trends and the market potential, which would enable them to gain suitable employment or enable them to become self-employed.

Scheme for Minor Forest Produce:

  • The price of MFP is very often determined by traders rather than by demand and supply because of skewed information. The scheme is initially implemented in States having areas under fifth Schedule of the Constitution for 12 MFPs namely (i) Tendu Leaves (ii) Bamboo (iii) Mahua seed (iv) Sal Leaf (v) Sal Seed (vi) Lac (vii) Chironjee (viii) Wild Honey (ix) Myrobalan (x) Tamarind (xi) Gums (Gum Karaya) and (xii) Karanj. The Ministry’s agency, TRIFED has hosted ‘MFPNET’, a web-based portal through which current price of MFPs can be known across important Mandis of different States.

Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana

In order to achieve comprehensive development of tribals, Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana (VKY) is being implemented by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs which focuses on convergence of different schemes of development. VKY also envisages a shift in working character and rather than focusing merely on physical and financial achievements. For example, instead of number of schools, it will see the number of students who have passed with distinction. The proposed intervention is aimed at adopting a holistic approach commensurate to the Gujarat Model for overall development of the tribal people with sustainability.

Health and Nutrition Initiatives:

Initiatives taken by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in relation to Health and Nutrition aspect of Scheduled Tribes are:

  1. Sickle Cell Anemia: To eradicate Sickle Cell Anemia, health check-up followed by issue of Health cards of students of tribal department schools/ hostels to identify sickle cell trait (HbAS) (SCT) cases has been undertaken. Parents are to be made aware of the problems and its prevention methods. Health ministry has been requested to include Sickle Cell test for all population groups in malariaprone areas.
  2. Malaria: Composite fish culture for controlling mosquito population and also to provide protein supplement to the people has been advocated and supported.
  3. Traditional Corps and Food: Growing and consumption of minor millets, kitchen garden for green leafy vegetable are encouraged in the project approvals to address nutritional issues
  4. Tribal Medicines and Practices: Documentation of Tribal Medicines and practices through Tribal Research Institutes has been initiated. Efforts to mainstream tribal medicines and validated practices for effective health service delivery for Tribal people has been started.

Support to Tribal Research Institute (TRI):

This scheme aims to strengthen TRIs to carry out research, documentation, training and capacity building activities and serve as a knowledge hub catering to overall tribal development. Tribal museums are also established under this scheme.

Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs):

This scheme adopts a habitat level development approach to improve the quality of life through intervention in housing, drinking water, education and health services, livelihood support, and cultural aspects.

Grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution of India:

Under this scheme, funds are released to States to enable them to meet the cost of such schemes of development as may be undertaken by the State for the purpose of promoting welfare of Scheduled Tribes in that State or raising the level of administration of Scheduled Areas therein to that of the administration of the rest of the areas of that State.

National Fellowship and Scholarship for Higher Education of ST Students:

The scheme provides financial assistance or pursuing MPhil and PhD in Universities and for perusing graduate and post graduate courses in top 246 Institutes like IIT/AIIMS etc .

National Overseas Scholarship (NOS) to the ST Students for Studies Abroad:

Under the Scheme, financial assistance is provided to 20 ST students every year for pursuing higher studies abroad.

Aid to Voluntary Organizations working for the welfare of Scheduled Tribes:

Ministry has been funding Voluntary Organizations (VOs) including Non-Governmental Voluntary Organizations (NGOs) working in tribal Hilly, remote and border areas for projects in Education, Health and Livelihood.

Pradhan Mantri Jan Jatiya Vikas Mission (PMJVM):

This scheme has been conceptualized with the merger of two schemes i.e. (i) ‘Mechanism for Marketing of Minor Forest Produce through Minimum Support Price and Development of Value Chain for MFP (MSP for MFP)’ and (ii) ‘Institutional Support for Development and Marketing of Tribal Products’. PMJVM seeks to achieve livelihood driven tribal development through quality input, technology, credit and better marketing access etc.


  • For the empowerment of tribals, remarkable advancement is expected about the allocation of authority to the grassroot level of the tribal society.
  • Intellectuals have articulated grave uncertainties regarding the tribal developmental programmes which are lacking synchronization and timely execution.
  • The administration is also first and foremost accountable for the unsuccessful accomplishment of the tribal development programmes.
  • The reality is that the weakest bond in the series of the entire process of tribal development and empowerment is the execution element. The tribal development agenda unable to put into practice effectively with the existing strict and multifarious structure of various developmental agencies. In the midst of the tribes, the supposed ancient tribal faction is enormously weak.
  • They are still living in solitude and their life style illustrate modest transformation over the years. The fact is that, the economically and politically powerful people within the tribal communities are the only one that are getting the the largest part of the policy benefits.
  • There is no technical observance and assessment of tribal development strategy by the Government agencies in India.
  • Efficient mechanism has not been set up at grassroots stage, provincial and nationwide level to guarantee that the tribal development benefits get into the associates of the target groups.
  • The need of the hour is to follow the multi-dimensional approach to tribal development and their empowerment. There is no other option rather a dire need of the variety of schemes for tribal population in India.
  • Policies and programmes for the tribal growth have to be constantly assessed and improved all through the nation. The tribes should by no means be assumed as sheer beneficiary of the remuneration rather they needed to be actively involved in the course of tribal development.