India's Tribes and Their Plight

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Originally, we all were parts of certain tribes, but with time and because of factors such as mobility, relationships etc. our tribal personalities got lost in the process. But even today, there are certain areas in the Indian society which have been able to continue with their indistinguishable societies.

In any case, it is apparent that these are the groups which are the most backward as far as fundamental civilities are concerned, be it socio – economic or political rights, they are the most helpless people. 


Why are these tribal people so backward or oppressed is a big question which needs to be answered. It’s been more than 70 years since India got its independence but the tribal communities are still fighting for their rights. What is the reason for that? What are the problems they are facing?

What is the reason that even after creation of a state like Jharkhand in 2000, the tribals are still protesting? The article will try to examine and illustrate the reasons for all the above questions. 

The History

If we look into history, we would know that during the Mughal era, there was no interference from the medieval Kings. The emergence of the contemporary capitalist system came with the British colonization of Indian territory.

This is when the British, the land hungry farmers, traders, etc. infringed the tribes' secluded pockets for financial benefits, and this was achieved by exploiting the tribal people.

It was believed that after independence, the lives of tribes in India would improve but the Indian government did just the opposite of what was expected of them.

Although Schedule V of the Constitution restricts legislation that is deemed harmful to Scheduled tribals areas, the state expanded all coercive legislation to them and became the greatest violator of the spirit of the Constitution by ' investing 'enormous areas of tribal lands as government 'forests'.

Between 1951 to 1988, the colonial Indian Forest Act (IFA), 1927, was used to enlarge the 'national' forest estate by another 26 million hectares (from 41 to 67 mha).

The most vulnerable Scheduled Tribes (STs) were disenfranchised of their standard asset rights without even their knowledge and labelled them 'encroachers' on their familial grounds. 

Status After Independence

Even over 70 years after independence huge numbers of these zones are yet to be surveyed, and privileges of their pre-existing tenants perceived, is a reflection of the poor condition of the nation's administration and the complete unaccountability of the state to its most powerless residents.

There are multinational companies and government mining agencies who acquire lands in tribal dominated areas which forces the tribal communities to leave the area. They promise jobs but it cannot be taken on its face value.

Consider the story of Dhobil, a small village in Chiria hills of Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district, where the Steel Authority of India Limited has been operating(mining) since the time of independence. However the people in Dhobil do not feel secure. There is a threat to their earnings and their livelihoods.

It must also be noted that years of mining did not benefit the locals, the profits went to the mining companies and the government but the region (it includes the area of Manoharpur, Noamundi, Gua, etc) suffers from acute poverty. 

On november 15, 2000 the state of Jharkhand was created. It was a joy for the tribals of central India, their demand was finally accepted after fighting for it for over a century. However the creation of a new state only increased the vulnerability of tribals.

The land acquisitions in Ranch for IIM and National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL) seemed like development projects but these institutions displaced over 500 tribal villages. The worrying factor is that the displacement due to construction of dams, factories, etc goes largely unreported.

According to a human rights report published by the Jharkhand Human Rights Movement (JHRM), the state government of Jharkhand has signed 102 MoUs (with companies) which go against the laws of the Fifth Schedule. Vast tracts of land will be required to bring these MoUs to fruition.

Individuals' resistance and different established laws against land procurement have consistently been hindrances to the corporations. In 2011, a people's movement constrained ArcelorMittal to haul out of a proposed venture in Jharkhand.

The corporate sector has been trying hard to change the status quo in its favour, and in doing so has embraced some questionable methods. The Chota Nagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act is one of the few laws given by the Constitution to shield tribal interests.

It was initiated in 1908 to shield tribal grounds from being offered to non-tribals. The law was intended to forestall foreseeable dispossession, and safeguard tribal character. Loss of land would normally prompt loss of tribal identity as the issuance of a community certificate requires verification of land ownership.

The private sector appears to have taken an exceptional enthusiasm for radically changing or abrogating the CNT Act. papers like Prabhat Khabar and Dainik Bhaskar have battled enthusiastically for reforming the Act to make move of land from tribals to non-tribals flexible.

Obviously, any change toward this path would straightforwardly profit corporations that own mines in the tribal lands of Jharkhand, and pave the way for future land securing.

These examples are enough to show that the government (be it the state or the Union) along with corporations are not at all considerate towards the tribal people.

They need to be empathetic towards these people because these people can only survive with their way of living, the government needs to preserve the environment which is essential for their survival.

Written by - Kshitij Kumar Ojha 

Edited by - Daity Talukdar

India's Tribes and Their Plight India's Tribes and Their Plight Reviewed by Daity Talukdar on August 02, 2020 Rating: 5

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