Tribes and Inclusive Growth

Tribes and Inclusive Growth

GS1- Social justice


As per the 2011 census, Scheduled Tribes account for 8.6% of India's total population and constitute 11.3% of the rural population. India is home to more than 600 tribes distributed across five major tribal belts. The distribution pattern exhibits a notable clustering tendency, concentrating in isolated pockets, particularly in regions unsuitable for settled agriculture.

The tribes, commonly referred to as Adivasi, signify the original inhabitants of India. Ancient literature references numerous tribes coexisting in the country before the introduction of the caste system. During this pre-Brahminic age, tribes were homogeneous units without hierarchical discrimination, marking a distinct socio-cultural landscape. However, the study of tribal populations encounters challenges due to the absence of clear-cut and scientifically defined criteria.

In recognition of their distinct identity, the Constitution of India categorizes tribal communities under 'Schedule 5.' These constitutionally recognized tribes are known as 'Scheduled Tribes'. The spatial distribution of these tribes is marked by clustering in isolated pockets, often situated in areas environmentally unsuitable for settled agriculture. Consequently, many tribal communities reside in hilly, forested, and remote regions of the country.

Constrained by historical environmental challenges that fostered physical and social isolation, tribal communities developed unique traditional lifestyles. Nevertheless, interactions with non-tribal populations post-Independence have brought about changes in their socio-cultural landscape.

Evolving Approaches Towards Tribal Communities in India

  1. Verrier Elwin's Isolationist Approach:

Verrier Elwin, a prominent anthropologist and social worker, advocated the Isolationist Approach, emphasizing the preservation of tribal lifestyles. His proposal included creating a 'National Park' under the control of a tribal commissioner, allowing tribes to develop at their own pace. While criticized for idealism, Elwin's work brought attention to tribal issues and influenced subsequent policy developments.

  1. G.S. Ghurye's Assimilative Approach:

G.S. Ghurye, a notable Indian sociologist, championed the Assimilative Approach, proposing the assimilation of tribal communities into mainstream society for modernization. He viewed tribal life as primitive and backward, advocating the adoption of dominant cultural values. Despite criticism for potential cultural loss, Ghurye's work contributed to shaping policies focused on tribal welfare.

  1. Integrated Approach for Comprehensive Development:

The Integrated Approach represents a comprehensive strategy for tribal development, addressing multiple facets of their challenges. Involving sectors such as education, health, agriculture, and employment, this approach aims at holistic development. Government initiatives have been launched to integrate development efforts, resulting in notable improvements in the lives of tribal communities. Challenges persist, and continued efforts are essential to ensure universal access to basic amenities and the dignified living of all tribal communities in India. The dynamic evolution of these approaches reflects ongoing efforts to strike a balance between cultural preservation and modernization, fostering the overall development of tribal communities nationwide.

Tribal Panchsheel 

Core components of the Tribal Panchsheel policy by JL Nehru:

  1. Non-imposition: People should develop along the lines of their own genius, and the imposition of alien values should be avoided. Tribal rights in land and forest should be respected.
  2. Tribal autonomy: Teams of tribals should be trained in the work of administration and development. Introducing too many outsiders into tribal territory should be avoided.
  3. Minimum interference: Tribal areas should not be over-administered or overwhelmed with a multiplicity of schemes.
  4. Judging results: Results should be judged not by statistics or the amount of money spent, but by the human character that is evolved.
  5. Tribal rights: Tribal rights over forest and land must be respected.

Integrated Tribal Development Plan

The Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) stands as a beacon of hope, ushering in comprehensive changes to uplift and empower tribal communities across India. Under the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) since the Fifth Five Year Plan, the ITDP aims to tackle poverty, enhance educational status, and eliminate exploitation within tribal families. With 192 ITDPs/Integrated Tribal Development Agencies (ITDAs) spread across 19 states and union territories, the program adopts a nuanced strategy to address regional challenges.

Major Objectives of ITDP

  1. Elimination of Exploitation: A core objective is to eradicate exploitation faced by tribal communities.
  2. Improving Educational Status: The program strives to enhance education levels within tribal populations.
  3. Reducing Poverty: Poverty alleviation is a central focus, aiming to improve living standards.
  4. Enhancing Infrastructure: Development initiatives target basic infrastructure, including irrigation, schools, and hospitals.

Key Activities Under ITDP

  • Transport and Communication Network: ITDP focuses on developing crucial transport and communication networks such as roads, bridges, and railways.
  • Agricultural and Allied Activities: Initiatives include the development of agricultural activities and irrigation to enhance livelihoods.
  • Afforestation and Plantation: Environmental conservation is promoted through afforestation and plantation of crops like rubber and cashew nuts.
  • Self-Employment Support: Easy access to loans for self-employment encourages entrepreneurship among tribal communities.
  • Skill Enhancement Programs: Skill development programs in areas like sewing, typing, hardware maintenance, and sculpture empower individuals.
  • Social and Common Services: ITDP ensures the provision of social services, including schools, healthcare facilities, potable water through hand pumps, and electricity.

Components of ITDP

  • Buffer Zone Activities: Income Generation Activities (IGA) and Community Development Works (CDW) contribute to holistic development.
  • Village Forest Councils (VFC): VFCs are formed in each project village, fostering community participation. Micro plans, crafted through Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), guide location-specific implementation.
  • Self-Help Groups (SHGs): SHGs, instrumental in women empowerment, are formed in each project village.
  • SEEDS Trust Initiatives: In Dindigul district, SEEDS Trust engages in ITDP activities, employing Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) to create participative micro plans. Street theaters, meetings, and training sessions enhance awareness on forestry issues.

Challenges with tribal development 

Integrated Tribal Development Projects (ITDP) in India encounter challenges rooted in limited tribal representation in decision-making, cultural insensitivity in program design, neglect of sustainable livelihood diversification, educational disparities, healthcare infrastructure challenges, ineffective skill enhancement programs, bureaucratic delays, and weak monitoring mechanisms. 

Examples include dam projects proceeding without community consultation, resistance to sanitation programs in tribal areas, and economic vulnerabilities due to inadequate livelihood diversification. These issues, backed by evidence from sources like the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, national surveys, and NGOs, highlight the need for a targeted and context-specific approach to ensure effective and sustainable development for tribal communities.

Recent Government initiatives 

The Government of India has taken several initiatives to improve the lives of tribal populations in recent years. The philosophy of integration has been the cornerstone of these initiatives. The following are some of the measures taken by the government to improve the education, health, economy, agriculture, employment, nutrition, and other aspects of the lives of tribal populations:

  1. Tribal Development Report 2022: Recently, the Tribal Development Report 2022 was launched by the Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation (BRLF), which claims to be the first of its kind since 1947. The report highlights the need for a people-oriented perspective to frame policies for tribal communities. It also provides suggestions for policy makers and leaders of the country to work towards the welfare of Adivasis so that they connect with them in a better way.

  2. Eklavya Model Residential Schools: The government has established Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) in tribal areas to provide quality education to tribal children. The schools are fully funded by the government and provide free education to students from Class VI to XII. The schools have a special focus on preserving tribal culture and heritage.

  3. TRIFED: The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) is a national-level apex organization functioning under the administrative control of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. TRIFED has been working towards the socio-economic development of tribal people by promoting and marketing tribal products. It has also been providing training and capacity building to tribal artisans and entrepreneurs.

  4. Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006: The act recognizes the rights of forest-dwelling tribal communities over forest land and resources. It also provides for the establishment of a mechanism to ensure that the rights of these communities are protected.

  5. Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996: The act extends the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to Panchayats to the Scheduled Areas. It provides for the establishment of Panchayats at the village, intermediate, and district levels in these areas.

  6. Minor Forest Produce Act, 2005: The act provides for the right of tribal communities to collect, use, and dispose of minor forest produce. It also provides for the establishment of a mechanism to ensure that the rights of these communities are protected.

  7. Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana: The scheme aims to improve the livelihoods of tribal communities by providing them with skill upgradation and entrepreneurship development training. The scheme also provides for the establishment of Van Dhan Vikas Kendras to provide marketing support to tribal products.


Safeguarding and advancing the well-being of tribal areas in India is a crucial undertaking rooted in principles of social justice, environmental conservation, and cultural preservation. The unique ecological significance of these regions emphasizes the necessity of protection to maintain environmental equilibrium and biodiversity. Concurrently, the imperative to develop tribal areas is deeply intertwined with the broader objective of fostering inclusive growth. This commitment to inclusive growth not only aims to ameliorate the socio-economic conditions of tribal communities but also reflects a dedication to rectifying historical inequities. 

By prioritizing the protection and development of tribal areas, India endeavors to construct a society that embraces diversity, promotes social cohesion, and ensures that progress benefits all facets of its population. This approach aligns with principles of mature governance, social equity, and sustainable development, embodying a holistic vision for a harmonious and equitable nation.


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