National Draft Adivasi Policy




" Often uprooted from their traditional lands and ways of life and forced into prevailing national societies, indigenous people/Adivasis face discrimination, marginalisation and alienation. Despite growing political mobilisation in pursuit of their rights, they continue to lose their cultural identity along with their natural resources. Some of them are in imminent danger of extinction”.

Adivasi communities, people and Nations are those having a historical continuity with a pre-invasion and pre colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies prevailing in those territories or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories and their ethnic identity, as the basis of continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural pattern, social institution and legal systems.

The term " tribe" or " Adivasi" has never been legally defined in India. It is claimed that the term Adivasi was coined in 1930 and was largely a consequence of a political movement to forge a sense of identity among various Adivasi peoples in India. Officially the Adivasis are termed as ‘Scheduled Tribes’ but this is a legal and constitutional term and differs from state to state and excludes some groups who might be considered Adivasis

In 1935 Act, a provision was made for some representation for the backward tribes in the provincial legislative. A list of backward tribes was notified in 1936 for all the provinces except for Punjab and Bengal. In 1950, the President of India formulated list of scheduled areas and scheduled tribes. According to an author there are 461 Adivasi groups in India with a population of 68 million as per the census enumeration of 1991. Adivasis are spread over all most all the states and Union territories of India barring a few pockets. But their largest concentration is in the middle India region, consisting of state of Madhya Pradesh (23% of the state population) Orissa (22% the state population) Bihar (8%) and West Bengal (6%). In fact, nearly half of the Adivasi population inhibit in this region only.

Contrary to the general perception that Adivasi constitute small-localized groups, there is a considerable variation in their numerical strength. The majority of population regards them as primitive and Government programme aims at integrating them with the majority society rather than emphasizing their distinctiveness. After 50 years of independence in the absence of a clear policy frame work for the Adivasis, the destruction of their economic base and environment poses grave threats to those who are still able to follow the basis of a traditional way of life and may result in cultural extinction of many of the smaller Adivasi people. In the process of Unthinkable change, the marginalised section of Adivasis are getting more marginalised.

The Adivasi scene in Orissa, according to the Adivasi Sub-plan 2001-2002 reveals the fact that the Adivasi population according to 1991 census is 70,32,214, which accounts for 22.21% of the state population of Orissa. The report suggest that there are 62 Adivasi communities including 13 primitive Adivasi groups are existing in the state and they are spread over 12 districts namely Malkangiri, Koraput, Nawarangpur, Rayagada, Kalahandi, Gajapati, Phulbani, Mayurbhanj, Sundegarh and Sambalpur districts. These Adivasi communities exhibit great variety in languages, culture customs and practices. The state has some of the most populous tribes such as Gond, Santal, Oraon and the Kondh and typical tribes like Juang, Bondo, Bhuiyan are only found in the state of Orissa.

During the last few years, the Adivasis identity is at risk in Orissa. Owing to mushroom growth of industries, modernisation and consumerist market economy, the Adivasis are getting more and more marginalised. Various Government programmes like Adivasi Sub-plans, Special Component Plans, Primitive Adivasi Micro Projects, Modified Area Development Agency, Cluster and Dispersed Adivasi Development programmes and special education plan for their development have failed to achieve the desired results. Poverty and backwardness have become the constant companions of the Adivasis. In view of the growing marginalisation, deprivation, oppression and special unique social, economic, political characters and livelihood systems, there is a need to develop a policy keeping in mind long-term sustainable human development perspective.

The policy statement is based upon certain basic presumption. The position of the Adivasis in this respect is

The Adivasis of Orissa and their culture, traditional customs and systems are now at stake due to influence and intervention of out side forces.

Dams, Mining and industrial projects are causing large-scale displacement of Adivasis.

Though the Adivasi people have their own developmental aspiration but they are not benefited from the Government programmes designed to meet the needs and aspirations of dominant or mainstream population of Orissa. The Government programmes are piece meal in formulation and implementation.

In the last fifty years, in the absence of a policy frame work the Adivasis are in a disadvantageous position by loss of access to ancestral lands and natural resources and other sources of incomes having relationship with land, loss of culture, social structures and institutions, loss of Adivasi knowledge, loss of recognition as Adivasi people and lack of opportunity for effective participation in the state social, economic and political process.

The policy statement is aimed specifically at land, forest, health, education, culture of the Adivasis and the rights of Adivasi women in the state. The main purpose of the policy statement is to provide guidelines for the state to establish and formulate a comprehensive Adivasi policy. This will also provide a direction for shaping and formulating the law and policy of the Government to defend the sovereign status of the Adivasis. This policy statement is not an end point but merely a stepping point for better coordination consultation and collaboration among all Adivasi groups and the Government functionaries for better and effective functioning of Adivasi system and for maintenance of cultural and social identities.

Policy Statement on Adivasi Land

For Adivasi people of Orissa, land plays an essential role. Ownership and control over land in Adivasi areas is most clearly related with the economic and social well being of the people. This also forms the basis of social status and political power. Understanding the land ownership among Adivasis vis-à-vis the non-Adivasi in Adivasi areas, is therefore of great relevance in bringing about any significant socio-economic transformation. Though there are several laws on Adivasi land alienation with an object of preventing transfer of land of an Adivasi and restoration of the unlawfully alienated lands to the Adivasis, these laws are highly ineffective. The pressing constraint at this juncture is the Adivasi land alienation process in the context of agriculture, industrialization and urbanization. Alienation of Adivasi land is more intensely felt in Koraput, Nawarangpur, Rayagada and Malkangiri districts.

Advocacy for Whom
  • There is a need to bring amendments to the existing legislation to prevent large scale transfer of land of Adivasi to non-Adivasi through variety means and the failure on the Government front for physical restoration of such alienated land to the original land owner. The amendments may be brought in the section 22 of the Orissa Land Reforms Act, 1960 Section 22 and 23, section 8 (A) of the Orissa prevention of Land Encroachment Act, Rule 6 of Orissa Government Land settlements Rule 1983, Orissa Gram Panchayat Act 1997, Orissa (Scheduled Areas Money Lenders Regulation 1967, Orissa Scheduled Areas Debt Relief Regulation 1967 Schedule Area Land Transfer Regulation Act).
  • The state may consider bringing an amendment in the existing legislation in the light of the Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Areas Land Transfer Regulation 1959, and amendment in 1970 to incorporate a presumptive clause to ensure total restoration of alienated lands to the Adivasi land owners with retrospective effect. The legal provision under Andhra Pradesh Regulation I of 1970 says, "Unless proved to the contrary, any immovable property situated in the Scheduled area and in the possession of the person who is not a member of scheduled Tribe, shall be presumed to have been acquired by person of his predecessor in possession through a transfer made to them by a member of a Scheduled Tribe."
  • Necessary amendments may be brought in the existing land legislations. So that the consent of the Gram Sabha is mandatory while the concerned authority decides permission for transfer and adjudication of cases of restoration.
  • Law must ensure that at least one standard acre of land is in the hand of an Adivasi when the Adivasi wants to sell this plot of land to others.
  • Benami transaction is to be considered as void and the competent authority should restore the land to the Adivasi. The limitation period for filing the cases for restoration of alienated Adivasi land may be waived.
  • There should be a provision in the law for this speedy disposal of the restoration of Adivasi land cases. A minimum time period may be fixed.
  • The state should endeavor to setup Adivasi land mortgage cooperative Bank to which Adivasi can only mortgage the land and get loans.
  • Security of ten year guaranteeing Adivasi right to their ancestral land to be placed in the trusteeship of the whole community.
  • Legislation must insist that all decisions that have impact on the Adivasi land can be taken only after getting approval of the Gram Sabha of the Adivasi area.
  • Adivasis cultivating on the land for more than ten years should get pattas on the land without any bureaucratic hindrances.
  • No industry is to be allowed in the Adivasi area without the consent of Gram Sabha.
  • Policy Statement on the Forest Areas of the Adivasi People

    Adivasis have greater dependence on the forest. They get food, fuel, housing materials, medicines and even space for recreation to social religious and culture identity in the forest. There is a symbiotic relationship between the Adivasis and the forest, which ensure the fulfillment of the daily needs and protection of the environment. For long years Adivasis of Orissa have ensured the protection of forest. Since there existence is completely dependent on it. The Adivasis of Orissa cultivate their community land as well as revenue land on a rotational basis. The possession and use of land for shift cultivation is governed by customary rules, which within the Adivasi community has force of law.

    • Adivasi should be given right to manage their own forest.
    • The reserve forest in the Adivasi area should not be used for any commercial purpose such as teak plantation, coffee plantation etc.
    • Gram Sabha have the right over the forest produce and they should collect process and market the MFP.
    • State Government should develop a system for proper and sustainable forest eco system management in the Adivasi area and in particular to sustain forest productivity, health, bio-diversity, soil quality, water quality, natural landscapes and the full range of natural forest eco logical processes.
    • The Government should develop a comprehensive state level database that continuously updates the condition of health, location and extent of Adivasi forest. And declare those forests as Adivasi Forest, where Adivasis are living for a decades.
    • State shall ensure for a fair share of all profits from the mining, dam project continuing in the Adivasi area and shall ensure a fair compensation for any destruction of the forest environment.
    • State should provide space for eco-tourism and must build up a fair and fruitful relationship between Adivasi communities and eco-tourism developers.
    • The Adivasi cooperatives should provide incentives to the Adivasis for better protection of Adivasi forest areas.
    Policy Statement on Adivasi Education System

    The Adivasis of Orissa are the most disadvantaged group as for as their education is concerned. The level of literacy among Adivasis is 22.31% as against 49.09% of the general literacy of the state. In introducing and promoting formal education in the Adivasi areas, the Government claims that the parents of the Adivasi children's are least interested in education due to poverty, ignorance, nature of education and culture constraints. The Government had admitted in the Adivasi Sub Plan for Annual Plan 2001-2002 that medium of instruction is a major bottleneck in the field of Adivasi education. Therefore the medium of instruction through a language other than the Adivasis own language would definitely lead to stagnation and drop out causing colossal wastage of money, man power and machinery.

    • To promote the formal education among the Adivasis, the state should ensure that the Adivasis are taught in their own language and the content of the course should be reworked to suit their culture and need.
    • Each panchayat area should have a residential school for Adivasis and the Government must ensure that the stipends are being paid to Adivasi students in time.
    Policy Statement on Adivasi Culture and Language

    In the last few decades though lip service is paid to the protection, promotion and preservation of Adivasi culture, Adivasis are being coerced into abandoning their culture and cultural values in the name of development and in the name of bringing them to the main stream. No serious efforts are being made to preserve the Adivasi identity and protection of their total life style and cultural heritage. Cultural heritage in this statements means natural resources, practices, stories and beliefs and confined to relics or sites.

    • The state should ensure the preservation of Adivasi language by providing all kinds of support, technical, academic, financial etc.
    • The Government should place heavy reliance on the local anthropology of Adivasi folk and should take initiative to draw a comprehensive strategy plan for the restoration of Adivasi culture.
    • The state should take initiative to protect and conserve Adivasi Archeological sites, Historical area, Historical place etc
    • In the All India Radio and DD specific time to be fixed for broad casing the Adivasi Programme in Adivasi Languages.
    Policy Statement on Adivasi Health

    Over the years it has been found that the health condition of Adivasi people are deteriorating. The Adivasi mothers are malnourished and life expectancy rate among the Adivasis are getting decreased. The Infant Mortality Rate is increasing in some of the Adivasi areas of the state. The basic health facilities are not available to them despite the tall promises made by the Government.

    • The state should encourage and support Adivasi system of medicine i.e. herbal medicine to develop it into a full-fledged scientific discipline.
    • The state should ensure safe drinking water, sanitation facilities and waste disposal facilities to all the Adivasi areas.
    • The state should take initiative in setting up an institute on herbal medicine.
    • The state shall appoint Adivasi people in the Health Centres that exist in Adivasi area.
    Policy Statement on Employment Opportunities for Adivasis

    It is found that the reservation in the Government sectors in Orissa is not in proportion to the demography of Adivasis. The welfare measures taken by the Government for providing employment opportunities have not touched the Adivasis for lack of dissemination of information.

    • The state shall ensure that the reservation in Government services and public sector undertaking are in proportion to the demography of Adivasis.
    • The state should explore various possible means of providing loans and technology to Adivasis to develop a self-employment mechanism for Adivasi youth.
    Policy Statement on Adivasi Women Rights

    The Adivasi women bear the brunt of the family responsibility and childcare apart from the agricultural responsibility. Some of the Adivasi women are also food gatherers. Despite of their difficult position in the family they play a vital role in the over all development of the family and the community as a whole. The Adivasi women do not have the decision-making powers in the family and thereby they are subjected to all kinds harassment in and outside family.

    • The state should enact a separate legislation on Adivasi Marriage Act, keeping in mind the unique culture of the Adivasis and to suit their needs.
    • The state Government should enact legislation's to provide inheritance right of women over the property. The Land Patta is to be allotted both in husband and wife name.
    • Adivasi Mahila Commission should be setup to address the grievances of the Adivasi women as the state Women Commission is not in a position to appreciate the problems faced by the Adivasi women.
    • Divorced women marrying non-Adivasis should not be allowed to enjoy the privileges of Adivasis.
    General Policy Statement
    • The state should protect and encourage customary use of sustainable resources that are comparable with the conservation or sustainable use requirements.
    • The state should support Adivasi community action to develop protect and remediate biological diversity.
    • All legislations must insist that the Adivasi people are allowed to have access to information, the right to know and the right to be informed.
    • Customary laws of Adivasis should be adequately preserved irrespective of their religion.
    • State should promote alternative dispute resolution mechanism solving the problems of Adivasi community rather than forcing them to resort to the police and courts.
    • The state should consider for enacting legal instruments that will protect Adivasi intellectual and cultural property and the right to preserve customary and administrative system.
    • The state should enable Adivasis to develop self-governing institutions and economic bases, which will assist them to participate effectively in decision, which affect their interest.
    • The Government should declare holidays for Adivasi Cultural events.

    Note: The above draft paper on Adivasi Policy was translated from the original version of a document prepared by Adivasi representatives from various districts of Orissa State.