Thoughts and Reflections


NA- 204,Neelchakra Apartments, Cuttack Road

Bhubaneswar-751 006, Orissa



Thoughts and Reflections



Orissa Development Action Forum

NA-204, Neelchakra Apartments

Cuttack Road,Bhubaneswar-751006



Maa Tarini Printers

Saheed Nagar,Bhubaneswar-751 007

Publication Period : 2005


The Adivasis are the bonafied inhabitants of India and they are rightly endowed with all the just and lawful rights under the constitution of India. Though some schemes have been launched for their development since independence; no significant change has been marked in their social, cultural, political and economic life. The exuberance of their cultural life is dwindling very fast. As a result, they are steadily losing their separate identity, self-reliance and the life-cycle which moves around forest and natural resources. Basic facilities like health services and educational infrastructure for them are in dire strait. Many villages, mostly inhabited by Adivasis, are beyond reach due to lack of communication facilities. Major issues like land alienation, unemployment, loss of livelihood, food security, starvation deaths, malfunctioning of Public Distribution System (PDS), non-recognition of forest villages and  rights on forests have worsen their situation. Further, the state sponsored heavy industries, mega dams and sanctuaries have caused irreparable damages to their social, economic and environmental order in resource rich Adivasi areas. Migration of male members, in search of livelihood, is increasing day by day. Many a time as a last resort to earn a little money, they are bound to sell their children. Is it not necessary for the Government of Orissa to formulate a separate, concrete and full fledged policy for the Adivasis, who constitute 22 percent of the total population of the state? In some of the areas their number is even 70 to 80 percent to the total population.

Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs had prepared a draft policy relating to Adivasis and sought for the opinions of social scientists, research scholars, social activists, intellectuals, Adivasi organizations NGOs as well as from the general public. With this background, the Orissa Development Action Forum (ODAF), a network of 12 NGOs, Orissa Adivasi Adhikar Abhijan (OAAA) and BJB Autonomous College of Bhubaneswar had jointly organized a workshop on 15th & 16th November 2004 to deliberate upon the issues connected with the ‘National Draft Policy on Tribals’. The workshop was attended by a host of tribal leaders, veteran social scientists, anthropologists, economists, research scholars, intellectuals, bureaucrats, NGOs and other eminent personalities, who came from different parts of the country. They expressed their well-conceived and valued opinions on different aspects of the draft policy which, we hope, would be considered by the Government while finalizing the policy.

It will be contextual to mention here that OAAA had also prepared separate Draft Policy for Adivasis of Orissa on the basis of various suggestions made in this workshop. It also organised a massive rally in Bhubaneswar on the 17th November, 2004 to place its demand before the State Government to formulate a separate policy for the Adivasis in the State. About 15, 000 Adivasis including men, women and youths from different parts of the State took part in this rally. With their colourful attire and headgears, they thronged the city streets to raise their voice for their just demands and rights. Adivasis submitted the memorandum to the Chief Minister of Orissa - Shri Naveen Patnaik. Shri Naveen Patnaik amongst others addressed the rally and reiterated the steps taken by the Orissa Government for the development of Adivasis. He announced that very soon the State Government would formulate a new and a separate policy for the Adivasis on the basis of the memorandum submitted by Orissa Adivasi Adhikar Abhijan.

The foremost objective behind this publication is to inform the common people of the State especially Adivasi sisters and brothers about various issues, approaches concerning their lives and livelihoods and the need for a separate policy for Adivasis. We firmly believe that the book will fulfill certain needs of policy makers, social activists, intellectuals, readers and public as well.

We are grateful to the eminent personalities namely Prof. B. K. Roy Burmon, Dr. N. C. Saxena, Dr. Walter Fernandez for using their contributions presented during various workshops and newspapers that helped us to make the Booklet complete. We earnestly thank them all and record our humble acknowledgement. We are thankful to the daily newspapers “the Hindu” & “the Hindustan Times” for using some of their articles in this book. We are also thankful to the leaders, the team of OAAA, member of ODAF and NGOs.

We would fail in our duty if we do not express our deep gratitude to Dr. K. Rajaratnam, Chairman of ODAF, whose continuous inspiration stands as a lighthouse to carry on our efforts advocating the rights of Adivasis and other marginalized communities.   

Also, we can not but extend our hearty thanks to the ODAF Editorial and the Secretariat team for their persistent efforts to collect the write-ups, make necessary editing, coordinate the publication process and organising all kinds of logistical supports for bringing out this book.

Last, but not the least expecting the suggestions, comments on the book from our esteemed readers.


 Dr. William Stanley

Executive Secretary, ODAF







Orissa Adivasi Policy : Drafted by Orissa Adivasi Adhikar Abhijan(OAAA)




A Note on Mammoth Adivasi Rally at Bhubaneswar  Organized by OAAA




Memorandum for A Separate Adivasi Policy Submitted to the  Chief Minister of Orissa on behalf of  OAAA




Draft National Policy on Tribals




A report on National Consultation on Draft National Policy on Tribals : Organized by ODAF,OAAA & Dept. Anthropology ,BJB College, BBSR




National Tribal Policy must address education needs By Special Correspondent of The Hindu




Politics of the Policy for Tribals  By Joseph Marianus Kujur




Statement of the Participants of the ICSSR Sponsored Seminar on the National Rehabilitation Policy and the Draft Tribal Policy By Dr. Walter Farndes




Draft National Policy on Tribals: Suggestions for Improvement By N.C.Saxena




Issues to be Examined  on the Draft National Policy for Tribals By Prof.B.K.Roy Burman



(The Orissa Development Action Forum (ODAF) has been trying at different  levels  to formulate a separate State Adivasi Policy for the  last 10 years. It  facilitated   a meeting of adivsis  from Jharakhanda, Andhrapradesh and Orissa at  Jhimikiguda Village in Koraput District of Orissa in 1995 where adivasis demanded for a separate Adivasi Policy for the tribals and also declared their sincere commitments for  the formulation a separate Adivasi Policy. Later, the adivasis from different parts of the Country thronged to Putsil, a small adivasi village in Koraput to show their solidarity for a common cause which is popularly known as  Putsil  Declaration. With the passage of time, in order to strengthen and coordinate  their relentless efforts  for a separate and clear Adivasi Policy, an informal  State Level Adivasi Forum, namely ,Orissa Adivasi Adhikar Abhijan(OAAA) was formed in 2001 at Jhimikiguda.  OAAA organized a series of regional meetings at different places  to incorporate  local adivasi issues in the draft Adivasi policy and involve Community  based organizations in the movement.)
Introduction : " 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”.[1
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. [2]

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.   

·          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 re mediate 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.


Mammoth Adivasi Rally in Bhubaneswar for Demanding

A Separate Adivasi Policy in Orissa

  • Jala, Jami, Jangala; Ae Sabu Amara (Water, Land, Forest; all ours).
  • Adivasinku Soosana Bandh Kara (Stop Exploiting Adivasis).
  • Sikhsya o Swasthya Seva ra Adhikar Amara Dabi (We Demand Right to Education & Health Services)
  • Adivasi Bachao, Jangal Bachao (Save Adivasis, Save Forests).

These were some of the slogans during the Adivasi Rally that was organised on 17th November 2004. Around 15000 Adivasis, Social Workers, Activists, Academicians from Orissa and outside were assembled at State Capital, Bhubaneswar on the rally day to demand for a separate Adivasi Policy for the State. The rally started from Railway Station to Saheed Smaraki Swadhinata Sangramee Bhawan where a meeting was held following the rally in which the Chief Minister of Orissa, Mr. Naveen Patnaik and the Minister of State, Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes Development, Mr. Balabhadra Majhi were present.             

Amongst others, former speaker of Orissa Mr. Yudhisthir Das; famous Adivasi leader of Jharakhanda and former Vice-Chancellor of Ranchi University,Dr. Ram Dayal Munda; renowned Anthropologist Dr. K.C. Malhotra; Dalit Leader and Parliamentarian Mr. Mohan Jena; Social Activist Mr. Pradeep Prabhu; Vice Chairman of Orissa Development Action Forum (ODAF) Mr. Aditya Patnaik, President of Orissa Adivasi Adhikar Abhijan (OAAA) Mr. Basudev Jani, Vice-President of OAAA Ms. Naranga Pujari, Adivasi leaders such as Mr. Nangai Murmu, Ms. Basanti Kui and Ms. Puspalata Pradhan were also present during the meeting and put forth their point of views as follows:

Even after 57 years of Independence of India, there was no specific provision for the Ministry of Tribal Affairs; and it was a part of the Home Ministry. The negligence is caused due to lack of will power among the politicians and former governments. Though late, but the process has been initiated. Now, the rights of Adivasis are being thought about.

According to the planning commission report, 150 out of 600 districts in the country are Adivasi concentrated and those are lagging behind in terms of health, education, economy etc. Due to the negative impacts of globalisation and the so-called developmental projects of the government like mega dams & mining etc; Adivasis are being deprived and disposed from their cultural and basic livelihoods. Forest resources are getting denuded day by day. Adivasis are protecting the forest since thousands of years. 5 lakhs of Adivasi families in Orissa are going to be evicted from the forest areas under the direction of Supreme Court to evict the illegal encroachers. Adivasis do not demand the luxury but a life with dignity. So, if we wish to protect our forests, we should try to protect the Adivasis first.

Since 1957 to 1947, during 90 years of India’s freedom fight movement, Adivasis had played an important role to fight against the British Empire. The great Adivasi martyrs like Laxman Majhi, Rindo Majhi, Birsa Munda, Tirki Majhi, Hati Singh, Madho Singh, had lost their lives for the cause. But their contributions are least recognised.

The culture, heritage, language of Adivasis are deteriorating day by day. Thus it is the duty and responsibility of the Adivasi communities as well as the government to protect the same. The efforts to form a separate Adivasi policy for the state should be continued by the Chief Minister of Orissa.

After the deliberations; Ms. Hemlata Hontal, a women Adivasi leader shared the gist of the Adivasi Policy drafted by OAAA. Mr. Basudev Jani presented the draft State Adivasi Policy Memorandum to the Chief Minister.

Thanking the organisers of the Adivasi Rally and meeting, Mr. Naveen Patnaik said that his government is always interested for the development of the Adivasis. In this regard, various policies like recognising rights of Adivasis over Minor Forest Produce (MFP) has been declared, provision of employment generation for the Adivasis is being made through different schemes. The state government has appointed Advocate Solee Sorabjee, the former Attorney General of India to fight against the forest eviction cases in the Supreme Court. In order to bring the Adivasis into the mainstream, his government is providing education, health, and communication facilities in the Adivasi concentrated areas. Model schools are being proposed to attract the Adivasi students towards education. A nursing training college is being established at Koraput, where 500 Auxiliary Nursing Maids (ANMs) will be oriented. Rs. 50 crores was sanctioned towards SHG loans to strengthen the Adivasi women of the KBK districts. Apart from all these activities, a Task Force as well as an Integrated Policy was formed to deal with the issues related to Adivasis’ land. Adding to this, a Medicine Institute is being established at Jeypore to promote the Traditional Knowledge Systems and develop the use of traditional medicine. Looking into the poor health condition of the Adivasi communities, there is a proposal for setting up a Medical College at Koraput.

He assured that after a thorough review of the Adivasi Policy drafted by OAAA, a full phased Policy will be formulated for Orissa.

Mr. Balabhadra Majhi said that, being an Adivasi himself, he knows and understands about the issues concerning the Adivasis. He emphasised on the Education of the Adivasis. It would help them to raise their voices against all kind of injustices and exploitation. He assured that he will try to do everything that would help to develop the Adivasi communities.

The meeting was concluded with the vote of thanks to all.



 Consultation on Draft National Policy on Tribals

 The Ministry of Tribal Affairs of the Government of India had prepared a ‘Draft National Policy on Tribals’ and invited comments and suggestions on this policy from Researchers, Social Activists and State Governments having Adivasi population.

 In this context, a two-days consultation on the ‘Draft National Policy on Tribals’ was organised by Orissa Development Action Forum (ODAF) in collaboration with Orissa Adivasi Adhikar Abhijan (OAAA) and Department of Anthropology, BJB Autonomous College on 15th and 16th November 2004 at BJB Autonomous College, Bhubaneswar with a view to review the draft National Policy on Tribals, revisit the State Adivasi Policy formulated by OAAA, critically analyze various related policies, identify inadequacies, understand different perspectives from Academicians, Intellectuals, NGOs & Activists, build solidarity between like minded groups  and formulate alternative position papers and mobilise the communities towards a pro people Adivasi Policy at National as well as State level and work towards a National Level Rally at  New Delhi.

 Eminent Anthropologists, Social Scientists, Advocates, Media representatives, Students, Researchers, representatives of various NGOs, CBOs and Adivasi People’s Networks, grassroot Adivasi leaders from Orissa, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka participated in the consultation.

 Resource persons, to name a few, like Prof. B. K. Roy Burman, (Former Chairman-Tribal Studies Panel, Indian Council of Social Science Research, Social Policy Advisory Committee, Manipur), Prof. L.K. Mahapatra, Chairman Naba Krushna Choudhury Centre for Development Studies, Bhubaneswar (former Vice-Chancellor, Utkal University and Sambalpur University), Dr. Ram Dayal Munda (former Vice-Chancellor Ranchi University, and Former member of the Presidium of Indian Consortium of Indigenous and Tribal people), Dr. K.C. Malhotra (Former Professor of Anthropometry and Human Genetics, Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta and Member of Planning Commission-Committee on National Strategy of Conservation), Advocate Sanjay Upadhyaya (Director, Legal affairs-Defense Fund, Delhi), Dr. William Stanley, (Executive Secretary, ODAF), Ms. Hemlata Hontal (an eminent Adivasi leader) and Mr. Basudeb Jani, President OAAA, Mr. Bijay Kumar Patnaik, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Orissa contributed their valuable suggestions on the topic.

 The consultation was based on four themes i.e. Adivasi Identity, Economy, Indigenous Knowledge System and Adivasi Political Governance. The resource persons analysed all the four themes extensively and put forth their suggestions for alternative position paper.

 Recognizing the transitional nature of Adivasi identity and economies that would imply not only assimilation but co-existence between two different cultures also, the Convention made following suggestions:

 ·          To recognize the rights of Adivasis to self-determination - course of action to realize their aspirations

·          Formal education needs to be modified or restructured or altered for Adivasis and Adivasi instructors should be inducted into the system.

·          Adivasi development should be undertaken without disturbing their social and cultural institutions subjected to human rights framework.

·          All the acts related to the livelihood support system of Adivasis must be reconsidered.

·          Safeguarding the principles of socialization and value frame within which Adivasi society exists including sustainability of gender and inter generation relationship, which means avoiding extraction but respecting nature.

·          Complete ownership rights over forest, minerals, sanctuaries, conservation of flora and fauna and land inhabited by indigenous people

·          Ensure convergence of Adivasi policy with basic principles underlying in other legal instruments such as the constitution, ILO and other sector related policies, judgments of High Courts and Supreme Court.

·          Centres for technological studies to be instituted at block levels for development & documentation of bio-diversity, traditional knowledge system on agriculture, health, environment and income generation.

·          The exclusive Adivasi songs, dances, artistry need a greater degree of protection and they need to be viewed in the light of Intellectual Property Rights.

·          Nyaya panchayat and customary laws should have space for promotion, protection and propagation. In present circumstances panchayat is reduced to a mere implementing agency. There is a need for grooming, orientation and training for panchayat officials.


On the basis of the suggestions, the Think Tank came out with ‘a resolution to be submitted to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India’ and ‘a memorandum to be submitted to the Chief Minister of Orissa on the meeting followed by Adivasi Rally on 17th November 2005. 


The consultation was concluded with the sharing of greetings received from the Chairman of ODAF Dr. K. Rajaratnam and extension of formal vote of thanks to the participants, dignitaries and organizers.








Recognising that ‘Adivasi communities have a historical continuity with a pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories’.


Recognising that ‘the Adivasi communities are distinct from other sections of society and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories and their ethnic identity, as the basis of continued existence as peoples, in accordance with our own cultural ethos, social institution and legal systems’.


Aware of the limited constitutional status provided to us as ‘Scheduled Tribes’ which excludes some worthy Adivasi groups.


Conscious that the majority of population regards the Adivasi Community as primitive and Government programme aims at integrating us with the majority society rather than emphasizing our distinctiveness and uniqueness.


Realising that even after 57 years of independence there is absence of a clear policy frame work for the Adivasis. Our economic base is systematically destroyed.  Where there is lack of an enabling environment for those who are still able to follow the basis of a traditional way of life resulting in cultural extinction of many of the smaller Adivasi Communities.


Understanding that the Adivasis of Orissa, which account for 22.21% of the State population, exhibit great variety in languages, cultural customs and practices include most populated tribes such as Kondhs, Sauras / Sabar, Juang and unique Adivasis such as  Bonda, Bhuiyan which are only found in the State.


Emphasising that the village community is the basic unit of governance and therefore it must be politically empowered for planning village development, managing natural resources and resolving conflict in accordance with traditional customs and practices.


Asserting that secured land tenures, rights to forest and forest based products and access and control over local water and mineral resources are key to our existence


Recognising that ‘the Adivasis’ identity in Orissa is at risk due to indiscriminate growth of  mining  and other extractive industries in Adivasi areas, Modernisation and consumerist market economy  are also making  the Adivasis more marginalized.


Reconginsing that ‘initiatives of the various Government programmes such as  Adivasi Sub-plans, Special Component Plans, Primitive Adivasi Micro Projects, Modified Area Development Agency, Cluster and Dispersed Adivasi Development programmes and special education have not achieved their intended objectives.


Realising that in view of the growing marginalisation, deprivation, oppression and special unique social, economic, political character and livelihood systems, there is a need to develop a policy keeping in mind long-term sustainable human development perspective in a special geographical context of Orissa.


Realising that Adivasi community must be offered every opportunity for effective participation in the socio economic and the governance processes of the State.


The policy statement is declared here under


·          A separate Policy for the State of Orissa to be adopted emphasizing identity, local tradition, culture, religion and unique ness of regions.


·          That principles of equity, justice and equitable distribution of natural resources are key to all round development for Adivasi community in the region and therefore must be ingrained in any policy affecting Adivasis.


·          That key focus for any policy on Adivasi should be to develop sound principles on governance on issues such as land, water, forest, health, education, culture of the Adivasis and the rights of Adivasi women in the state.


·          That ownership and control over land in Adivasi areas is closely related with the economic and social well being of the people and it forms the basis of social status and political power. Prevention of Adivasi land alienation due to various methods of agriculture, industrialization and urbanization and its restoration needs to be the basis of any effective policy strategy.


·          Necessary amendments may be brought in the existing land legislations to include the principles enunciated in recent legislations on Adivasi self rule such as the Gram Saba /Gram Sasan including Palli Sabha’s role in consent for acquisition of land for development projects.


·          Secured access to forest and forest based products for bona-fide and dignified existence must be ensured through amendments in forest legislations and policy resolutions.


·          That the Adivasi should be given right to manage their own forest and reserve forest in the Adivasi areas. The Gram Sabha must have ownership rights over forest produce.


·          The State Government along with Adivasi community 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 ecological processes.


·          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 cultural and social needs.


·          That the State Government must ensure adequate incentive structures such as scholarships, stipends, tuition waivers and residential school for Adivasis.


·          That serious effort must be made to preserve the Adivasi identity and their life style and cultural heritage.  Cultural heritage includes natural heritage, customary practices, folk tales and beliefs and confined to relics or sacred sites.


·          The State should ensure the preservation of Adivasi language by providing all kinds of support, technical, academic, financial etc. and place heavy reliance on the local anthropology of Adivasi folk. The state should also take urgent initiative to protect and conserve Adivasi Archeological sites, Historical area and Historical places.


·          Criteria and Indicators must be developed for standardized herbal medicine system where tribals should play a leading role in setting up such standards. This may include setting up of a State or National Institute of Folk Herbal Medicine.


·          That the State must ensure reservation in Government services and public sector undertaking are in proportion to the demography of Adivasis and explore various possible means of providing loans and technology to Adivasis to develop a self-employment mechanism for youth.


·          The State Government should secure inheritance right of women over the property by amending concerned legislation on property.


·          The state should enable Adivasis to develop self-governing institutions and economic bases, which will assist them to participate effectively in decision making.



To support decentralized, participatory, multi-stakeholder, interdisciplinary, eco-regional and adaptive management approaches that respect human and cultural diversity, gender equity, livelihood and human security and enhancement as well as environmental sustainability where we value and build upon both traditional and scientific information and knowledge.



Mr. Basudev Jani              Ms. Narnago Pujari                  Mr. Philli Behra Patra President, OAAA                     Vice President, OAAA                    Secretary, OAAA      




17 NOVEMBER 2004








The following document has been drafted by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs as an attempt to put in place a comprehensive set of principles, objectives and goals in the matter of Tribal Affairs in the Government of India and to give a coordinated direction to the efforts of tribal development.


For the first time after the country became Independent, the Government of India is proposing the formulation of a National Policy on Scheduled Tribes. 


The policy seeks to bring Scheduled Tribes into the mainstream of society through a multi-pronged approach for their all-round development without disturbing their distinct culture.


There are 67.8 million Scheduled Tribe people, constituting 8.08 per cent of India’s population.  There are 698 Scheduled Tribes spread all over the country barring States and Union Territories like Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Pondicherry and Punjab.  Orissa has the largest number – 68--of Scheduled Tribes.


Scheduled Tribes are those which are notified as such by the President of India under Article 342 of the Constitution.  The first notification was issued in 1950.  The President considers characteristics like the tribes’ primitive traits, distinctive culture, shyness with the public at large, geographical isolation and social and economic backwardness before notifying them as a Scheduled Tribe.  Seventy-five of the 698 Scheduled Tribes are identified as Primitive Tribal Groups considering they are more backward than Scheduled Tribes.  They continue to live in a pre-agricultural stage of economy and have very low literacy rates. Their populations are stagnant or even declining.


The Constitution through several Articles has provided for the socio-economic development and empowerment of Scheduled Tribes.  (You may list the provisions here, if necessary).  But there has been no national policy, which could have helped translate the constitutional provisions into a reality.  Five principles spelt out in 1952, known as Nehruvian Panchasheel, have been guiding the administration of tribal affairs.  They are:


1.      Tribals should be allowed to develop according to their own genius

2.      Tribals’ rights in land and forest should be respected

3.      Tribal teams should be trained to undertake administration and development without too many outsiders being inducted

4.      Tribal development should be undertaken without disturbing tribal social and cultural institutions

5.      The index of tribal development should be the quality of their life and not the money spent


Realising that the Nehruvian Panchasheel was long on generalities and short on specifics, the Government of India formed a Ministry of Tribal Affairs for the first time in October 1999 to accelerate tribal development.  The Ministry of Tribal Affairs is now coming out with the draft National Policy on Tribals. Based on the feedback from tribal leaders, the concerned States, individuals, organisations in the public and the private sectors, and NGOs, the Ministry will finalise the policy.


The National Policy recognises that a majority of Scheduled Tribes continue to live below the poverty line, have poor literacy rates, suffer from malnutrition and disease and are vulnerable to displacement.   It also acknowledges that Scheduled Tribes in general are repositories of indigenous knowledge and wisdom in certain aspects.


The National Policy aims at addressing each of these problems in a concrete way.  It also lists out measures to be taken to preserve and promote tribals’ cultural heritage. 


Formal education: Formal education is the key to all-round human development.  Despite several campaigns to promote formal education ever since Independence, the literacy rate among Scheduled Tribes is only 29.60 per cent compared to 52.21 per cent for the country as a whole (1991 Census). The female literacy rate is only 18.19 per cent compared to the national female literacy rate of 39.29 per cent. Alienation from the society, lack of adequate infrastructure like schools, hostels and teachers, abject poverty and apathy towards irrelevant curriculum have stood in the way of tribals getting formal education.


To achieve the objective of reaching the benefit of education to tribals, the National Policy will ensure that: 

·          Tribals are included in the national programme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan run by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

·          Schools and hostels are opened in areas where no such facilities exist.

·          At least one model residential school is located in each tribal concentration area

·          Education is linked with provision of supplementary nutrition.

·          Special incentives like financial assistance, pocket allowance, free distribution of textbooks and school uniforms are provided

·          Teaching is imparted in tribals’ mother tongue at least up to the primary level. Educated tribal youth are given employment as teachers, wherever possible. (This will obviate the need to employ teachers belonging to far-off places who find commuting is as difficult as staying in a village with no basic amenities. 

·          Pedagogy is made relevant so that tribals do not find it as alien.

·          Curriculum and cocurriculum include aspects of meta skill upgradation of tribal children. 

·          Curricula for meta skill upgradation are to include aspects of tribal games and sports, archery, identification of plants of medicinal value, crafts art and culture, folk dance and folk songs, folk paintings etc.

·          Emphasis is laid on vocational/professional education.  Polytechnics are set up for studies in subjects like forestry, horticulture, dairying, veterinary sciences, polytechnics.


Traditional wisdom: Dwelling amidst hills, forests, coastal areas, deserts, tribals over the centuries have gained precious and vast experience in combating environmental hardships and leading sustainable livelihoods. Their wisdom is reflected in their water harvesting techniques, indigenously developed irrigation channels, construction of cane bridges in hills, adaptation to desert life, utilisation of forest species like herbs, shrubs for medicinal purposes, meteorological assessment etc. Such invaluable knowledge of theirs needs to be properly documented and preserved lest it should get lost in the wake of modernisation and passage of time.


The National Policy seeks to: 


·          Preserve and promote such traditional knowledge and wisdom and document it

·          Establish a centre to train tribal youth in areas of traditional wisdom

·          Disseminate such through models and and exhibits at appropriate places

·          Transfer such knowledge to non-tribal areas


Health:Although tribal people live usually close to nature, a majority of them need health care on account of malnutrition, lack of safe drinking water, poor hygiene and environmental sanitation and above all poverty. Lack of awareness and apathy to utilise the available health services also affect their health status.  In wake of the opening of tribal areas with highways industrialization, and communication facilities, diseases have spread to tribal areas.  Endemics like malaria, deficiency diseases, venereal diseases including AIDS are not uncommon among tribal populations.  However, lack of safe drinking water and malnutrition are well-recognised major health hazards. Tribals suffer from a deficiency of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin and animal protein in their diets.  Malnutrition and undernutrition are common among Primitive Tribal Groups who largely depend upon food they either gather or raise by using simple methods. The poor nutritional status of tribal women directly influences their reproductive performance and their infants’ survival, growth and development.


Tribal people, who are self reliant and self-sufficient, have over the centuries developed their own medicine system based on herbs and other items collected from the nature and processed locally.  They have also their own system of diagnosis and cure of diseases.  They believe in taboos, spiritual powers and faith healing.  There are wide variations among tribals in their health status and willingness to access and utilise health services, depending on their culture, level of contact with other cultures and degree of adaptability.


Against this background, the National Policy seeks to promote the modern health care system and also a synthesis of the Indian systems of medicine like ayurveda and siddha with the tribal system.


The National Policy seeks to: 

·          Strengthen the allopathy system of medicine in tribal areas with  the extension of the three-tier system of village health workers, auxiliary nurse mid-wife and primary health centres.

·          Expand the number of hospitals in tune with tribal population

·          Validate identified tribal remedies (folk claims) used in different tribal areas 

·          Encourage, document and patent tribals’ traditional medicines

·          Promote cultivation of medicinal plants related value addition strategies through imparting training to youth

·          Encourage qualified doctors from tribal communities to serve tribal areas

·          Promote the formation of a strong force of tribal village health guides through regular training-cum-orientation courses

·          Formulate area-specific strategies to improve access to and utilisation of health services

·          Strengthen research into diseases affecting tribals and initiate action programmes

·          Eradicate endemic diseases on a war footing

Displacement and Resettlement: Displacement of people from traditional habitations causes much trauma to the affected people.  Compulsory acquisition of land for construction of dams and roads, quarrying and mining operations, location of industries and reservation of forests for National Parks and environmental reasons forces tribal people to leave their traditional abodes and land – their chief means of livelihood.  

Nearly 85.39 lakh tribals had been displaced until 1990 on account of some mega project or the other, reservation of forests as National Parks etc.  Tribals constitute at least 55.16 percent of the total displaced people in the country.  Cash payment does not really compensate the tribals for the difficulties they experience in their living style and ethos.

Displacement of tribals from their land amounts to violation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution as it deprives them of control and ownership of natural resources and land essential for their way of life.

The National Policy for Tribals, therefore, stipulates that displacement of tribal people is kept to the minimum and undertaken only after possibilities of non-displacement and least displacement have been exhausted. When it becomes absolutely necessary to displace Scheduled Tribe people in the larger interest, the displaced should be provided a better standard of living. 

The National Policy, therefore, mandates that the following guidelines be followed when tribals are resettled:


·          When displacement becomes inevitable, each scheduled tribe family having land in the earlier settlement shall be given land against land.  A minimum of two hectares of cultivable land is considered necessary and viable for a family (comprising man, his wife and unmarried children). 

·          Tribal families having fishing rights in their original habitat shall be granted fishing rights in the new reservoir or at any other alternative place

·          Reservation benefits enjoyed at the original settlement shall be continued at the the resettlement area.

·          Additional financial assistance equivalent to nearly one and a half year’s minimum agricultural wages for loss of customary rights and usufructory rights of forest produce shall be given.

·          Tribals are to be resettled close to their natural habitat by treating all the people so displaced as one group to let them retain their ethnic, linguistic and socio-cultural identity and the network of kinship and mutual obligations

·          Free land is to be provided for social and religious congregations.

·          If resettlement is possible only away from the district/taluka, then substantively higher benefits in monetary terms shall be given.

·          When tribal families are resettled en masse, all basic minimum amenities shall be provided at the new sites.  They include roads and passages, electricity, drainage and sanitation, safe drinking water, educational and health care facilities, fair price shops, a community hall and a panchayat office.


Forest villages: Tribal’s age-old symbiotic relationship with forests is well known.  Recognising this fact, even the National Forest Policy committed itself to the close association of tribals with the protection, preservation and development of forests and envisaged their customary rights in forests. It is, however, a matter of serious concern that about 5000 forest villages do not have minimum basic living conditions and face a constant threat of eviction.

The National Policy suggests that any forceful displacement should be avoided.   Human beings move on their own to places with better opportunities.  The forest villages may be converted into revenue villages or forest villages may be developed on par with revenue villages to enable the forest villagers  enjoy at least the minimum amenities and services that are available in revenue villages.



The National Policy, therefore, mandates that


·          Educational and medical facilities, electricity and communication, approach roads and such other basic amenities be provided to forest villagers.

·          Public Distribution System (PDS) and Grain Banks be established to prevent food problems.

·          Advanced agriculture and animal husbandry technologies be introduced so that forest villagers raise their production, incomes and economic standards.

·          Bank and other institutional loans be made available for entrepreneurs with viable projects of income generation

·          Tribals be given opportunities to partake in joint forest management and encouraged to form cooperatives and corporations for major forest related operations

·          Integrated area development programmes be taken up in and around forest areas

·          Tribals’ rights in protection, regeneration and collection of minor forest produce (MFP) be recognised and institutional arrangements made for marketing such produce

·          Efforts be made to eliminate exploitation by middlemen in cooperatives like Tribal Development Cooperative Corporations (TDCCs), Large Sized Multi Purpose Societies (LAMPS) and Forest Development Cooperatives by introducing minimum support prices for non agricultural produce on the lines of minimum support prices for agricultural produce.

Shifting Cultivation: In the evolution of human civilisation, shifting cultivation preceded agriculture as we know it today. In shifting cultivation, tribals do not use any mechanized tools or undertake even ploughing.  A digging stick and a sickle are the usual tools.  It is widely practised in whole of North- Eastern region besides the States of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and to some extent in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Though the practice is hazardous to environment, it forms basis of life for tribals.  Traditionally, shifting cultivation has been in vogue in hilly terrains where tribals have had the right on land either individually or on community basis. Because of poor yields, crops do not meet their food requirement for more than four months or so in a year.

The tribals involved in shifting cultivation do not seem to have any emotional attachment to the land as an asset or property needing care and attention as in non-tribal areas. In shifting cultivation lands, no attention is paid to the replenishment of soil fertility.  Tribals merely believe in   harvesting crops without putting in efforts or investments.  Land is just left to nature to recoup on its own.

To handle the problem of shifting cultivation, the National Policy will focus on the following aspects:


·          Land tenure system will be rationalised giving tribals right to land ownership so that they will invest their energy and resources in checking soil erosion and fertility – which have hitherto been neglected as land belonged to no one but was subject to exploitation by every one.

·          Agricultural scientists will be asked to focus on shifting cultivation and evolve suitable technologies to improve production.

·          The shifting cultivators will be ensured sufficient food supply through the public distribution system and grain banks. Tribals will be encouraged to raise cash crops and horticultural plantations.

·          Training and extension programmes will be organised to sensitise tribals about alternative economic strategies so that they can come out of shifting cultivation.

Land Alienation: Scheduled Tribes being simple folk are often exploited to forgo their foremost important resource – land – to non-tribals.  Although States have protective laws to check the trend, dispossessed tribals are yet to get back their lands.  Yet, another form of land alienation takes place when States promote development projects like hydro-electric power stations and mining and industries.  These developmental activities, which do not confer any benefit on tribals directly, render them landless.

The National Policy for Tribals seeks to tackle tribal land alienation by stipulating that

Tribals have access to village land records

·          Land records be displayed at the panchayat

·          Oral evidence be considered in the absence of records in the disposal of tribals’ land disputes

·          States prohibit transfer of lands from tribals to non-tribals

·          Tribals and their representatives be associated with land surveys

·          Forest tribal villagers be assigned pattas for the land under their tillage since ages

·          States launching development projects take adequate care to keep tribal lands intact and   when not possible, allot land even before a project takes off


Intellectual Property Rights: Scheduled Tribes are known for their knowledge and wisdom of ethnic origin.  There is, however, no legal and/or institutional framework to safeguard their intellectual property rights.

The National Policy, therefore, will aim at making legal and institutional arrangements to protect their intellectual property rights and curtailing the rights of corporate and other agencies to access and exploit their resource base. 

Tribal Languages :The languages spoken by tribals - tribal languages - are treated as unscheduled languages.  In the wake of changing educational scenario, many of the tribal languages are facing the threat of extinction. The loss of language may adversely affect tribal culture, especially their folklore.

The National Policy aims at preserving and documenting tribal languages. Education in the mother tongue at the primary level needs be encouraged. Books and other publications in tribal languages will be promoted.

Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs):Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) are Scheduled Tribes known for their declining or stagnant population, low levels of literacy, pre- agricultural technology, primarily belonging to the hunting and gathering stage, and extreme backwardness.  They were considered as a special category for support for the first time in 1979. There are 75 Primitive Tribal Groups spread over 15 States and Union Territories.  The 25 lakh PTG population constitutes nearly 3.6 per cent of the tribal population and 0.3 per cent of the country’s population.


PTGs have not benefited from developmental activities.  They face continuous threats of eviction from their homes and lands.  They live with food insecurity and a host of diseases like sickle cell anemia and malaria.


The National Policy envisages the following steps to tackle PTGs’ problems: 


·          To boost PTGs’ social image, their being stigmatized as ‘primitive’ shall be halted.

·          Efforts shall be made to bring them on par with other Scheduled Tribes in a definite time frame. Developmental efforts should be tribe-specific and suit the local environment.

·          Effective preventive and curative health systems shall be introduced.

·          PTGs’ traditional methods of prevention and cure shall be examined and validated.

·          To combat the low level of literacy among PTGs, area and need specific education coupled with skill upgradation shall be given priority.

·          Formal schooling shall be strengthened by taking advantage of ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’.  Trained tribal youth shall be inducted as teachers.

·          Teaching shall be in tribals’ mother tongue/dialect

·          Considering PTGs’ poverty, school-going children shall be provided incentives.

·           Emphasis shall be on laid on vocational education and training.

·          PTGs shall enjoy the ‘right to land’. Any form of land alienation shall be prevented and landless PTGs given priority in land assignment.

·          Public distribution system (PDS) shall be introduced to ensure regular food supply. Grain banks shall be established to ensure food availability during crises.

·          PTGs’ participation in managing forests shall be ensured to meet their economic needs and nourish their emotional attachment to forests.


Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Areas: Although the Constitution is clear about the concept and strategy adopted for defining Scheduled Areas and tribal areas in terms of Fifth and Sixth Schedules under Articles as 244(1) and 244(2), there is some confusion  among those concerned with implementing them.


 The National Policy, therefore, envisages the following steps:  


·          The regulation making powers of State Governors to maintain good governance, peace and harmony in tribal areas will be further strengthened.  It will be ensured that Tribal Advisory Councils meet regularly and focus on speedy developmental works and prohibition of land transfers. Money lending menace shall be curbed through implementation of money lending laws.

·          Tribal Advisory Councils will be established in States which have Scheduled Areas and even in States where a substantial number of tribal people live although Scheduled Areas have not been declared.

·          The Autonomous District/Regional Councils in North-Eastern Stateswill be further strengthened.  The Councils are elected bodies having powers of legislation and execution and administration of justice.


Administration: The existing administrative machinery in States and districts comprising Integrated Tribal Development Agencies (ITDA) and Integrated Tribal Development Projects (ITDP) have not been up in terms of the quality of performance and development indicators. 


The National Policy seeks to revitalise the administration by proposing the following:


·          Skill upgradation-cum-orientation programmes shall be conducted for tribal administration officials. 

·          Infrastructure development shall be given priority to so that officials will function from their places of posting.

·          Only officials who have adequate knowledge, experience and a sense of appreciation for tribal problems shall be posted for tribal administration.

·          As the schemes meant for improving tribals’ condition take time, a tenure that is commensurate with their implementation shall be fixed for officials.


Research: The National Policy acknowledges the importance of a good database to deal with Scheduled Tribes’ affairs. Research on tribals’ ethnic profiles, spectrum of problems and prospects and developmental constraints and monitoring and evaluation of schemes and projects needs priority attention.


The National Policy for Tribals proposes that the existing Tribal Research Institutes located in different States shall be further strengthened for carrying out purposeful research and evaluation studies and work towards the preservation of the rich tribal cultural heritage.  It also envisages the establishment of a national-level research institution.


Participatory Approach: The National Policy recognises the importance of participatory approach to development. Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Voluntary Agencies (VAs) act as catalysts in reaching benefits of Government programmes and policies to the grass-root level and thus optimise the desired accomplishment. Such organisations have direct linkages with people and are conversant with their problems.  NGOs can undertake and promote family and community based programmes and mobilise resources in tribal areas. Some well-established NGOs are eager to take part in the development of Scheduled Tribes in general and Primitive Tribal Groups in particular.


The National Policy, therefore, seeks to enlist and encourage NGOs in tribal development activities.  They can play an important role in the opening of residential and non-residential schools, hostels, dispensaries, hospitals and vocational training centres, promotion of awareness programmes and capacity building.


Assimilation: To bring the tribals into country’s mainstream, the National Policy envisages the following


·          Identification of tribal groups with ‘primitive traits’ shall be done away with on a priority basis. 

·          The ‘distinct culture’ of the tribes reflected in their folk art, folk literature, traditional crafts and ethos shall be preserved.  Their oral traditions shall be documented and art promoted.

·          Opportunities shall be provided for tribals to interact with outside cultures.

·          Their geographical isolation shall be minimised through development of roads, transport and means of communication and provision of concessional travel facility



National Tribal Policy must address Education Needs

By Our Special Correspondent (The Hindu)

CHENNAI, MARCH 31. Anthropologists and social scientists laid stress on addressing the formal educational and heath needs of the tribal population while finalising a national policy on tribals. They were speaking at a seminar organised at the University of Madras here to discuss the draft national policy on tribals, released recently by the Union Department of Tribal Welfare.

The experts said that while the draft policy suggested some concrete measures, it was difficult to ensure their implementation, as political will was wanting in educating tribal children, especially girls. Teachers normally did not prefer to go to forest villages and remote locations to work in tribal schools. The idea of using of the services of educated tribals for teaching might not address the real problem.

Mr.V. Sudersan, head, Anthropology department, Madras University, said it was a welcome step that for the first time after 57 years of Independence, the Union Government decided to evolve a national policy to concentrate on eight per cent of population. In number, India had nearly eight crores of people among 698 scheduled tribes.

V. Kanagaraj, Madras High Court judge, who inaugurated the two-day meet, highlighted constitutional safeguards to protect the vulnerable sections, including tribal communities, and Supreme Court judgments interpreting these provisions. The tribal communities suffered from low literacy levels and the Government was duty-bound to provide education to them so that they could become economically empowered. The draft policy recognised the vulnerability of the sections, especially in terms of sufferings caused by displacement due to development. It also recognised the need to protect the indigenous and traditional intellect and knowledge of the tribal communities.

Kancha Iliah, professor, Political Science, Osmania University, said anthropologists had a duty to tribals to understand them.

They must address the question whether tribals were `Adivasis' or Vanavasis, to decide whether they were part of India's indigenous people, whose rights were well-recognised by international charters. The right of tribals to embrace any religion should not be prevented by any law nor should they be forced to call themselves Hindus.

Right to religion was global and universal, he said. Policy-makers should come forward to provide tribal children English-medium education, which was the only way of empowering them.

Shanthini Kapoor, Commissioner of Tribal Welfare, highlighted the Government's efforts to open new schools and upgrade institutions to strengthen educational and health infrastructure for tribal communities in Tamil Nadu.

The Vice-Chancellor, S.P. Thyagarajan, said education for tribal communities must be infused with quality.



Politics of the Policy for Tribals


Joseph Marianus Kujur (Citizen News-June 1-7, 2004, Hindustan Times)

Despite the electorates being gripped by the Lok Sabha election fever, various tribal organisations are engrossed these days in debating the draft of the National Policy for Scheduled Tribes.

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs claims that after Independence this is the first time that a policy for the empowerment of the tribals is going to be formulated. The Ministry envisages giving a coordinated direction to tribal development and, before finalising the policy, wants feedback on the draft from the tribal leaders, the States concerned, individuals, organisations in the public and private sectors, and NGOs

The proposed policy covers areas such as formal education, traditional wisdom, health, displacement and resettlement, forest villages, shifting cultivation, land alienation, intellectual property rights, tribal languages, primitive tribal groups, scheduled tribes and scheduled areas, tribal administration, research, participation, and assimilation.

The Ministry claims that the new policy on the tribals is the best answer available to the nagging problems of tribal development in the country.

Tribal intelligentsia and the commoners, however, are far from enamoured with the draft policy. They point out that there are already Constitutional provisions for the protection and development of the Scheduled Tribes. Besides these safeguards, the Nehruvian Panchasheel spelt out in 1952 claim to have been guiding the administration of tribal affairs

According to them the multiplication of plans, provisions and policies is not going to bring about any qualitative change for the tribals in India. They do not find anything particularly helpful in the new policy, and claim that if the Gram Sabha at the grass roots level is empowered as envisioned in the Panchayats Act, the development of the tribals will be more effective.

But the new policy is conspicuously silent on the Gram Sabha. It is precisely this silence that makes the tribals suspicious about the intent and seriousness of the new policy.

Professor Virginius Xaxa, a well-known tribal sociologist in the department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, finds many problems in the proposed policy.

First, the draft seeks an all-round development of the tribals. It seeks to safeguard their traditional wisdom, culture, languages, and intellectual property rights. 

But it still uses the identification of the tribals by the notification of the President of India in 1950 under Article 342 of the Constitution on the basis of their primitive traits, distinctive culture, shyness, geographical isolation, and socio-economic backwardness - characteristics which have become outdated.

The draft policy does not take into account the tribals' migration to various parts of the country and their new and diverse modes of livelihood. A denial of the tribals' existence and deprivation of the Constitutional provisions for them in the States and Union Territories such as Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Pondicherry and Punjab raise questions about the sincerity of the government.

Second, the draft envisages revamping formal education of the tribals by improving the infrastructure and by revising the curriculum. It seeks to promote vocational/professional education and to provide human and material resources.  But the draft is vague about the strategy and implementation of the vernacularisation of the syllabus and it is completely silent on the issue of higher education for the tribals.

Third, the policy seeks to improve modern health-care system in the tribal areas. It also claims to promote the tribal system of medicine. But the draft encourages qualified doctors from the 'tribal' communities to serve the tribal areas, as if the rest of the country has no responsibility to this marginalized community.

Fourth, the draft policy seeks to address the problem of land alienation and displacement but it says nothing about restoring the alienated tribal lands. The draft does not have any concrete plan either for the rehabilitation of the displaced and for expediting the pending court cases involving tribal lands.

Fifth, the draft policy mandates that the tribals be 'given opportunities' to participate in joint forest management and to form cooperatives in view of eliminating exploitation. But it maintains silence on the role of the tribal council for the control and management of forest resources.

Sixth, the proposed policy seeks to give an alternative to the practice of shifting cultivation but fails to offer a concrete agriculture policy though agriculture is still the main mode of livelihood for the majority of the tribals.

Seventh, there is already a provision for a Tribal Advisory Council in clause 4 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. These Councils are headed by the chief ministers in the states. It is the Council's duty to advise on the welfare and advancement of the tribes in the state as may be referred to them by the governor. But the powers of the Council have not been put in practice.

Eighth, the proposal to strengthen the existing Tribal Research Institutes in different states for purposeful research is nothing new. If the Tribal Research Institutes have not been doing that so far what is the rationale for multiplying new research institutions at the national level?

Ninth, the draft policy is totally silent on important issues like gender, reservations, state-Centre coordination in tribal affairs, and budget allocation for tribal development. Tribal women are the worst victims of development which has given rise to the recent phenomenon of their migration to mega-cities for brighter prospect in life. How could a policy on tribals overlook the women's problems?

If the draft seeks to accompany tribals in their progress and says nothing about an important issue like reservation, the policy's credibility itself is at stake. The Centre may make any number of policies but their implementation is determined by its relationship and coordination with the state on tribal issues.

The lack of a concrete recommendation for the implementation of the proposed policy makes it only a political exercise before elections. The draft policy is silent on how much of the national budget will be spent on tribal development. If the government is serious about the new policy it cannot overlook the budget allocation for tribals.

To conclude, most of the recommendations in the draft policy are taken from the old government documents prepared by the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Various tribal organisations see a hidden agenda in it put in by the Sangh Parivar in order to gain control and management of the resources in the tribal areas.

They are apprehensive that the management of many government-sponsored schools, hostels, health centres, etc., will be indiscriminately handed over to the NGOs toeing the Sangh Parivar line.

Critics feel that this is only a publicity stunt to promote the so-called 'feel-good' factor among the tribals just before elections. If observers are to be believed this is yet another mechanism of the Parivar to effect the 'assimilation' and 'absorption' of the tribals into the Hindu society.

The biggest inner-contradiction of the draft policy is that on the one hand it talks of preserving the tribal 'distinctiveness', but on the other, seeks their homogenisation and assimilation into the so-called national mainstream. It is not clear how the new policy expects this anomaly to be removed. The implementation of the policy is going to be as problematic as in the past.

















 Statement of the Participants of the ICSSR Sponsored Seminar on the National Rehabilitation Policy and the Draft Tribal Policy, organised by the Department of Political Science, Gauhati University in Collaboration with North Eastern Social Research Centre and Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development, February 11-12, 2005


Fifty of us from North Eastern India met at the Department of Political Science, Gauhati University, to discuss the National Rehabilitation Policy and the Draft Tribal Policy of the Government of India. When we discussed the latter, we were happy about the decision to formulate a tribal policy. However, the present draft is very defective and has to be revised drastically especially from the point of view of the tribal communities of North Eastern India. We find the following shortcomings even in the revised second draft of the policy:


1.      The draft mentions a certain number of measures to be undertaken for the improvement of the tribals but it lacks a vision or philosophy. So it tends to remain at the level of suggestions for action without the rationale or a direction.


2.      The draft gives a set of principles for tribal improvement because they have remained backward in areas such as education, health etc. But it does not say why they continue to be in this state after fifty years of the Republic. It is important for the policy to discuss why they have remained in this state. It has then to go beyond making some suggestions about what should be done and give an implementation strategy. Otherwise it will remain a set of statements that will not be implemented.


3.      The present draft uses words such as “primitive” and “pre-agricultural” that sound condescending. Some of them are official terms but they have come down from the colonial age and cannot be accepted in the 21st century.


4.      Even without these terms, we find the overall approach of the draft condescending. It speaks of the “Mainstream” when India is a multi-stream society. Any talk of a “mainstream” tends to present the tribal communities as marginal who are to be judged according to the norms of another community. This condescending attitude is seen also in terms such as “pre-agricultural” communities that need to be “assimilated with the mainstream” etc. The tribal communities have an identity of their own and have a right to treated as equal to all other peoples of India.


5.      Traditional tribal knowledge is not given the importance it deserves. The draft speaks only of knowledge around forests and hills as tribal knowledge but mentions only in passing their intellectual property rights (IPRS) over the medicinal, cultural and other knowledge they have developed over centuries.


6.      IPRs are of particular significance to the Northeast which is one of the 25 mega-biodiversity zones of the world. The tribes of this region have developed knowledge around this biodiversity which the Patents Act and the Biodiversity Act ignore. The draft policy makes only a passing reference to it. Instead the policy should suggest ways of evolving a benefit-sharing regime that protects their right over their IPRs.


7.      This is one out of many examples of the draft all but ignoring the Northeast. The analysis of the tribal communities belongs to Middle India. The specificity of the tribes of the Northeast, their high sense of self-confidence and identity, their diversity and the high level of their education are not mentioned. The tribals are taken as a homogeneous community and their diversity is not taken into account.


8.      The Sixth Schedule and the community ownership (CPR) based customary law of most tribes of the Northeast are not mentioned. The role of the community is not given any importance. Around 80 per cent of the North Eastern tribal communities are jhum cultivators who are referred to as “pre-agricultural”. The draft states that they do not have attachment to land. To be relevant to the tribal communities of the Northeast, their CPR based customary law has to be the basis of the policy and their agricultural and other systems have to be understood and respected.


9.      The gender issue is totally absent in the draft policy. Gender equality has to the basis of many changes in the tribal communities. For example, the inheritance pattern in the customary law is patriarchal. While recognising the customary law as the basis of the policy, gender equality has to be insisted upon as the norm for changes in it.


10.  Many tribes that are in the Schedule in one State are excluded from it in others. For example, the tribes that are included in the common term “Adivasi” are scheduoed in several States such as Jharkhand, Orissa and Chattisgarh. The Khasi and Garo are in the schedule in Meghalaya. But they are excluded from the schedule in Assam. We suggest that any tribe that is in the Schedule in one State should be in it all over India.


11.  The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has held meetings on the policy in four regions of India i.e. Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western but has ignored the Northeast. We strongly object to this. Four States of this region have a tribal majority and the remaining States have a substantial number. Most of us belong to an ethnic stock that is different from that of the rest of India. So we consider this exclusion an insult to us.


12.  We will, therefore, be holding meetings of tribal communities all over this region. We will then be meeting at the North Eastern level. Based on this process we will be redrafting the policy from the point of view of the region in order to ensure justice to all the tribal communities of this region.


13.  We expect the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to join us in this process in order to revise the draft policy after dialogue with us. Even in the rest of India, we expect the Ministry to find a way of dialoguing with each and every tribal community in order to make the process of policy formulation democratic.


14.  This process in the Northeast will take about four months. In order to ensure justice to all the tribal communities of the region, we request the Ministry of Tribal Affairs not to be in a hurry to finalise the policy but to wait for this process to be completed.





Draft National Policy on Tribals:

Suggestions for Improvement

Naresh C. Saxen

Since Independence, for the first time in India’s history, Government has come up with a draft national policy on Tribals. This is certainly a welcome step, more so because the draft has been put on the website of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, and comments have been invited from civil society on the contents of the draft.

The draft recognises that ‘a majority of Scheduled Tribes continue to live below the poverty line, have poor literacy rates, suffer from malnutrition and disease and are vulnerable[3] to displacement.  The National Policy aims at addressing each of these problems in a concrete way.’

However, the extent to which the lofty objectives set out in the draft policy would be achieved with the proposed strategy is debatable. At present, the draft appears to make many promises, without being specific about how and in what time frame these would be fulfilled. This note suggests the various ways in which the draft policy could be improved and made operational, so that lacunas in the policy and ambiguity in addressing systemic issues concerning Adivasi can be addressed comprehensively.

Generally speaking, the draft is a mere collection of pious sentiments and reiteration of existing policies, most of which have not yielded results because of poor implementation by the states and lack of monitoring by the centre. There is simply no reference in the draft to the findings of the evaluations and studies of the Programme Evaluation Organisation (PEO) of the Planning Commission of India and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes about the existing policies, laws, programmes and delivery.

The draft should have begun by analysing why the tribal situation has not improved and how in future the draft would ensure speedy implementation of the stated intentions. The draft also does not lay down quantifiable targets (such as reduction of poverty of tribals by two percentage points every year, or reduction of IMR by three percentage points every year). Such quantification of goals in the policy alone will put pressure on the concerned Ministries and state governments to improve delivery. In the absence of such measurable indicators and monitoring, it would be impossible to judge whether after a few years of operation the new Policy has caused any difference to the tribal situation, or it is business as usual.

The draft national policy also does not organically link with any other current policy, programme and legal formulation and framework and it largely remains as a stand-alone piece. Many other legal as well as policy frameworks such as the 5th and 6th Schedules to the Constitution, PESA Act (Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas Act), Forest Conservation Act of 1980, the Wild Life Protection Act of 1972, the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, and the new Rehabilitation Policy of 2003 are not taken into consideration while framing this policy draft. The draft does not commit itself to suggesting any changes in the existing legal or policy frameworks, which may have a bearing on the tribal situation. For instance, the new Rehabilitation Policy does not promise land for land for the displaced tribals, it makes land allotment conditional to availability of government land. However the draft in question states, ‘When displacement becomes inevitable, each scheduled tribe family having land in the earlier settlement shall be given land against land.  A minimum of two hectares of cultivable land is considered necessary and viable for a family (comprising man, his wife and unmarried children).’  Unfortunately the draft, which was announced after the new R & R Policy, does not go to the extent of committing government to making an amendment in the R&R Policy to bring it in line with the tribal policy. Therefore provision in the draft of two ha of land to the displaced is meaningless unless it is part of the R & R Policy. Similar contradictions and omissions exist in other commitments also.

The draft policy does not take into account the promises made in the National Common Minimum Programme (CMP), and how and by when these would be fulfilled. For instance, the draft is completely silent about the following commitments of the present government:

·          The UPA will urge the States to make legislation for conferring ownership rights in respect of   minor forest produce, including tendu patta, on all those people from the weaker sections who work in the forests.

·          The rights of tribal communities over mineral resources, water sources etc, as laid down by law, will be fully safeguarded.   

 It is hoped that the policy when finally decided will be in line with the CMP pronouncements.

Consequences of assimilation : From the viewpoint of policy, it is important to understand that tribal communities are vulnerable not only because they are poor, assetless and illiterate compared to the general population; often their distinct vulnerability arises from their inability to negotiate and cope with the consequences of their forced integration with the mainstream economy, society, cultural and political system, from which they were historically protected as the result of their relative isolation. Post-independence, the requirements of planned development brought with them the spectre of dams, mines, industries and roads on tribal lands. With these came the concomitant processes of displacement, both literal and metaphorical — as tribal institutions and practices were forced into uneasy existence with or gave way to market or formal state institutions (most significantly, in the legal sphere), tribal people found themselves at a profound disadvantage with respect to the influx of better-equipped outsiders into tribal areas. The repercussions for the already fragile socio-economic livelihood base of the tribals were devastating — ranging from loss of livelihoods, land alienation on a vast scale, to hereditary bondage.

As tribal people in India perilously, sometimes hopelessly, grapple with these tragic consequences, the small clutch of bureaucratic programmes have done little to assist the precipitous pauperisation, exploitation and disintegration of tribal communities. Tribal people respond occasionally with anger and assertion, but often also in anomie and despair. However that too is branded as a typical ‘law and order’ problem, ignoring its socio-economic dimensions.

Thus it is the forced assimilation caused by government policies and lack of protection to the simple adivasi folks against the tyranny of distorted market forces that has been their main problem. Viewed in this context, it is very unfortunate that the draft policy ‘seeks to bring Scheduled Tribes into the mainstream of society’ and seeks their ‘assimilation through opportunities for tribals to interact with outside cultures’. As already argued, without adequate safeguards, such an interaction is going to be on unfair terms and likely to cause more harm rather than any good to them.

Tribal neglect: Briefly speaking, the following persistent problems have by and large remained unattended, and need to be immediately redressed:

·          Land alienation and indebtedness

·          Loss of access and control over forests

·          Involuntary displacement due to development projects and lack of proper rehabilitation

·          Ineffective implementation of PESA Act for Schedule V areas

·          Shifting cultivation, and

·          Weak governance, and poor programme delivery, especially in health and education

We discuss below provisions about the above issues in the draft, and how these can be improved.

Land alienation : The most important livelihood option of the tribal today is settled agriculture. However, tribal land alienation is the most important cause of the pauperisation of tribal people, rendering their economic situation, which is extremely vulnerable even at the best of times, even more precarious. In Andhra Pradesh, for instance, non-tribals today own more than half the land in Scheduled Areas of the state. In Madhya Pradesh the percentage of Scheduled Tribe cultivators to total Scheduled Tribe workers fell from 76.45 per cent in 1961 to 68.09 per cent in 1991. Correspondingly the percentage of Scheduled Tribe agricultural labourers to total Scheduled Tribe workers rose from 17.73 per cent to 25.52 per cent. Studies have indicated that in Orissa 54-56% of tribal land has been lost to non-tribals over a period of 25-30 years through indebtedness, mortgage and forcible possessions. What is more significant is the fact that tribals have lost possession over the most productive land, leaving them to cultivate poor quality land that makes their fragile economy more vulnerable to natural calamities.

With the massive encroachment of non-tribals to tribal areas, many of the areas previously occupied by the tribes cannot now be declared as a scheduled area. For example, in Kerala the entire Wayanad district was once the tribal land alone. But now none of the Taluks of Wayanad district can qualify as scheduled area. Hence, the right of the tribals for administrative autonomy is lost.  This is true of many other areas as well. The traditional abode of tribals is now ruled by non-tribals. Therefore, in addition to restroring lost lands to them, the National Policy should seek to redefine the concept of ‘scheduled area’ so as to ensure maximum extent of administrative autonomy to tribals.

The studies also establish the sad fact that government policy itself has, directly or indirectly, contributed to the phenomenon of tribal land alienation. It has been noted in several states that tribal land is being legally auctioned by co-operative credit societies and banks to recover dues. Auctioned land is purchased by non-tribals as well as rich tribals.

The draft admits that ‘although States have protective laws to check the trend, dispossessed tribals are yet to get back their lands’. The draft policy proposes to ‘tackle tribal land alienation by stipulating that

·          Tribals have access to village land records

·          Land records be displayed at the panchayat

·          Oral evidence be considered in the absence of records in the disposal of tribals’ land disputes

·          States prohibit transfer of lands from tribals to non-tribals

·          Tribals and their representatives be associated with land surveys’

As is obvious, a mere declaration that States should ‘prohibit transfer of lands from tribals to non-tribals’ is not going to check further transfer, just as in the past such general policy pronouncements have failed to arrest alienation. In addition, the draft does not even promise restoration of land alienated, at least in the recent past.

It is suggested that the draft policy may incorporate the following:

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs will do a quick study of the loopholes in various state laws, and come up with a model legislation for both, restoration of alienated lands as well as to check further transfer. Amendments in the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code, 1959 through the section 170(B) of the Code may serve as a good model. It instituted suo moto responsibility of the revenue court to enquire into all transactions from tribal to non-tribal, even without an application from the tribal. The burden of proof was shifted to the non-tribal to prove that fraud did not take place, and the presumption of the court supported the legal rights of the original tribal landowner. Appearance of advocates without permission has also been debarred in these proceedings. There is provision for only a single appeal to the Collector. However, non-tribals have been able to delay proceedings by resorting to revisions. One must plug such loopholes too.

Section 211 of the UP ZALR Act, applicable to usurpation of tribal lands by outsiders in the tarai lands (now mostly in Uttaranchal) may also serve as a model. It reads as follows:

“211. (1) Where any land held by a tenure-holder belonging to a Scheduled Tribe is in occupation of any person other than such tenure-holder, the Assistant Collector may, SUO MOTU or on the application of such tenure-holder put him in possession of such land after evicting the occupant and may, for that purpose use or cause to be used such force as may be considered necessary, anything to the contrary contained in this Act notwithstanding.

(2)        Where any person, after being evicted from any land under sub-section (1), re-occupies the land or any part thereof without any lawful authority, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years but which shall not be less than six months and also with a fine which may extend to three thousand rupees but which shall not be less than one thousand rupees.

(3)        Any court convicting a person under sub-section (2) may make an order to put the tenure-holder in possession of such land or any part thereof and such person shall be liable to eviction without prejudice to any other action that may be taken against him under any other law for the time being in force.

(4)        Every offence punishable under sub-section (2) shall be cognizable and non-bailable.”

Passing of such laws by the state governments should be accompanied by simplification of judicial procedures, constitution of special courts, and sensitization of district officials. The progress of restoration of lands should be carefully monitored by an assessment of total area alienated, fixation of annual targets for the states, and its supervision by a high level empowered committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, with at least two members in this committee from the civil society with experience of working in tribal areas. Such a committee should meet at least once a quarter and its minutes should be kept on the Ministry’s website.

Moreover legal aid should be provided to tribal communities so that all pending land disputes are monitored and settled immediately so that tribals do not face constant harassment from non-tribals, revenue and other departments. Regular updating of land records, proper and regular conduct of Jamabandhi, display of revenue details at the village level should also help to achieve this objective. Sample surveys should be done to assess how many tribals have legal pattas with them, and how this number has changed over the years.

It must be admitted that without improving governance in the tribal districts, neither alienated land will be restored to them nor other policies suggested in this note will get implemented. Therefore we will like to suggest a radical change the way funds are transferred to the states and districts.

With a view to improve governance and delivery in tribal districts, a quantifiable annual index should be constructed for the districts as well as the entire state, on the basis of certain agreed indicators such as land restored to tribals, policy changes by state governments to empower gram sabhas in scheduled areas, restoring control and access of tribals over forests and natural resources,  infant mortality rate, extent of immunisation, literacy rate for women, feeding programmes for children, availability of safe drinking water, electrification of rural households, percentage of villages not connected by all weather roads, and so on. Central transfers to the states both under Article 275 (1) of the Constitution and by the Planning Commission should be linked to such an index. Once these figures are publicized the states will get into a competitive mode towards improving their performance, which alone will attract more central funds.

Leasing of cashew plantations in Orissa to Private parties : In Orissa, cashew plantation has been raised by Soil Conservation Department on 120,000 hectares of “Government Wastelands” in Schedule V areas. In many cases such lands in the past were under cultivation by tribals but their rights were not recorded. In many regions of Central India land records were generally in a bad shape where land was of poor quality, as such lands did not have the potential of giving revenue income to the state. When settlement took place, tribals because of their ignorance were not in a position to get their possessions recorded, and thus land under their possession got recorded as government land and sometimes transferred to the Forest Department. Thus the poor tribals got described as encroachers even on lands which were cultivated by their ancestors. In such cases, no compensation was given to the poor farmers, because their land rights were not recorded.

These cashew plantations, raised on land that was supporting livelihood needs of tribals, were handed over to the Orissa State Cashew Development Corporation for management. As the Corporation could not run profitably, it started giving annual leases for harvesting of cashew crops to private parties through open auctions. Often such plantations are in a degraded condition because of lack of maintenance.

Two years back Orissa government even contemplated giving long term leases to private parties for managing cashew plantations. One such advertisement appeared in the Economic Times dated 20/4/99. The leases would be given for a period of 35 years for a minimum area of 2000 ha. Thus lands that were once with tribals would now be with private corporations, with the tribals getting no compensation, or rehabilitation. Many of them shifted to the hill slopes, and that resulted in more soil erosion, the prevention of which was the objective of the scheme. It is ironical that these plantations that deprived the tribals of their possession were funded by a scheme called, ‘Economic Rehabilitation of the Rural Poor (ERRP).

It is understood that in addition to cashew, there are similar plantations of coffee and other commercial crops, the exact details are not known.

Orissa government may like to reconsider its policy and give these lands back to the tribals, or to palli sabha, rather than to commercial houses. The Palli Sabha should be encouraged to take up the management and upgradation of these plantations. Financial resources for this could be made available under various Government schemes through the DRDA.

Indebtedness: The fundamental reason for tribal land alienation is the fragile, constantly shrinking economic base of the tribals. As most banks and cooperative institutions are unwilling to provide consumption loans, moneylenders are the only source of consumption credit for them. This leads to an extreme dependence on moneylenders on the part of the tribal, keeping him in perpetual debt and resulting in the mortgage and ultimate loss of his land. Though this phenomenon is common enough, another particularly tragic outcome of this indebtedness is the phenomenon of bondage, wherein people pledge their person and sometimes even that of their families against a loan. Repayments are computed in such terms that it is not unusual for bondage to persist until death, and to be passed on as a burdensome inheritance to subsequent generations. The persistent problem of indebtedness amongst the tribals is one of the manifestations of their poverty. Despite the existence of legal/protective measures to curb the business of money-lending in tribal areas and provisions for debt-relief, their enforcement has been weak and ineffective. Also, the non-recognition of the tribal needs for their day-to-day consumption purposes by various credit extension programmes makes the otherwise vulnerable tribals fall as easy victims into debt-traps. Although the practice of bonded-labour stands abolished in the country through an Act of Parliament viz., the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, yet a total number of 2.52 lakh bonded labourers (including STs) were identified in March 1993 in 12 States i.e., Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Haryana and Gujarat.

It is unfortunate that this problem has been totally ignored in the draft policy, and finds no mention. As suggested above, immediate action is needed to review both the laws and their implementation to free tribals for indebtedness and bondage. In addition, positive measures to improve flow of institutional credit for consumption through self-help groups and to start more grain banks need to be taken. Long term solution will obviously lie in strengthening tribal livelihoods through access to water, credit, and other resources for higher productivity.

Here again it is not enough to merely state, as the draft does, that ‘public distribution system (PDS) shall be introduced to ensure regular food supply. Grain banks shall be established to ensure food availability during crises.’ The policy must fix measurable target and suggest that the flow of PDS grain would improve from a low of 3 kg per family per month (a study showed that it was only 2.3 kg) to at least 25 kg (government entitlement is for 35 kg) per card per month in a year’s time. Similarly the total grain handled by SHGs should show a marked improvement in a given period of time.

Tribals and forests : There is much evidence to show that tribals’ access to forests for meeting their basic subsistence needs has deteriorated in the last thirty years, and that this is fairly widespread. Some of the processes which have caused this are; deforestation, preference for man-made plantations in place of mixed forests, regulatory framework, diversion of NTFPs and forests to industries, nationalization of NTFPs, and exploitation by government agencies and contractors in marketing of NTFPs. Most pressing is the issue of tribal eviction from forest lands. Despite the prescription in the Common Minimum Program that ‘eviction of tribal communities and other forest dwelling communities from forest will be discontinued’ tribals continue to be evicted, threatened with eviction or assaulted by armed police brought to evict them.

The draft policy has a section on forest villages (their number is only 5,000, whereas tribal majority villages could be at least ten times that number), but there is no discussion in the draft of problems outside forest villages facing tribals in dealing with forests. The problem of eviction does not even find mention in the draft! All that the draft has to offer is vague platitudes, such as

·          ‘Tribals be given opportunities to partake in joint forest management and encouraged to form cooperatives and corporations for major forest related operations

·          Integrated area development programmes be taken up in and around forest areas

·          Tribals’ rights in protection, regeneration and collection of minor forest produce (MFP) be recognised and institutional arrangements made for marketing such produce

·          Efforts be made to eliminate exploitation by middlemen in cooperatives like Tribal Development Cooperative Corporations (TDCCs), Large Sized Multi Purpose Societies (LAMPS) and Forest Development Cooperatives by introducing minimum support prices for non agricultural produce on the lines of minimum support prices for agricultural produce.’

Clearly, such pious declarations are not going to work, unless specific policy directions are included in the draft policy. In order to ensure that tribals’ livelihoods are supported by NTFPs, one would have to address three inter-related issues; how to increase NTFP production, how to improve access of the poor to NTFPs, and how to maximize their incomes through marketing.

Norms for silvicultural practices were developed in times prior to the current scenario of high human and cattle pressures, and must now be adjusted accordingly. If the national objectives have changed to prioritise people's needs, there must be an accompanying change in silvicultural practices and technology. One requires a complete reversal of the old policies, which favoured commercial plantations on forest lands, and trees for consumption and subsistence on private land. "Scientific" forestry should therefore mean that environmental functions, wild fruits, nuts, NTFPs, grasses, leaves and twigs become the main intended products from forest lands and timber a by-product from large trees like sal. The reverse has been the policy for the last 100 years. Although after the advent of the new forest policy in 1988 there has been great efforts to involve forest communities in management, more thought should be given to make necessary changes in the technology which will be suitable to the changed objectives.

Secondly, a government agency like the Forest or the Tribal Development Department assisted by civil society should be involved in informing tribals and gatherers about the prices prevailing in different markets, improve marketing practices, and act as a watch-dog. It may be worthwhile to examine if promotional Marketing Boards, as distinct from commercial corporations (which are inefficient, and hence demand monopoly), should be set up with responsibility for dissemination of information about markets and prices to the gatherers.

Government should encourage bulk buyers and consumers such as exporters of herbal medicines establish direct links with the villagers. Government should also address issues like creating proper marketing yard, market information system, storage space and minimum processing facilities at the local level. Simple processing activities such as broom making, leaf plate making, tamarind processing, mat and rope making should be encouraged in the household/ cottage sector.

Clearly laissez faire is not going to help the poor in all cases. Where government alone does marketing it is inefficient; and where it is left to private trade, it may still not provide sufficient returns to the gatherer on his labour. Thus de-nationalisation per se may not remove all market constraints which inhibit a gatherer in realising the full value of his labour.

The draft policy has rightly suggested that there should be ‘minimum support prices for non agricultural produce on the lines of minimum support prices for agricultural produce.’ Aggressive buying of NTFPs by state agencies, as has been done for wheat and rice, alone can break the dominance of the wholesale traders and their linkages with the village level market. The nature of produce and actors involved makes it obvious that without government support there can be no justice to forest gatherers. Therefore such organisations should compete with private trade, and not ask for monopoly.

While assigning a bigger role to government institutions, which were earlier accused of inefficiency, collusion with traders, and callous attitudes towards forest gatherers, care needs to taken that there is all round improvement in governance and efficiency of the States’ organisations. Collaboration with socially committed private sector/exporters should also be considered.

To conclude, rather than be a monopoly buyer of NTFPs, government should adopt market friendly policies, facilitate private trade, and act as a watchdog rather than eliminate the trade. It should encourage local bulking, storage and processing, and bring large buyers in touch with the gatherers, so as to reduce the number of layers of intermediaries.



Specific suggestions for tendu : The CMP states that ‘UPA will urge the States to make legislation for conferring ownership rights in respect of   minor forest produce, including tendu patta, on all those people from the weaker sections who work in the forests.’

The draft tribal policy is totally silent on this issue, despite the fact that tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon) leaves play a vital role in the economic life of tribals in central India. Tendu leaf generates 150 million person days of employment during the agricultural lean season in Orissa including labour involved in making bidis. Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and AP should also be generating similar numbers for employment through tendu. It is also a source of revenue for the states.

Given the enormity of scale of operation, tendu has to continue under State nationalisation. Private trade would not be able to arrange for 1500 to 2000 crore Rs in just 40 to 50 days that is required during the season every year in central India for the entire operation. Further, bringing in private traders would again encourage political patronage and corruption, as was the experience before tendu was nationalised in the seventies.

The present system, however, has a large number of infirmities. The following suggestions would improve benefits to the tribal pluckers.

·          States should pass on the enormous profits made in the tendu leaf trade as bonus to the tendu pluckers. Even if 50% of the royalty (surplus) generated from the tendu leaves as of now is shared with the pluckers, it would, on an average lead to an additional income of Rs 1000 to Rs 1500/- per annum per household (HH).

·          The collection prices should be hiked so that returns from plucking are at least equivalent to the minimum wages fixed for unskilled agricultural work by the states. Even in Andhra Pradesh, where wages are higher by about 15% than in Orissa, despite Orissa’s leaves being superior in quality, a study by IAMR showed that returns from leaf collection were only 55% of the minimum wages, and 87% of what they would get elsewhere in the market.

·          Uniform pricing of tendu leaves, irrespective of their quality, does not inspire the pluckers to procure leaves of better quality. Therefore payment should be related to the quality of leaves.

·          The payments to pluckers should be made weekly with no delay. This will require procedural changes in the way funds flow to the phad.

·          Delayed payments should carry an interest of 15 per cent per annum.

·          All records pertaining to names of people employed and their period together with date of payment should be displayed on the district website for anyone to verify.

·          The Group Insurance for tendu pluckers as followed in Madhya Pradesh should be adopted in other states too.

·          Part of the income from tendu plucking can be saved by the pluckers through forming SHGs - this would help them in avoiding credit from moneylenders at a high interest.

The entire tendu trade is the exclusive responsibility of the Forest Department or its agencies, and there is no internal review of its limitations and failures by other sister departments of government. The Department of Rural Development, which is incharge of poverty alleviation and the Department of Social (or Tribal) Welfare at the state level, which is supposed to look after the interest of tribals and scheduled castes, take no interest in the tendu operation, although millions of the supposedly target group who are the responsibility of these departments are affected by the poor implementation of the tendu procurement. Had these departments been more vigilant, there would have been pressure on the Forest Department to improve its performance.

It is unfortunate that there are no effective administrative mechanisms in the states for inter-departmental coordination for achieving the broader goal of welfare of the poor. The Indian administrative culture does not encourage one department critically appraising and reviewing schemes of the other department.

We suggest that an inter-departmental Study Team/Commission should be set up to look into our suggestions as well as the systems being followed by other States (especially MP). The Commission could also suggest ways to achieve the objective of welfare maximisation for the tendu pluckers. The Commission/ Committee should include members from tendu Union, representatives of tendu pluckers and from NGOs and academic institutions. This independent Commission should study the purchase operations every year and give its assessment on the extent it has furthered peoples’ livelihoods and how the operations have improved as compared to previous years’ campaign. It should also suggest practical measures to improve transparency and reduce corruption in the purchase operations. Its suggestions should be considered by the Cabinet.

The states must give primacy to the welfare aspects of tendu production and trade, and relegate revenue objectives to the secondary position. Tendu trade is one opportunity where by making certain easy policy changes, the states can ensure the direct welfare of millions of its poor citizens.

Tribal eviction from forest lands: It is clearly stated in the Common Minimum Program that ‘eviction of tribal communities and other forest dwelling communities from forest will be discontinued.’ However, notwithstanding the assurance given to the adivasis, they continue to be evicted, threatened with eviction or assaulted by armed police brought to evict them. Recent examples of their eviction are given at annexure 1. This subject, again, is totally ignored in the draft tribal policy.

The threat of eviction, which confronts about 1.5 million adivasi families in the country is a result of the failure of the respective Forest Departments to implement the Guidelines issued by the Government of India on 18th September 1990. These guidelines had asked the states to regularize pre–1980 encroachments; review disputed settlements over forest lands; regularize Pattas & Leases; and convert forest villages to revenue villages. One of the reasons for little progress on these issues was the absence of a time-bound procedure and reluctance to undo unjust forest settlement that had wrongly declared tribal lands as government property. 

A large area of cultivable lands of indigenous tribal peoples are being categorised as encroachment areas. Many of these cultivable lands are not encroachments but existed prior to both the Indian Forest Act of 1927 and the Forest Conservation Act of 1980. Lands under cultivation by tribals were of low productivity, and were often not surveyed by the British, more so in princely states. As the tribal ownership was not recorded on such lands, they were through a sweeping order declared as forest lands in the first twenty years after Independence, resulting in increase in area under forest department’s control from 46 mha in 1951 to 67 mha in 1971. Thus the hard reality is that government is the encroacher on what are now being branded as ‘forest lands encroached by tribals’.

The National Commission on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes noted that as a result of the Forest Conservation Act, 1.48 lakh persons, mainly tribals, occupying 1.81 lakh hectares of lands in forest areas in Madhya Pradesh suddenly became encroachers on October 24, 1980, and thus liable for eviction. Unfortunately no procedure has been adopted by the states for doing justice in such cases, except in Maharashtra.

The Government of Maharashtra laid down a procedure to ensure implementation in a transparent and participatory manner with the concurrence of the Gram Sabha through an Order dated 10th October 2002. This is the only example of a procedure being adopted by any state government. GoI should make certain that a transparent and participatory procedure as laid down by the Government of Maharashtra is uniformly adopted across the country. This should ensure that

a) All concerned are informed,

b) All so-called encroachers have the opportunity to make their claims in their language,

c) The weaker sections of the community are spared the time and expense of travel, and 

d) An assembly of the village should be held to ensure participation of the community.

Lastly, Ministry of E & F should approach the Court with a pro-tribal stance. In the past, the Supreme Court has not hesitated to defend the interests of the tribals in a responsive and responsible manner. In the Banwasi Sewa Ashram cases (1985-1994), the Court made available special courts and legal aid to ensure that adivasis were restored the lands to which they were entitled and which were under threat of acquisition for afforestation. This was one of the massive and impressive actions undertaken by the Supreme Court, which reconciled ecological needs with tribal needs. Such an exercise is necessary now.

In Pradip Prabhu's case (1995), the Supreme Court remanded matters back to Maharashtra to determine the rights of landless adivasis who had land entitlements under the Government's own plans. Similar orders were passed for Madhya Pradesh. In the Samata case (1997), a majority decision took a comprehensive view of the entitlement of tribals to the land and its rich resources to direct that benefits from those areas must secure the uplift and socio-economic empowerment of the adivasis. Even after the Balco case (2001), the Samata judgment is unscathed as a fitting testimony to how an equitable justice can reach the most disadvantaged. Now comes the Forest case. I am certain that the Supreme Court did not intend a volte face on previous commitments to social justice for tribals. But much depends on Government of India’s petition before the Court. Rather than take a narrow view, MOEF should consult the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, and other stakeholders and not misuse the Supreme Court's order to terrorise the tribals.

On the other hand, enthused by the huge influx of arbitrary power, the MoEF — in furtherance of the Court's orders — created the Jaykrishnan Committee with no tribal representation and with lay members more concerned with animals than the ecology as a whole. Past policies and commitments appear to have been forgotten and swept under the carpet.

The Ministry of E & F has recently (21st December, 2004) issued a circular, the relevant portion is being quoted below:

‘After a critical examination of the issue of settlement of claims over forest lands and eviction of ineligible encroachers of forest lands, what emerges is that the State/UT Governments were not able to distinguish between the encroachers, and the original tribals and other forest dwellers living on forest lands since time immemorial. The Central Government is convinced that the difficulty in distinguishing between genuine tribals/ forests dwellers and ineligible encroachers by the State Governments / UT Administrations is the main cause of the problems of tribals.  Therefore, some kind of interim measures are necessary to safeguard the interests of the tribals and forest dwellers who have been living in forests since long, and whose disputed claims are yet to be settled. 

In view of the above, and without prejudice to Supreme Court’s order dated 23-11-2001 and 23-2-2004, it has been found appropriate to request the State/UT Governments, that as an interim measure, they should not resort to eviction of tribal people and forest dwellers other than ineligible encroachers, till the complete survey is done for the recognition of such people and their rights, after setting up of District level Committees involving a Deputy Collector, a Sub-Divisional Forest Officer, and a representative of Tribal Welfare Department, by the State/UT Governments as reiterated in guidelines dated 18-09-1990 and 30-10-2002 of the Central Government.  The State/UT Governments are advised to exclude such tribals/ forest dwellers, other than ineligible encroachers, from the eviction drives.  Simultaneously, it is also clarified here that this interim measure does not stop State/UT Governments from evicting the ineligible encroachers from forest lands.  Suitable instructions may be issued to forest functionaries at all levels to keep the aforesaid in view while dealing with eviction of ineligible encroachments from forest lands.’

While this letter may help to restrain the current “eviction drives”, it does nothing to protect “ineligible encroachers”.  Further, the term “ineligible encroachers” remains ambiguous.  It would be logical not to consider anyone as “ineligible encroacher” until such time as a credible process of verification has taken place.  However, far from insisting on due verification, the letter states the “eviction drives” can continue for “ineligible encroachers”, without clarifying how ineligible encroachers are to be identified.  Seen in this light, the letter is almost a green signal for the continuation of eviction drives, instead of an order to discontinue them, as it purports to be.

It is also worth noting that the letter does nothing to ensure that the eviction of “ineligible encroachers” (however defined) proceeds in a humane manner with some element of rehabilitation.  Recent experience suggests that basic safeguards are urgently required in this respect.

A dialogue should be initiated with concerned parties (including Amicus Curiae Adv. Harish Salve and members of the Central Empowered Committee, the Inter-Sectoral Committee, the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, other citizens’ organizations, the National Advisory Council, and the Ministry of Environment and Forests) to explore ways of protecting tribal communities and forest-dwellers from the “collateral damage” caused by recent orders of the Supreme Court in the Godavarman case, e.g. through joint interventions in the Supreme Court.[4]  The following issues need urgent discussion, among others:

(1) The wholesale ban on regularization of encroachments.

(2) The Supreme Court stay on the 5/2/2004 orders of the MoEF.

(3) The wholesale ban on collection of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) and Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) from Protected Areas.

(4) The ban on conversion of forest villages into revenue villages.

(5) The ban on de-reservation of forest land (and the need for an exemption for the purpose of implementing the 1990/2004 Guidelines).

(6) The ban on any change in the status of forest land (and the nature of rights that may be conferred).

(7) Orders relating to “compensatory afforestation” and “net present value”.

A comprehensive central legislation should be drafted to give due recognition to the forest rights of tribal communities and forest dwellers.  The draft “Scheduled Tribes and Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act”, prepared by the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, could be a guide on this subject.

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs should closely monitor the process of tribal regularisation of their occupation[5] over forest lands, as has been suggested in the circular issued in September 1990, and report to the suggested Empowered Committee chaired by Cabinet Secretary.

Wrong classification of tribal lands as 'forests' or govt 'wastelands' : An amazing aspect of the DTP is that it does not mention the issue of adivasi rights over natural resources at all.

One of the major reasons for tribal pauperisation is the wholesale classification of huge tribal areas as state property, both as forests and wastelands (60 % of 'state' forests are in 187 tribal districts). The problem of evictions and deprivation of access to essential social welfare services is rooted in their lacking tenure and access to the very basis of their livelihoods being snatched away from them. The proposed law on recognition of tribal/forest dwellers rights will deal with the problem to some extent but at the policy and legislative level, what is badly needed is the harmonisation of constitutional provisions safeguarding tribal rights/interests and forestry/wild life/environmental laws. At present, the latter over rule the former - the havoc being created by more and more such areas being declared protected areas in states like Orissa is heart rending - they are not permitted even to collect leaves for leaf plate making or tendu leaves compelling parents to give away their children in bondage - and the state is proposing to increase the state area under PAs from 5 to 10%. It will again be predominantly adivasis who will suddenly find themselves deprived of their livelihood resource base with none blinking an eyelid over the consequences.

The sanctity of constitutional provisions needs to be restored and rights granted by existing laws, eg Santhal Parganas and Chhota Nagpur Tenancy Acts, respected instead of being overruled through administrative JFM type orders. Sch V permits withholding of certain laws from scheduled areas - the least the tribal policy should propose is that LAA, IFA, WLPA etc in such areas be adapted to conform to legal and constitutional provisions related to tribals. In many countries now territories of indigenous people are being restored to them and new governance arrangements being worked out whereby it is the communities themselves who take up conservation, combining it with sustainable use. It will be great if the present government could take at least the first steps in that direction through a tribal policy.

Essentially, the policy should not only aim to make amends for the injustices done in the past with respect to resource rights but must ensure that ongoing processes which continue to deprive them of such rights must be stopped. The latest amendment to the WLPA empowers WL authorities to stop all exercise of rights from the date of the preliminary notification but provide them alternatives till the final settlement is done. When rights and usage haven't even been assessed, how can alternatives be provided? The forest staff is effectively empowered to simply enforce a ban on extraction almost overnight and none bothers to even mention alternatives. This clearly must be stopped as no amount of allocations for EGS, health etc will help if basic livelihoods are snatched away.

Similarly, in addition to preventing private tribal land alienation to non-tribals, continuing tribal land alienation by the state either through declarations of the same as state 'reserve' forests (where is the need for fresh reservation of forests today - 55 years after independence - but it is continuing apace, often of lands categorised as forests through dubious processes) or PAs or through the LAA for transfer to private resource exploiters (mining/industrial/power companies) needs to be stopped. It is  unfortunate that the state is the biggest alienator of tribal lands today (witness the industrial/mining policies of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, MP, and even the NE states). The huge hydro-electric projects planned for the NE will not only increase local poverty and alienation but also destroy the region's unique biodiversity. A tribal policy should ideally respect the samatha  judgment.

Convert forest villages into revenue villages: The unique aspect of forest villages is that these are not illegal as they have been set up by the forest departments themselves. Many of them are 80 to 90 years old when the colonial government initiated commercial forest exploitation and needed the availability of labour in uninhabited forest areas for their forestry operations. As long as commercial forest management continued, the residents of forest villages had wage work for several months of the year. In addition, the forest departments allocated some land to them for subsistence cultivation besides permitting them to collect NTFPs and other forest products for meeting their domestic requirements. Their livelihoods have however come under increasing constraints in the last two decades. Felling bans and reduced commercial forest exploitation has created a crisis of work availability for such villagers, particularly due to their remote locations.

The condition of such villagers has become even worse where the areas where they are located have been declared national parks or wild life sanctuaries under the Wildlife Protection Act. In such areas, particularly after the Supreme Court order of 14.02.2000 banning the removal of dead fallen and decaying trees as well as grasses etc. the livelihood crisis has become truly acute.

One of the common problems faced by all forest villages is that the land on which they are located, irrespective of its being partly under cultivation and partly under habitation for several decades, on paper remains recorded as forest land. Although Govt. Of India decided in the mid-1970s to encourage conversion of all forest villages into revenue villages through granting secure land titles to their inhabitants, enactment of the Forest Conservation Act in 1980 became a serious hurdle for state governments to undertake such conversion. The residents of forest villages today are like forgotten people invisible to society and government at large, left suspended in a legal vacuum that deprives them of basic fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution.

Consequences of lacking land title : Not having title to the land which they cultivate and on which they live deprives them of the following entitlements:

·          They cannot get any bank loans.

·          The tehsildar, apparently the only official authorised to do so, refuses to give them domicile certificates on the grounds that the land is under the forest department’s jurisdiction. The forest department does not seem to have either bothered to obtain the authority for issuing domicile certificates for such people or is not permitted by law to issue them. Whatever the legal technicalities, the villagers are deprived of access to a critical document which is their passport to several other benefits/entitlements.

·          Lack of a domicile certificate means that they cannot get a Schedule Caste/Tribe certificate depriving the predominantly tribal residents of all the special benefits meant for SCs/STs. They cannot apply for jobs/educational facilities reserved for such groups.

·          Lack of land title also deprives them of housing assistance under the Indira Awas Yojana.

·          Till the recent state elections, they did not have access even to BPL cards to enable them to avail of subsidized goods under the PDS. Instead of getting kerosene at Rs.11/- a litre, through the PDS they are compelled to buy it in the black market at Rs.15/- per litre. They similarly have to purchase food grains at market prices. Because of the elections, some households in the village now have these BPL cards.

·          During a drought, they are not entitled to compensation for crop loss due to not being covered by crop insurance.

·          Government functionaries avoid visiting the villages, as the forest department discourages their presence in its ‘jurisdiction’.

The Ministry must obtain clearance of the Supreme Court, if necessary, and get all the 5000 forest villages declared as revenue villages.

Displacement and Resettlement :The draft policy rightly observes that ‘Nearly 85.39 lakh tribals had been displaced until 1990 on account of some mega project or the other, reservation of forests as National Parks etc.  Tribals constitute at least 55.16 percent of the total displaced people in the country.  Cash payment does not really compensate the tribals for the difficulties they experience in their living style and ethos. 

Displacement of tribals from their land amounts to violation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution as it deprives them of control and ownership of natural resources and land essential for their way of life.

The National Policy for Tribals, therefore, stipulates that displacement of tribal people is kept to the minimum and undertaken only after possibilities of non-displacement and least displacement have been exhausted. When it becomes absolutely necessary to displace Scheduled Tribe people in the larger interest, the displaced should be provided a better standard of living.’ 

Although the package of compensation (land for land) provided in the draft policy seems quite satisfactory, it is at variance with the new R&R Policy announced by the Ministry of Rural Development. Therefore our first suggestion is that the draft policy should unequivocally state that it will get the Ministry of Rural Development to change its clauses as far as tribals are concerned, and bring these in harmony with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs’ policy. Secondly, the draft policy is vague when it ‘stipulates that displacement of tribal people is kept to the minimum’. Who will ensure that it is minimum? Unless a procedure is prescribed involving civil society, it is feared that the district authorities will gladly certify in each case of inhuman acquisition that all ‘possibilities of non-displacement and least displacement have been exhausted’.

Acquisition in Scheduled Area: Detailed executive instructions were luckily issued by Government of India signed by Secretary Rural Development sometime in 1998 for acquisition of land in Schedule V areas to describe the modalities of consultation with the Gram Sabhas or with the Panchayats where more than one Gram Sabha is involved. The procedure to be followed for acquisition of land in Schedule V areas was deliberately made difficult so as to discourage projects to displace tribals. For instance, it provided that the company requiring land must produce a letter of consent from each of the concerned Gram Panchayat, in favour of the proposed acquisition of land (see annexure for the complete order, which fortunately is still operative, though almost forgotten by the state governments). The Ministry of Tribal Affairs should get a suitable sub-section incorporated in the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which would reflect the spirit of this notification.

It is unfortunate that neither the draft tribal policy nor the new R&R Policy makes any reference to this government notification issued in 1998 to make the spirit of section 4(I) of the PESA Act a reality. It is feared that the states may in due course of time ignore the provisions of the executive instructions issued, as just now neither the Policy nor the Land Acquisition Act remind the acquiring authorities of their responsibilities about tribals in the V Schedule area.

In addition, the draft policy should mandate that the following guidelines be followed when tribals are displaced:

·          Ensure that displaced families have a standard of living superior to the one before their displacement and, have a sustainable income above the poverty line. Gains to the displaced should be of the same scale as to the project beneficiaries.

·          Each project should form a high level committee with NGOs, PRIs and representatives of tribals before acquisition, which should finalise proposals for acquisition after full consultation with the affected families in options for acquisition & resettlement site selection so as to minimise displacement.

·          No displacement or resettlement of tribal villages for declaring any areas as National Parks or Sanctuaries should be allowed.  The laws and policies should be adapted to strengthen this co-existence and in maintaining the ecological balance.

·          There should be housing sites for all (at least 50 sq m per adult); whether they owned house or not, and constructed houses for the BPL tribal families.

·          Each PAP must be made literate and trained for semiskilled or skilled jobs. All unskilled new jobs and semi-skilled direct employment created in the project would go to the tribal PAPs on a priority basis. Even those private enterprises (such as ancillary industries and contractors) that benefit from the project would be charged in the same manner with responsibility for providing skills and jobs to such people. The displaced people should be resettled as near as possible to the developmental project sites so that they get multiple access and facilities as well as economic benefits generated out of the developmental projects.

·          If land acquired for a commercial undertaking, 20% shares to be given to PAFs free and equitably. For Schedule areas this percentage should be 50, to honour the spirit of the Samatha judgment.

·          Enable projects to take land on 99 year lease, by paying an annual lease rent of twice the gross annual produce. This will obviate the need for compulsory acquisition.

·          Whenever land acquired for a public purpose is transferred to an individual or a company for a consideration, 25 per cent of the difference between such consideration and the compensation will be given to the original land owners.

·          All benefits to persons/families, if further displaced within a period of 20 years, shall be doubled.

Lastly, the draft policy is silent about the colonial nature of the Land Acquisition Act, which also needs to be amended in the following manner:

1.      No land shall be acquired under the Act unless the process of land acquisition is accompanied with rehabilitation of affected people.

2.      'Rehabilitation' is defined as "having been achieved when the income of the affected people has been brought above the poverty line and above their previous income".

3.      Principle of land for land for tribals in all projects and for all agricultural families in the irrigation projects should be incorporated in the Act itself.

4.      Minimum 10% of the project cost should be spent on RR, not including compensation.

5.      The Land Acquisition Act should not only compensate for assets acquired, but also compensate for loss of livelihoods. This would mean that the assetless people such as landless labourers, encroachers of Government land, artisans and gatherers should also be compensated by giving them either land or a compensation of at least two years of minimum wage. The definition of ‘persons having interest in land’ in sec 9 of the Act would be changed to include sharecroppers, tenants and sub-tenants, encroachers, and attached agricultural workers.

6.      The principle of market value as laid down in Section 23 (1) should be substituted by replacement value.

7.      For determining the market value of land the Collector will take recourse to three different modes of assessment. Firstly, on the basis of existing sale deeds as has been done in most cases so far. Secondly, the Collector may take into account the scheduled rates for that category of land fixed under the Indian Stamps Act for registration of sale deeds. Thirdly, the Collector may calculate the gross annual production from each plot and fix the compensation as 20 times the gross value of annual production. The final market value for assessment will be the highest among the three amounts arrived at by these three methods.

8.      Consent award would be the primary mode of settling the amount of compensation, which should not be less than the value calculated on the basis of the principle enunciated in the above para.

9.      It should be possible for the Collector to give a monthly or a quarterly stipend in place of lumpsum payment for the amount of compensation that can be put in the bank, in a joint account.

Panchayats in Scheduled V areas : For the predominantly tribal Scheduled V area of Central India, Government had passed an Act ‘The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996’ (popularly known as PESA Act). It came into force on the 24th December 1996 and extends Panchayats to the tribal areas of now nine States; namely, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Orissa and Rajasthan. The Act intends to enable tribal society to assume control over their own destiny to preserve and conserve their traditional rights over natural resources. PESA is unprecedented in that it gives radical self-governance powers to the tribal community and recognises its traditional community rights over natural resources.  

In reality, however, since its passage it has almost been forgotten and has not become part of mainstream political or policy discourse. Many state governments have passed laws not fully in conformity with the central law. The implementation of the law has been severely hampered by the reluctance of most state governments to make laws and rules that conform to the spirit of the law. Weak-kneed political will has usually led to bureaucratic creativity in minimalistic interpretations of the law.

It is unfortunate that the draft tribal policy does not mention the inadequacies of PESA, and how these need to be set right. This is one of the most glaring omissions of the draft, despite the fact that the state governments’ action of not passing laws in conformity with the GOI law amounts to violation of the Constitution. We summarise below some of the lacuna in the state laws, and how they violate the PESA provisions.

Section 4 (m) (ii) of this Act provides that -

"while endowing panchayats in the Scheduled Areas with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government, a State legislature shall ensure that the Panchayats at the appropriate level and the Gram Sabha are endowed specifically with the ownership of minor forest produce."

Further, PESA required that state government would change its existing laws wherever these were not in consistent with the central legislation. Following the Central PESA Act, the Orissa Act has tried to circumscribe the constitutional provisions of the Central Act by adding a clause[6] `consistent with relevant laws in force’ while incorporating the constitutional provision concerning the competence of the Gram Sabha to manage community resources and dispute resolution as per the customs and traditions of the people. Thus, tribals can have ownership rights over Minor Forest Produce, but only if the relevant laws in force allow that. This is clear violation of the Constitutional Provision of the Central Act since in case of any inconsistency the relevant state laws have to be changed instead of negating the rights granted to Gram Sabha as per the Central Act in this regard.

In Andhra Pradesh too, there is a clear contradiction between PESA and GOM 173 dt. 7/12/96 of the Environment, Forest, Science and Technology Department. The Usufructory Rights of Vana Samrakshana Samitis prescribed therein include, ‘(a) All Non-Timber Forest Produce except those for which GCC holds monopoly rights. However the right to collection shall remain with the VSS members, if they so desire. The members shall be paid the collection charges upon delivery of the produce as per the rates fixed by the Government’. It can also be seen that there is a contradiction between the `ownership' vesting in Gram Panchayats/Sabhas clause and the monopoly rights vested in GCC. Whether bamboo constitutes major or minor forest produce is also an unsettled question.

Secondly, MFP has been defined to exclude cane and bamboo. This is contrary to the commonsense definition of MFP which is ‘that part of a tree that can be sustainably harvested without damage to the survival of the tree’. MFP is a product of the living tree, as opposed to timber which is product of the dead tree. More significantly, the state governments deny access to poor tribal artisans to two types of MFP, bamboo and cane, on which their livelihoods are most critically dependent. On the other hand, many state policies have subsidised bamboo for private industry.

Lastly, Government should not lease out forest lands to industries even through local institutions like Vana Samrakshana Samithis, particularly in the Scheduled Areas (as attempted by the Government of A.P. under G.O.112).

According to PESA, prior consultation with Gram Sabha or Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be made mandatory before acquisition of land for development projects. Here again the states have diluted PESA provisions. In Andhra Pradesh, Gram Sabhas have no role. Gujarat assigned this power to Taluka Panchayat. Orissa assigned the power to Zilla Panchayat with no role for the Gram Sabha/Gram Panchayat.

Similarly PESA lays down that recommendations of Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be made mandatory before grant of prospecting licence or mining lease for minor minerals. Here again Andhra Pradesh gives no role to Gram Sabha. Gujarat does not make any mention of it. Himachal Pradesh retained primacy of Gram Sabha but the term ‘shall be made mandatory’ has been replaced by `shall be taken into consideration’. Maharashtra assigns powers to Gram Panchayat, and Gram Sabha has no role in the matter. Orissa gives powers to Zilla Parishad, with no role for the Gram Sabha or the village panchayat.

Another PESA clause lays down that Panchayats at appropriate level and the Gram Sabha to be endowed with power to prevent & restore tribal alienated land. Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh Panchayati Raj Amendment Act do not make provisions for this. Only in Madhya Pradesh, the Land Revenue Code, 1959 has been amended to give power to Gram Sabha. However, the Code should have also laid down that no new entry in the ownership register will be permitted through sale or gift in favour of a non-tribal, unless it is approved by a resolution of the Gram Sabha.

These interpretations have almost killed the concept of ownership and control of local resources by Gram Sabha. The irony is that while PESA remains unimplemented, Ministry of Mines in GoI has proposed amending Schedule V of the Constitution itself to open up tribal areas for commercial exploitation by national and multi-national corporate interests. The secret document of the Ministry of Mines, Government of India, No.16/48/97-M.VI, dated 10th July, 2000 which contained the legal advice of the Attorney General suggesting amendment of the Fifth Schedule to overcome the Samatha Judgment, is shocking evidence of the shift in the mindset of the political powers and the bureaucracy with regard to Scheduled Tribes and tribal areas.  Such moves only reflect that the state is looking for justification for opening up these areas to global market forces and not to fulfil its constitutional/social responsibility. At no cost should the Fifth and Sixth Schedule laws of the constitution be amended to open up the areas for control or ownership by private non-tribal individuals, industries or institutions.

In order to make the Central Act effective, it is necessary for the State Governments to make appropriate amendments in their State Laws / Acts which impinge on specific provisions contained in the Central Act namely (i) Land Acquisition Act; (ii) Excise Act; (iii) State Irrigation Act; (iv) Minor Forest Produce Act; (v) Mines and Minerals Acts; (vi) Land Revenue Code / Act; (vii) SC/ST Land Alienation Act; (viii) Money Lenders Act; and (ix) Regulated Market Act. No doubt, some State Governments (MP) have already amended some of the relevant Acts, others are yet to follow suit.

It is therefore suggested that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs should get the state laws changed in conformity with the central law in a give time frame, and link central devolution to the states with such amendments.

Shifting Cultivation : On the issue of shifting cultivation, the draft policy states, ‘Though the practice is hazardous to environment, it forms basis of life for tribals.  The tribals involved in shifting cultivation do not seem to have any emotional attachment to the land as an asset or property needing care and attention as in non-tribal areas. Tribals merely believe in harvesting crops without putting in efforts’.

For the tribal peoples, their land means livelihood; their culture and identity is built upon it. So, to assert that tribals have no emotional attachment to land is to say the least is a bit puzzling. Moreover, to hold this practice hazardous to environment is unfair. In interior areas where communications are not developed and where sufficient land suitable for terracing is not available, shifting cultivation is the only system of cultivation which can be operated at the present stage of development, where tribals have no access to credit or extension. It is a practical way out from the inherent difficulties confronted in preparing a proper seedbed in steep slopes.  Shortening of cycle has taken place for a variety of reasons, such as tribal land being taken over by dominant peasantry as a result of which tribal are pushed or they themselves withdraw to more interior/higher (altitudes) areas which are generally more inhospitable.

The problem is that shifting cultivation is more frequently compared with forestry activities or even natural forests rather than with other farming systems. It is unrealistic to expect shifting cultivation to be as benign as natural forest - it is a farming system, which makes use of forests and should be considered as such. 

What’s most important about jhum cultivation is that it protects and supports collective ownership of natural resources, so also preventing land from being privatised. Encouraging ‘settled agriculture’ in its place — the endeavour of current government policies — would only hasten the end of community ownership. The current policy fails to recognise that the land left fallow is actually part of the whole jhum cycle and needs to be protected as jhum land: government classifies jhum fallow lands as ‘wastelands’ or degraded forest.

The recommendation in the draft policy that ‘Land tenure system will be rationalised giving tribals right to land ownership’ is welcome, but a significant part of such lands have been declared as forests, and therefore settling them in favour of tribals will attract the restrictions imposed by the Forest Conservation Act. Without specifying the area of land that would be settled with tribals and the time frame in which it will be done, the statement made in the draft is likely to remain only on paper.

The draft favours cash crops over food crops in shifting cultivation areas, but the basis of such a preference has not been stated. Shifting cultivators often have poor access to agro-chemicals because of poverty, inadequate extension systems and a general disregard of their farming practices by authorities. Moreover, such areas are remote from markets, and forcing cash crops on the tribals may lead to their greater dependence and exploitation by traders and middlemen. At present, yields of staple crops such as rice, maize, or cassava, are often quite low, but many other plants are intercropped in the swidden fields and collected from the secondary forest, making overall productivity much higher. Therefore tribal perspective on their farming system must be kept in view before making sweeping recommendations against traditional practices.

Implication of absence of land records in the north-east : The north eastern states of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, hill areas of Manipur and some tribal tracts of Assam have no land records system. The survey and settlement could not take place here because of the resistance of the local people. We describe below the status of land records in Meghalaya, a tribal and comparatively peaceful state.

A peculiar feature of Meghalaya’s rural economy is its agrarian structure, characterized by insecurity of tenure, rising tenancy and landlessness, increasing concentration of land ownership in the hands of a few, and declining output from shifting cultivation. This structural condition under which land is cultivated combined with the fact that the elite are able to corner most government funds has intensified poverty in Meghalaya. Cohesive social relations therefore co-exist with increasing economic disparities.

Unlike other parts of India, government in Meghalaya did not claim ownership rights over the uncultivated forestlands of the indigenous people. Moreover there is no system of payment of land revenue, nor any record of land rights. Although theoretically land belonged to community, there were several ways that it could be privatised. Performing labour or, rather organizing labour, to cut a terrace or plant trees in an orchard, was recognized as conferring exclusive and permanent rights, although not recorded. The lack of a legal base means that tenancy works to the disadvantage of the weaker partners in the relationship, the tenants. The absence of any legal regulation works to the advantage of those with economic and political power. Measures like a cadastral survey to record actual land holding positions, tenancy, etc. have been consistently opposed even by the non-rich, as there is deep suspicion of the state, and the likelihood of imposing land revenue payments or other regulations.

There has been phenomenal growth in the number of agricultural labour due to increasing concentration of land in the hands of a few. The proportion of cultivators to total workers has fallen from 73.3 in 1961 to 55.3 in 1991, whereas the proportion of agricultural labourers has increased from 4.3 to 12.5% during the same period.

There are also instances where in the entire village the actual tillers do not own any land at all. They are merely tenants of landlords, who mainly reside in Shillong, the State capital. The tenants have rights only over the crops, but do not have any rights to forests.

The privatization of land that is going on throughout Meghalaya through enclosure of commons can hardly be viewed as a positive step because its impact on agrarian relations is retrograde. Individuals are acquiring permanent interest in the occupancy of a plot of land, which in turn is imputing monetary value to land. This may be resulting in the dispossessing of the actual tiller of the soil and owner farming is getting converted into tenant farming.

Thus Meghalaya has continued to be a non-cadastral State, with no land records at all. Efforts made in the early 1980s to prepare land records met with stiff resistance from the people, even the poor. The elite are able to whip up tribal sentiments against government, and although government clarified that it had no intentions of imposing land tax on the surveyed land, people were reluctant to allow government enter and disrupt their community cohesiveness. The poor are not organized, they are tied up in social relations to the elite of their clan, and to them large landowners are greater benefactors than a remote, heartless and corrupt government. Even when survey would have benefited the poor, they chose to support the clan leaders in opposing preparation of land records.

Securing communal tenures in the North East : There is no mention in the DTP of the unique situations in the NE - although technically communities own large chunks of land, there have been no surveys of the lands or codification of customary rights and practices or enabling people to interface with modern systems with such tenurial arrangements. For example, people owning land communally are unable to use it as collateral for getting bank loans. Most of the same land is also classified as 'unclassed state forest' with the FDs attempting to gobble that up (what they couldn't do via the IFA in the NE). There is serious conflict in Arunachal Pradesh due to such efforts. In the absence of a communal land recording system, revenue departments are using mainland procedures for happily allotting such lands to private parties. Due to the classification of jhum lands as 'forests' (the FAO calls them forest fallows), it is MOEF which gives clearance for their diversion to other uses instead of the land owning communities. Recent Supreme Court orders have now empowered MOEF to collect a net present value of between Rs 6 to 9 laks per ha for such land diversion instead of the money going to the legal landowning communities!

There are still excellent functioning systems of jhum cultivation. Massive damage has been done to such sustainable systems by promoting all kinds of unsustainable practices on them such as pineapple cultivation and rubber plantations. Jhuming is an integral part of social organisation and has sophisticated notions of equity built into it (there is no landlessness in funcioning jhum systems as every year land is allotted on the basis of mouths to be fed rather than wealth or status).  

Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) : The use of “insensitive” and “derogative” terms such as “Primitive Tribal Groups” in the Draft National Policy on Tribals is antithetical to the universally recognised principles on the dignity and equality inherent in all human beings. The use of the term “primitive” fails to secure understanding of and respect for the dignity of the human person. Certain derogative terminologies are no longer acceptable in the lexicon of civilised societies. Although at another place the draft envisages to halt “stigmatisation” of the so called Primitive Tribes, one wonders as to how such stigmatisation can be halted when the draft policy itself uses such pejorative terms. It would be better if they were referred as ‘excluded tribes’ or ‘pre-agricultural communities’. For others too, it would been ideal if for tribals one used the word ‘adivasi’, however since this demand has been rejected many times by GoI (on the basis that even non-STs are indigenous peoples), it is not being pressed here.

As in other paras, the draft policy makes all kinds of vague promises, which have no connection with the policies of other Ministries, the progress of which is not being monitored by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. For instance, the draft makes the following commitments for them:

1.      To boost PTGs’ social image, their being stigmatized as ‘primitive’ shall be halted.

2.      Efforts shall be made to bring them on par with other Scheduled Tribes in a definite time frame. Developmental efforts should be tribe-specific and suit the local environment.

3.      Effective preventive and curative health systems shall be introduced.

4.      PTGs’ traditional methods of prevention and cure shall be examined and validated.

5.      To combat the low level of literacy among PTGs, area and need specific education coupled with skill upgradation shall be given priority.

6.      Formal schooling shall be strengthened by taking advantage of ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’.  Trained tribal youth shall be inducted as teachers.

7.      Teaching shall be in tribals’ mother tongue/dialect

8.      Considering PTGs’ poverty, school-going children shall be provided incentives.

9.      Emphasis shall be on laid on vocational education and training.

10.  PTGs shall enjoy the ‘right to land’. Any form of land alienation shall be prevented and landless PTGs given priority in land assignment.

11.  Public distribution system (PDS) shall be introduced to ensure regular food supply. Grain banks shall be established to ensure food availability during crises.

12.  PTGs’ participation in managing forests shall be ensured to meet their economic needs and nourish their emotional attachment to forests.’

The 10th Plan of the Government of India lucidly describes the problems of these vulnerable communities: ‘A decline in their sustenance base and the resultant food insecurity, malnutrition and ill-health force them to live in the most fragile living conditions and some of them are even under the threat of getting extinct.’ Rather than make vague statements, such as the policy will ‘nourish their emotional attachment to forests’, it is better if the Ministry comes up with specific plans which are monitored by independent agencies on a quarterly basis.

Creating a framework for securing communal tenures : Most attention related to tribal land has been focused on preventing alienation of private land to non-tribals. But most adivasi livelihood systems (as in the hills also) depend on access to common lands and some systems are rooted in communal property rights/use. Shifting cultivators and pre-agricultural communities (officially labelled PTGs) have effectively been left floating in the air as even during forest settlements in the mainland, either shifting cultivation was declared a concession which was later withdrawn leaving the people with nothing, or an attempt was made to simply wish the practice away without working out what happens to the people involved. In Orissa, there must be lakhs of shifting cultivators on whose limited rotational cultivation lands left, the forest dept keeps trying to plant teak or other trees without assuming any responsibility for assuring them alternative livelihoods. The result is that the people keep uprooting or burning the plantations on their lands and the FD staff keeps extracting fines and bribes from them. Many are forced to migrate in search of new options. The rights of pre-agricultural communities like the Chenchus, pahari korwas, bhuinas, etc have similarly been extinguished leaving many such communities on the verge of extinction after declaring their lands as PAs. There is little scientific evidence to support the premise that their resource use patterns are inimical to biodiversity conservation. In 1942, the present Srisailam Tiger reserve in AP was declared a 'Chenchu reserve' to protect the Chenchus and their lifestyle. Later it was declared a 'tiger reserve' with efforts to move the Chenchus out. This didn't succeed but now the presence of Chenchus in their ancestral land is 'illegal' and both the Chenchus and the tigers are more vulnerable than ever before!

De-notified and Nomadic Tribes (DNTs) : There is no mention of their problems in the draft. This serious omission needs to be corrected.

The terms ‘de-notified’ and ‘nomadic’ do not belong to the same typology as the former term is legal and the latter ecological. The communities which were notified as criminal during the British rule and which were de-notified after independence are called de-notified tribes. However, as some of the de-notified communities were nomadic and vice versa, they are usually considered together.

As they are constantly on the move, they do not have any domicile. Though many of them have now begun to settle down, traditionally they did not possess land rights or house titles. As a result, they are deprived not only of welfare programmes, but also of citizenry rights, such as a ration card. They were not considered untouchables but occupied lowermost positions in social hierarchy.

The first and foremost problem of the DNTs is that of classification and enumeration. The DNTs are not categorised as a class under the constitutional schedules like the scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs). Some of them have been included in the respective state lists of SCs and STs but there is no uniformity across the country. As in the case of the STs, the problem of pseudo-identities also affects the DNTs. The concessions of the DNTs are usurped by other communities having a similar nomenclature. The DNTs are also not covered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (1989), under which the SCs and STs are protected. As a result, the violation of human rights cannot be addressed effectively.

Although a plethora of programmes could be suggested, the basic steps warranted are as follows:

(1) Provision of constitutional safeguards to some of the most vulnerable communities like the Pardhis, and covering them under the Prevention of Atrocities Act (1989).

(2) Strict scrutiny of the caste certificates of DNTs and penalisation of bogus DNTs.

(3) Sensitisation of the police force by information dissemination and in-service training, and setting up of special cells (in collaboration with NGOs) for legal aid and counselling, especially for women.

(4) Free and compulsory education to genuine DNT children till at least matriculation.

Governance : Apart from policy failures listed above, tribals have also suffered because of the poor quality of governance. Programme delivery has deteriorated everywhere in India, but more so in tribal areas, where government servants are reluctant to work, and are mostly absent from their official duties. Government seems to have surrendered to political pressures from the staff, as many of their posts have now been officially transferred from tribal regions to non-tribal regions, where they can draw their salaries without doing any work! It is a pity that massive vacancies exist in tribal regions in the face of acute educated unemployment in the country. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes of the 13th Lok Sabha in its 23rd Report of February 2003 stated that hundreds of posts of medical staff in Tribal Sub-Plan areas in Rajasthan have been lying vacant. The State government of Rajasthan could not give any answer as to the reasons for not filling up the vacancies.

Poor implementation of existing schemes in the tribal regions has meant that not only poverty continues at an exceptionally high levels in these regions, but the decline in poverty has been much slower here than in the entire country, as shown below.

Table 1: Population Living Below Poverty Line (1993-94 and 1999-2000) (in per cent)






Percentage Change




(Col 2-4).

(Col 3-5)





































During this period the share of the tribals amongst the poor in the country increased from 14.8 to 17.5 per cent, with abnormal increase in the following states:


Share of tribals



Poor in 1993-94

Poor in 1999-00


















Similar gaps continue between literacy levels and health indicators of STs and the general population and have widened over the years.

Education : The draft policy advocates teaching in mother tongue of the child. Yet, it suggests very few concrete measures how to implement it. The drop out rate among indigenous and tribal peoples is alarming. Various steps taken by the State governments to check drop out including free distribution of books and stationery, scholarship, reimbursement of examination fee, free bus travel etc have failed. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes of the 13th Lok Sabha in its 23rd Report of February 2003 on the Working of Integrated Tribal Development Projects in Rajasthan reported that the delay in disbursement of scholarships is one of the reasons for increasing drop out of indigenous and tribal students. No evaluation of the programmes on education including the Ashram schools under the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) has been conducted by the Ministry so as to understand the shortcomings and suggest corrective measures.

The draft policy advocates education to be ‘linked with provision of supplementary nutrition’, but the Ministry does not seem to be aware that in Jharkhand, very few tribal children have access to mid-day meals, despite orders to this effect both from the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Supreme Court. In fact the Commissioner of the Supreme court to monitor food based schemes has observed the following in his tour note dated March, 2004:

Mid-day meals - There are two problems here. One, the scheme has been sanctioned only in seven districts and that too for 200 schools per district. Two, supply of foodgrain is highly erratic and administration has not been able to ensure continuity of supply. At the Nini centre in district Lohardaga, I was told that cooked meals could be served only for seven days, as there was no stock after that. Moreover, the Bank did not permit them to withdraw funds and insisted on a seal of the Mothers’ Purchase Committee. The Committee had to borrow 300 Rs from shopkeepers to run the show for the week foodgrains were available. On the whole the scheme is running very poorly in Jharkhand’.

Similar is the situation in the tribal blocks of district Nandurbar, Maharashtra. The relevant point here is that the Ministry must spell out in in the policy in some detail how it will ensure that the entitlements of tribal children are observed in actual practice. Bogus reorting is another serious problem in tribal districts. According to the official figures, in Maharashtra only 0.74% of children in the tribal areas suffered from grade III and IV malnutrition. This is gross under-reporting as the NFHS data for 1998-99 showed that this for tribal children was 35.4%. The draft unfortunately is silent on this kind of reporting, which defeats the very purpose of data collection.

The draft also proposes opening of ‘schools and hostels in areas where no such facilities exist, so that at least one model residential school is located in each tribal concentration area.’ This has been the policy for the last two decades, and yet the progress has not been satisfactory. A recent evaluation carried out by the Ministry on the scheme reveals that the performance of certain States in providing matching grant, and maintenance of services and management of hostels is not encouraging. The pace of construction of hostels has been very slow and the basic amenities provided therein are of substandard. A review of the scheme of Ashram Schools revealed that some of the schools are very badly maintained and deprived of even basic facilities. Also, no separate sections exist in the hostels for primary school children, which is a pre-requisite. The draft policy should have discussed these constraints, especially the states’ reluctance to provide matching contribution in centrally sponsored schemes meant for the ST population.

The continuing gap between literacy levels of STs and the general population is shown below.

Table 2:Literacy Rates of STs and Total Population (in per cent)











Total Population





Scheduled Tribes




Not yet







Table 3: Female Literacy Rates of STs and Total Population (in per cent)











Total Population





Scheduled Tribes




Not yet







Thus the gap in literacy levels, both for tribal men and women, is increasing despite the fact that the largest proportion of centrally sponsored programmes for tribal development are related to the single sector of education. The gap would be wider if the north-eastern states are excluded from the above table, as education and health standards of tribals in that region are much above the national average.

Most teachers teaching in adivasi schools are non-adivasis who tend to view adivasi language, culture and social practices as being inferior to theirs. Psychologically, this has a strong negative impact on children, which again contributes to their dropping out of school. One way of tackling this problem would be to change the way adivasi communities are being educated. For instance, if textbooks were to be prepared in the language of the adivasis to express their culture, worldview and concepts, it would make it easier for adivasi children to begin learning since they would be already familiar with the language and content of the textbooks. It would also mean that they would have to learn only two skills, viz., reading and writing. In time, they could gradually begin to learn the language of the state, which would put them on par with non-adivasi students. At this point it might be pertinent to ask whether it would be at all possible to revive the various adivasi languages. While recognising the difficulties of such an endeavor, we nevertheless feel that a concerted effort needs to be made in this direction.

Nutrition and Health

The health indices of various social groups are given below:

Table 4: Health indicators




% Under nutrition













Source: X Plan

This clearly establishes the sad state of health and nutrition in the tribal blocks. The draft policy admits the problem. It says, ‘Although tribal people live usually close to nature, a majority of them need health care on account of malnutrition, lack of safe drinking water, poor hygiene and environmental sanitation and above all poverty. Malnutrition and undernutrition are common among Primitive Tribal Groups who largely depend upon food they either gather or raise by using simple methods. The poor nutritional status of tribal women directly influences their reproductive performance and their infants’ survival, growth and development.’

A diet and nutrition survey of the tribal populations living in the Integrated Tribal Development project (ITDP) areas, in the States of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa and West Bengal was done during 1985-87. A repeat survey was carried out during 1998-99 among tribal population living in the same ITDP areas to assess time trends in food and nutrient intake, nutritional status as assessed by anthropometric indices of nutritional status and prevalence of nutritional deficiency signs.

Comparison of data between the two surveys in tribal population showed that over time there has not been any improvement in the food and nutrient intake.  The tribal population is more under nourished than their rural counterparts.

Table 5: Average intake of Foodstuffs (g/day) among the tribal population


Cereals & Millets


Food Grains

Decline in consumption during 1985-99 in %








1-3 years








4-6 years








7-9 years








10-12 years boys








10-12 years girls








13-15 years boys








13-15 years girls








>16 years males








>16 years females









However, the solutions proposed in the draft policy lack credibility. It says, ‘Expand the number of hospitals in tune with tribal population’. The fact of the matter is that the utilisation of bed capacity in the already constructed hospitals in tribal areas is extremely low, because neither doctors attend to such clinics (no doctor is ever found there in the night, so tribals with serious illness cannot take the risk of being left there totally unattended), nor are medicines or other facilities present in such so-called community hospitals.

Administration : The draft policy admits that the existing administrative machinery has ‘not been up in terms of the quality of performance and development indicators’, but the solutions proposed are weak and toothless. The draft ‘seeks to revitalise the administration by proposing the following:

·          Skill upgradation-cum-orientation programmes shall be conducted for tribal administration officials. 

·          Infrastructure development shall be given priority so that officials will function from their places of posting.

·          Only officials who have adequate knowledge, experience and a sense of appreciation for tribal problems shall be posted for tribal administration.

·          As the schemes meant for improving tribals’ condition take time, a tenure that is commensurate with their implementation shall be fixed for officials.’

While it is easy to talk of long tenures and posting officers with commitment in the tribal regions, the reality is that postings are done by the state governments who generally succumb to pressures from the officials who wish to move out of tribal blocks on one pretext or the other. The only way to combat political compulsions and opportunism, and promote good governance is by prescribing hard punishment in terms of loss of central funds for those states who do not follow prescribed norms. In addition we suggest that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs must obtain approval of the Cabinet after consulting Planning Commission and the Finance Ministry on linking devolution with performance. However, as repeatedly stressed in this paper, the pre-requisite for achieving this would be a good system of monitoring which will capture the performance of the states on key indicators. In addition, one would have to think of innovative solutions, such as empowering tribal panchayats to hire staff on contract, Mobile Health Services, and compulsory tenure in tribal regions before confirmation of government staff, to improve programme delivery.

In this connection, the suggestion in the draft policy to ‘encourage qualified doctors from tribal communities to serve tribal areas’ is an attempt to further ghettoize the indigenous peoples, and let non-tribal doctors escape a hard posting in remote areas. Serving in the rural areas for a period of 10 years with five years exclusively in Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) areas must be made mandatory for all government doctors. All the vacancies of medical staff in the TSP areas need to be filled up within a specified time frame. The government may consider additional benefits to medical staff working in TSP area and concomitant budgetary allocations need to be made under the TSP.

Effective mechanisms need to be devised to ensure that all allocations for tribal areas actually reach the people. Increasing allocations will have little impact unless the present systems of looting are smashed. Direct transfer of funds and PDS supplies to gram sabhas is required but that runs into resistance from state govts. Similarly, either local people should be recruited as teachers and health workers or incentives provided to staff from outside to actually stay in the areas and do their work. For that, the availability of basic facilities like electricity, health centres and schools simply has to be improved. In the Satkosia wild life sanctuary (district Angul, Orissa) visited by Ms Sarin in this January, none of the 92 villages with a population of over 30,000 living inside had any electricity, few schools had teachers or the PHCs any health staff. The worst was that the PA staff  harassed traders and others delivering construction and other essential material to the villagers while entering the area. Which outsider with a family and kids would be willing to work in such an area no matter how effective the monitoring is?

Migration : Migration is common to almost all tribes, but it is the highest in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Jharkahnd. In Nandurbar and Dhule districts of Maharashtra, for example, due to high indebtedness over 30 per cent of the tribal population migrate between the months of August and March to work on sugarcane fields in neighbouring Gujarat, despite owning, on an average, three to five acres of land. The landholding pattern in Jharkhand, however, differs from that in Maharashtra. Landlessness is high and land is distributed unevenly. But unlike Maharashtra, it has had a history of tribal struggles and has therefore a strong civil movement. Clearly, then, the particularities of each region will have to be taken into account if we are to develop a working plan for these areas.

It is unfortunate that the draft policy does not discuss the evil consequences of migration. Often such families have no ration card in the cities, where they work for several months. The labour laws governing migrant labour are poorly implemented, as there is little knowledge about such laws, and no legal aid to help the tribals. A recent research study On ‘Migrant Tribal Women Girls in Ten Cities’ for the Planning Commission found that the employers paid very low wages below the level of minimum wages, made illegal deductions, forced them to work for very long hours beyond the hours fixed by law. The principal causes of financial and sexual exploitation of the migrant tribal women and girls in cities were poverty, lack of employment opportunities, unorganised nature of labour force, misunderstanding of the local people about free sex in tribals, and lack of community support to victims of sexual exploitation.

It is hoped that the Ministry will in consultation with the Ministry of Labour incorporate sufficient safeguards in the final version of the policy so that migrant tribal labour is not exploited.

Role of the Governor : Clause 3 of the Fifth Schedule and Article 244 of the Constitution of India make it mandatory for the Governor of each State having Scheduled Areas to submit a report regarding the administration of such areas to the President of India annually or whenever so required by the President. The eighth report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (2000-2001) on the working of Integrated Tribal Development Projects in Madhya Pradesh informed that the report for the year 1992-93 was despatched by the Secretariat of the Governor of Madhya Pradesh on 9 July 1996 but it was still under examination in the Ministry of Tribal Affairs by 2000!  The Joint Parliamentary Committee further stated that:

 ‘it is more painful to note that this report highlights only the achievements of the State Government in tribal development. The in-depth analysis of the solution to the problems of Scheduled Areas are not included in the reports. The Committee desire that the Union Government who has the power to give directions to the states in regard to the administration of Scheduled Areas, should ensure that the Governors Reports by the States are submitted to the President of India within the stipulated time. They also desire that analytical solutions to the problems of the Scheduled Areas should also form a part of the Report so as to make Governors Report a useful document.’

How does the draft policy propose to strengthen the quality and timeliness of such reports? The draft envisages the following steps:

‘The regulation making powers of State Governors to maintain good governance, peace and harmony in tribal areas will be further strengthened (in what manner, and how effective it would be, is not known). It will be ensured that Tribal Advisory Councils meet regularly and focus on speedy developmental works and prohibition of land transfers. Money lending menace shall be curbed through implementation of money lending laws.

Tribal Advisory Councils will be established in States which have Scheduled Areas and even in States where a substantial number of tribal people live although Scheduled Areas have not been declared.’

Again well meaning pious statements, and collection of already existing ineffective policies, with no implementable thrust.

The track record of the Tribal Advisory Councils (TACs) across India has been dismal. The TACs are seldom constituted by the State governments. When they are constituted, they seldom meet, as their meeting depends on the wishes of the concerned bureaucrats in the Departments. 

The Tribal Advisory Council of Rajasthan met only once in a year during 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2000. According to the Rajasthan government “more meetings of TAC could not be organised due to preoccupation of the Chairman and Members”. The Madhya Pradesh government gave the ridiculous reasoning to the Joint Parliamentary Committee that the TAC meetings could not be held on regular intervals as “issues for Tribal Advisory Council were limited”.

On 4 June 1998, the then Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government announced the revival of the Tribal Advisory Council after a gap of 18 years! It also met three times in three years but no information is available about the outcome of these meetings. After the term of the Tamil Nadu Tribal Advisory Council expired in 2001, the present AIADMK government made no appointment.

The failure of the Governors to submit reports about the actual situation of indigenous and tribal peoples and non-functioning of the TAC meant that the Fifth Schedule commitments remained in paper only.

Grants-in-Aid : The grants-in-aid under Article 275(1) of the constitution of India and specific schemes such as Tribal Sub-Plan launched in 1974 have been the key instruments of the government of India to translate the constitutional guarantees into a reality.  In 1997, the Programme Evaluation Organisation of the Planning Commission of India undertook a study on grants-in-aid under Article 275(1) from 1992-93 to 1995-96 and found that the flow of funds from the State to the project authorities were not as per guidelines. Most of the States had used the funds for infrastructure facilities like irrigation, roads, bridges, school buildings and the like while the funds were to be utilised in resettlement of tribals practising shifting cultivation, development of

forest villages and medical assistance to the tribals suffering from specific diseases etc.

The Planning Commission in its Report No. 3 of 1999, among others, stated that (1) the 20 State Governments and Union Territories Administrations reported utilisation of only Rs. 1546 crore out of Rs. 1809 crore released by the Ministry during 1992-1998 under the tribal sub plan and a large part was either retained in various deposit accounts or was spent for purposes other than the intended purpose of providing additive to States Tribal Sub-Plan; (2) the physical performances reported by State Governments were inconsistent with the expenditure; (3) Many State Governments did not contribute their share of funds under the Tribal Sub-Plan and instead used the funds received from the Union Government towards SCA isolation; (4) the Tribal Affairs Ministry and the State Governments did not carry out evaluation to ascertain the extent to which the objectives of economic upliftment of the Scheduled Tribes for crossing the poverty line and protection against their exploitation were achieved; and (5) the funds were misused for assistance to ineligible persons, purchase of vehicles and consumable durables, discretionary medical assistance, purchasing teaching aids for school, meeting administrative expenditure, helicopter hire charges, construction of building and houses, reimbursement of loss.

There is nothing in the draft that would give confidence that the grant-in-aid funds would be better utilised in future.

We should ensure that the Maharasthra plan is implemented by all the State Governments and make it a necessary condition for release of funds under 10th Five Year Plan.  The Maharashtra Plan is well known where the TSP fund is placed at the disposal of the Tribal Welfare Department and this Department in turn decides the quantum of funds that should flow to the various sectors and allocate funds accordingly to various line Departments.  This is then monitored by the Department of Tribal Welfare of the State Government. This enables the State Government to have complete idea about the various infrastructure and other development schemes that are necessary for the development of STs in scheduled areas and also help in convergence of programmes.

The present approach of SCA to TSP where 70% of the funds are to be spent on individual family oriented income generating schemes is overlapping with IRDP programmes, now renamed as SGSY programmes. In the absence of any mechanism to prevent overlapping, we should implement family oriented income generating schemes only through IRDP schemes. One should use the SCA to TSP for infrastructure development, strengthening administration and monitoring, and matters incidental thereto. If necessary, an amount of about 20% of the funds could be kept for Family Oriented Schemes to meet certain exigencies where it is considered essential.

NGO funding by the Ministry : It is pertinent to mention that a large number of schemes of the Ministry are being implemented by NGOs pertaining to education, health, income generating programmes, and vocational training. Hence it is important to ensure that only organizations

with credibility and commitment are selected. There has been a mushroom growth of fake NGOs, who are able to corner funds from the Ministry and state governments through the back door. This must be checked through transparency, better monitoring, and grading of NGOs. Since this is an important subject, we discuss it in some detail. The best option of course is to transfer this responsibility outside the Ministry so that the Ministry officials can concentrate on more pressing issues. If it cannot be done at one go, let a separate autonomous body be set up, and gradually the task be transferred to that body.

Government's efforts to nurture and bring into its fold good NGOs have been constrained partly due to the ineffectiveness of the eligibility criteria to debar a number of so called NGOs, whose activities are more akin to fly-by-night operators, from getting assistance from Government. For getting grants from government the proposal must look good on paper, and anyone who can produce such papers cannot be denied grants, as government cannot work on subjective satisfaction of the Joint Secretary! Government procedures are such that it is generally the corrupt and mediocre NGO who can wade his way through the maze of procedures and grab government largesse. Government’s intention of weeding out fake organisations and thus setting up a stricter procedure for screening acts like a self-fulfilling prophecy, as procedures deter self-respecting NGOs and reward manipulative ones. Weak monitoring mechanisms in government has prompted social climbers and manipulators (that includes defeated politicians and civil servants’ wives) who use their extra-professional ‘resources’ to obtain grants from several Ministries/Departments of Government and spend it fast, with no commitment to sustainable development or poverty alleviation. Often the Ministry officials are pressurised by the politicians to give grants to fake and manipulative NGOs. The Ministry officials thus end up spending most of their time either resisting vested interests, or succumbing to such pressures, or sometimes even sharing the loot! A very large number of organizations funded by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs are such who are basically promoting themselves rather than helping the adivasis.

Another reason for proliferation of bogus organisations[7] is the government’s emphasis on fulfilment of targets and fund utilisation, which shifts the focus from the important task of supporting exclusively good and grassroots NGOs to funding as many projects and NGOs as possible. Some Ministries do have a system of sending NGO applications for pre-funding appraisal to monitors, but they are low paid consultants (often appointed on patronage considerations) whose intentions are not always honourable. Even non-existent NGOs could thus get funding from Government, if it could manipulate a favourable report from the monitor. When Ministers find NGOs pocketing government funds they do not plug the loopholes but encourage their own supporters to join the loot[8]. Bureaucratic reaction is to prescribe more formats and tighter procedure which deters good NGOs but crooks can always find their way through by bribing at all levels, and thus a vicious cycle is established.

Moreover, even where the NGOs were genuine, Government is not able to effectively monitor the large number of sanctioned projects, draw appropriate lessons regarding technology, reasons for success or otherwise and thus be able to guide the other NGOs wanting to intervene in that sector. The blind emphasis on fund utilisation played havoc with the quality of projects.

A third factor for the reluctance of good NGOs in applying for Government's support is the availability of Government's assistance to strait jacketed Government schemes only and keeping innovative proposals (i.e. those which do not fall within the framework of strait jacketed Government's schemes) outside consideration. Fourthly, Government has not played a pro-active role in establishing partnership with committed NGOs and has generally confined its attention to only those who apply for funds to its office. It has on its own not requested good NGOs to come to its fold and begin a relationship. Finally Government subjects all proposals including those from good NGOs to a uniform appraisal procedure inhibiting sensitive or well-established NGOs or those engaged in social activism from approaching Government.

Unlike Government which seeks satisfaction on paper before sanctioning grants, the donor agencies (such as Ford or Norad) follow an entirely different approach. There are a series of meetings held with the prospective recipients. The Program Officers or well paid consultants (whose integrity cannot be questioned) visit the NGO and see for themselves the past work done by the voluntary organisation. This procedure of aiming at subjective satisfaction of the Program Officer may increase overheads but it screens out the bogus societies, and reduces the scope of fraudulent practices. Since the number of grants that the donors make is limited (Ford makes less than 100 grants a year as against some 500 by CAPART with one-third of the total budget of Ford), it is possible to ensure quality and reduce the risk of grant going to a bogus organisation.

It must be recognized that improvement in governance would take place only when countervailing forces in society develop confidence and autonomy to oppose inefficiency and corruption in government. Therefore in addition to promoting genuine organizations, the Home Ministry should relax FCRA provisions so that NGOs have access to independent funding.

According to a large number of NGOs the FCRA is a major impediment for the voluntary sector. Getting registration is difficult and as a result a lot of very deserving and small NGOs are not able to access foreign funds. The premium on getting FCRAs is such that it has led to corrupt practices. It has also resulted in NGOs obliging NGOs who do not have FCRA number, although it is not permitted under law. This would not be a problem if quality funding from Indian sources were available to the sector for long term institution building work and strengthening of civil society at the grass root level. For the private commercial sector there is a friendly and liberalised regime while for the important issues of development connected with the poor and deprived sections of society there are restrictions that are inconsistent with the spirit of democracy and pluralism.

Given the relatively low levels of human capital in certain states in India, NGO’s and other groups will also have to play a leading role in mobilizing pressure to empower citizens in a fashion similar to the work of MKSS in Rajasthan or Parivarthan in Delhi (on the subject of public distribution of foodgrains) to improve access to information and combat corruption at the local level. Without citizen participation and involvement, there is always the risk that even the most carefully crafted reforms might eventually run out of steam and stall altogether. However, the experience of CAPART and the Ministries of Social Justice & Empowerment and Tribal Affairs shows that government looks upon giving of grants to NGOs as a source of patronage at its best, and a source of commissions at its worst. Government has thus corrupted the NGO sector or encouraged crooks to float NGOs, and thus given the entire sector a bad name.

Since it is not possible to change the work culture of the Ministries and Departments dealing with the NGOs, I suggest that GoI through the Planning Commission (which is the nodal agency for dealing with NGOs) make a direct contribution of, say, 100 crores to the recognised trusts, such as NFI, Ratan Tata Trust, Development Alternatives, Oxfam, Actionaid, who should be dealing with grassroots NGOs, without the direct intervention of government officials in sanction of grants. The Trust could have government officials on its Board to safeguard the interest of the public money.

Summing up : Finally, the draft policy should have given a new direction to the functioning of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. It is unfortunate that the Ministry (or even the Ministry of SJAE before 1999) does not give sufficient attention to the important problems of the tribals on the plea that many of these subjects, such as land and forests, have not been allotted to it. Even then the Ministry should play a more activist role in addressing these issues by pursuing with the concerned Ministries, where these subjects get a low importance, as the Ministries’ excuse is that they are concerned with ‘bigger’ and more ‘general’ issues. At least, the new Ministry can set up a monitoring mechanism to bring out the dismal picture of tribal areas that would put pressure on the sectoral Ministries to improve their policies and implementation.

When a new Ministry is set up to help the marginalized people, it is expected that it would take a holistic view of their problems, and coordinate the activities of all other Ministries that deal with the subjects impinging on the work of the newly created Ministry. It would develop systems that inform GoI how and why tribals are denied justice. On the other hand, it has been observed that the new Ministry takes a minimalist view of its responsibility, and reduces itself to dealing with only such schemes (such as distribution of scholarships and grants to NGOs) that are totally outside the purview of the existing Ministries. Such ostrich like attitude defeats the purpose for which the Ministry is created.

It is rather sad that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs is more concerned with spending its budget (and with controlling institutions such as Trifed that create opportunities for distribution of patronage), and less with the impact of overall policies on tribals. It is surrounding by manipulative NGOs who hog the entire attention and time of the senior officers, leaving little for the real pressing problems of the adivasis. This attitude under-plays the role of non-monetary policies and the impact they have on the lives of the people. As has been shown in many sections of this paper, certain government policies harm the poor much more than any benefit that accrues to them through money-oriented schemes of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

Even the Planning Commission does not monitor regularly the impact of existing policies on the tribal population and pull up the concerned sectoral Ministries. Policies and budgetary provisions, despite the rhetoric, have not been integrated so far. Changes in policy or laws, are not seen as an integral part of the development process because these have no direct financial implications. One lesser known reason for this isolation is that development and planning in India are associated with spending of money. That Planning means Expenditure, and that will lead to Development is the mindset behind such beliefs. The Indian planner unfortunately has still to understand the difference between planning and budgeting.

The formulation of a national policy is justified in the draft to help ‘translate the constitutional provisions into a reality’. However this lofty objective can be achieved only when certain hard measures are adopted coupled with intensive monitoring. It is hoped that the Ministry would consider our suggestions that are aimed at strengthening the rights-based approach to tribal development.  


Annexure - 1

Recent Cases of Brutal Tribal Evictions from Forest Land


·          The homes of 15 adivasis families of Kundal village in Bali Tehsil of Pali District in Rajasthan were razed to the ground on 16/08/2004 by the Forest Department with the protection of 100 policemen and 7 Mahila Police led by the ACF and SDO. The land with standing crop of maize was destroyed with tractor and local  cattle herders were asked to put their crops into the land to remove even the stubs. This action by the Forest Department was undertaken inspite of an appeal concerning the same lands in the Revenue Appelate Authority under 34A of Wild Life Protection Act. The adivasis were cultivating the land prior to 1980 and were entitled for regularization but no Verification process had been carried out.

·          10 tribal children, aged 2 to 5, have died of `malnutrition' Dongiriguda, a forest village of Nawrangpur district, in Orissa in June and July 2004. The village is required by the 1990 guidelines to be converted into a Revenue village. But the forest department, having failed in their legal duty, is unwilling to permit even the district collector to install a tube well for drinking water on the grounds that the FCA doest not permit it. 19 children died after being afflicted by a mysterious disease in Baramba block of Cuttack district between April and June

·          In Sonebhadra District of UP, tribal families are resisting eviction from 1,213 acres of land, which has been in their possession for over 7 decades. The problem dates back to the pre-independence era when Sonebhadra was an area which was un surveyed. Hence though the legal status of the land was shown as revenue land and the tribals' are recorded as owners, but the orders in the Godavarma Case have resulted in the forest department claiming the land as forest land.

·          The standing crops  on forest land of  6 adivasis  of Babkhal and 1 from Motidabhas  village of Dang Dist. Of Gujarat were totally destroyed by the forest  department at 10 p.m.  on 23rd and  25th  of September 2004.  Standing crop of  paddy,  Nagli,  Tuvar dal and chilies worth Rs 2,20,000/-  was fully destroyed.

·          The homes of 73 tribal families of Bhandarpaani in Betul District (Madhya Pradesh) were set on fire by the Forest Department on the night of 4  July 2004.  People have been kept in different places and families separated – relatives and even members of the same families are unaware of each other’s whereabouts.  Their only fault was that their village has been situated on forest land for generations.  Eight children are suffering from severe pneumonia and malnutrition; one of them Kishan), aged 18 months, died on 22 July.  Thirty-five persons of the tribe were illegally confined in Ranipur Forest Range Office; 15 were produced in the High Court at Jabalpur on 26 July in a Habeas Corpus petition.  Bakhat Singh, after being released in the Court, was taken away by the Forest Department and has been missing since then.

·          In the districts of Burhanpur, Damoh and especially in Betul the forest, police and revenue officials enter in one or other tribal villages every other day in the dark cover of night. They beat tribal women, misbehave with them and often put them in overnight illegal confinement without the knowledge of their husbands. 2 tribal women of Danwakheda village are languishing in jail in an offence related to forestland that is bailable from the forest range office. The tribals of Ghorpadmal were attacked by a team of 50 police, forest & revenue personnel team at night and the women assaulted on their private parts with rifle butts. When they resisted, they were booked under charges of dacoity.

·          On 29th June 2004, three Adivasi youths, of Mendhakhapuri village of Khakanar Tahsil of Burahanpur in MP, were severely injured in a forest department firing during an eviction drive. Tribals of more than 35 villages have their houses burnt, livestock, crops destroyed and they are not allowed to cultivate their land. Local police stations have not registered any complaints. Most of the casualties have been in the villages of Chimnapur, Davali, Jhanjar, Bomiliaput, Jamunala  and Hasan pura in Nepanagar Tahsil where Adivasi houses were burnt  as part of the eviction drive.  The monsoon  rains worsened conditions of the Adivasis who along with their children have been rendered shelter less.

·          On 1st July 2004, in Bomiliaput village of Nepanagar Tehsil in MP , 50 houses were burnt,  utensils, beds, and household items taken away. Crops like soyabean, paddy, maize, jowari, wheat and cotton seeds were burnt. 50 houses were burnt in Hasanpura. In February 2004, 117 houses were burnt in Jhanjar.  On 8th July 2004, in Jhanjar, 5 houses were burnt. On the same day, in yet another hamlet of Jhanjar, 22 houses were burnt. In June 2004, in Davali village, 50 houses were burnt.  Mr. Ter Singh Patel, the village headman, aged 65, was severely beaten. His wife too was injured. Police refused to accept the FIR. In June 2000, in Haldiakheda village, all 50 houses and animals were burnt. The incident was repeated again in February 2004 wherein all house were burnt In Nov 2003, in Chidiapani village, 40 houses were burnt.

·          While incidents of burning have not occurred in Khakanar Tehsil of MP, threats and manhandling are common.  On 29th June 2004, in Amgaon village, Sukma Bai, aged 25, was beaten by forest officials while she was collecting firewood. Her mother in law, Gendi Bai, aged 55, was also severely beaten up.


·          In Hingua  village of Sendhwa Tehsil in MP 5 children have died of starvation. There are 40 more children in this village who are severely malnourished and in grave danger. 184 other children are in the IIIrd stage of malnutrition here. 24 surrounding villages are also facing similar grave and critical conditions of malnutrition. In Chatterpur Dist. Of MP 8 children died due to malnourishment in August and September. In Bhainsatola village of Damoh district, 7 tribal children died due to malnutrition, within a span of two months. 3 children of Saidabad village of Khalwa block of Khandwa district died due to malnutrition in March 2004. Five months later, on 11th of September 5 more children lost their lives in village Mohalkheri village of the same block. In Shivpuri district, the Saharia tribals are severely malnourished, 50 children have died from malnutrition in March-May 2004. In the tribal dominated areas of Pahardgarh block of Morena Dt. 5 children lost their lives due to malnutrition in June-August in the villages of Maanpur, Mara, Jaderu, Dhaundha,Khora and Kusmani.  The loss of food sources from the forest is the main cause for the growing malnutrition and deaths of tribal children in MP.






Issues to be examined on the Draft National Policy for Tribals


           B.K. Roy Burman

                 Former Chairman Tribal Studies Panel,

Indian Council of Social Science Research



1.      What is the concept of “policy” ? Should we differentiate between  generalised conceptual frame of action” and “specific conceptual frame of action” ? Is it not better to call the later strategy of action rather than policy ? In either case is not “policy” related to a vision about the present and/or the future ? Is it not necessary to state the ‘vision’ in a preambular statement ? Does not the absence of such preambular statement make the ‘Draft Policy’ document adhoc in nature ?

2.      For rigorous analysis with perspective is it not the standard practice in policy science to differentiate between “explicit policy” and “implicit policy” ? Are not some of the provisions in part III and part IV of the Constitution, along with relevant provisions of part IV and part IXA ; part X, Article 275(1), 330, 332, 335, 338, 339, 342, 350A., Fifth and Sixth Schedule explicit policy instruments ? The First Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission (Dhebar Commission) and several policy recommendations. After the acceptance of the report as a whole, by the parliament, has it not become a policy document ? The Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have in their annual reports have made from to time operative policy recommendations. After acceptance by the parliament are these recommendations not become policy instruments of the type described earlier as ‘specific policy frame of action’ ?


India has ratified ILO Convention 107 of 1957 in respect of the Indigenous and Tribal Population. One may like it or not like it. But till formal withdrawal, is it not a policy document enforceable under international law ?


The Report of the Working Group for Empowering the Scheduled Tribes During the Tenth Five Year Plan, circulated by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India has recorded salient features of the approaches of the State of India to the ST population. Is it not outline of the tribal policy ?


3.In Para 2 mention has been made of “explicit policy” and “implicit policy”. In law travaux preparatoires leading to the adoption of a proclamatory document is accepted by the court as the implicit policy underlying the proclamatory document. This is specially so in case of interpretation of the Constitution of a country. Before claiming that the Draft Policy statement on the tribals is the first one of its kind has the Ministry of Tribal Affairs gone through the relevant travaux preparatoires ? If not, the Ministry was obviously in haste. One may ask “why” ?

4.One wonders whether the key to Ministry’s seeming haste in issuing the Draft policy document on the eve of the last general election (when the Second Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission also was examining this and other issues) lies in the last para of the Draft Statement. Under the rubric “Assimilation”. It inter alia observes “to bring the tribals into country’s mainstream, the National Policy, envisages the following : Identification tribal groups with ‘primitive traits’ shall be done away with, on a priority basis”. One would ask : what are the ‘primitive traits’ found among the tribal peoples ? Do the Sadhus who come named in the Kumbha melas represent ‘primitive traits’ ? Of course they are not tribals. But if appearance in public is not a primitive trait what is ‘primitive trait’. Is immolation of a widow in the pyre of her husband a ‘primitive trait’ ? In a society where these practices are protected if not eulogized by powerful persons, who has the right to identify tribal groups with ‘primitive traits’ ? What would be modality of ‘doing away’ with these ‘primitive traits’ ?

The assimilation approach however condescends that the “distinct culture of the tribes reflected in their folk art, folk literature, traditional crafts and ethos shall be preserved. Their oral traditions shall be documented and art promoted”. Promotion of traditional arts and crafts are certainly laudable objectives. But these need not be projected as the dawn of a new policy. I was the Chairman of these Tribal Crafts Committee of the then Handicrafts Board. Also I was Chairman of Tribal and Folk Music Committee of Sangeet Natak Akademy in the mid 1970s ; but much before my taking up these positions, tribal arts and crafts and dance and music were encouraged and promoted. What seems new in the present statement is the perception that folk art, folk literature etc. of the tribals reflect their distinct cultures and that this ‘distinct culture’ will be assimilated in the cultural milieu of India. Does it mean that ‘distinct culture’ of the tribes in reflected only in the spheres indicated / Answer to this question requires an understanding of how ‘culture’ is conceptualized by the Ministry ? Normally one would not expect the Ministry to answer this question. But when the Ministry takes upon itself to speak of ‘distinct culture’ the Ministry owes to the public to say what is its perception of culture. As regards assimilation of the ‘distinct culture’ identified by the Ministry, is it different from ethno-tourism so dear to the corporate sector ? If this is not what the Ministry means, one would look forward to an answer to the question ; what does the promotion of the ‘distinct culture’ elements of the tribals mentioned under the rubric “Assimilation” really mean ? In conceptualising culture does the ministry differentiate from one another usage, custom, convention, pragmatic ethics of behavior, transcendental legitimisation of behavior, and so on ? National policy geared to cultural assimilation of a people would require all these questions to be answered.

Under the rubric Assimilation to the mainstream the policy document also mentions “opportunities shall be provided for the tribals to interact with outside cultures”. Is this statement not patronising in tone ? Is the Ministry aware of the researches in recent decades that isolation was a myth ? In some parts of the country the tribal people were involved as conduits in long distance trade, with concomitant institutionalised communication and social regulation arrangements. In some other parts they were having symbiotic relations with neighbors in unequal terms of exchange. With spread of democratic values, information inputs from various sources and emergence of global networks among the tribal elites, physical proximity is frequently creating rings of social and political distance. Has the Ministry any analytical insight about this phenomenon in parts of Jharkhand, Orissa, Mahdya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra ? If the Ministry has real understanding of the phenomenon why does it speak of cultural interaction under the rubric “Assimilation” ?

Again under the rubric Assimilation the Draft Policy says “Their geographical isolation shall be minimised through development of roads, transport and means of provision of concessional travel facilities”. First, one would like to know whether it is a policy statement geared to the idea that implementation of the action programme would lead to assimilation. If it is so, and if the implementation of the programme does not catapult the social distance into social “Assimilation” will the Ministry suggest the discontinuation of the programme of augmenting road and other transport connectivity? Are these not ends in their own right in a modern state?

Even speaking in pragmatic terms, one may ask whether the Ministry has noticed that in some parts of the country, increased physical linkage had gone hand in hand with increased social delinkage? For instance has it noticed that for the first time in 1991 census, more than one lakh Bhils and Gonds each have returned their religion by their tribal name and not as Hindu ? Has it noticed that in some areas the number of persons returning their religious by the names of their respective tribes of associated with their respective tribes rose more than double during 1991-2001 census ? One would like to know whether after verifying these facts the Ministry will recommended rolling back the physical connectivity infrastructures that have been created over the decades since India’s gaining independence ?

Lastly one may ask from the historical normative point of view whether the nodal Ministry which is credited with the preparation of the Draft Policy accepts of does not accept the Indian age - old ethos of unity in diversity ?

5.The Draft policy states that the President considers characteristics like the tribes primitive traits, distinct culture, shyness with the public at large, geographic isolation and social and economic backwardness before notifying communities as Scheduled Tribes. Will the ministry give reference of the document in which the foregoing criteria have been formally indicated for the identification of the Scheduled Tribes ? If these criteria have been formally adopted, notification or de notification of communities as a Scheduled Tribes, would be justifiable with reference to the foregoing criteria. Keeping this possibility in view, as already mentioned, will the Ministry indicate what are the primitive traits, and also what is social backwardness ? These are presumably based on tangible indicators ; others are to a considerable extent intangible in nature and dependent on subjective factors. Hence on the latter no question is asked. This however does not mean that the other criteria are acceptable by themselves.

6.It has been mentioned that there are 698 tribal groups. Though it is well known that many community names found in the lists of the Scheduled Tribes are synonyms, clan or lineage names of same peoples. Besides identify boundaries are not always rigidly fixed ; many of them are constantly on flux depending on many factors. Hence in identifying a specific tribe, one has to depend on the ethnographers’ mature judgment. It is presumed that the ethnographer providing the number of tribal peoples in India has applied her/his professional judgment. Hence no question is being asked on it. This however does not mean that the peoples notified by the President and the number give of them is acceptable.

7.In the draft policy it has been stated that 75 of the 698 STs are identified as primitive Tribal Groups, considering that they are more backward than other STs ; they continue to live in a pre-agricultural stage of economy and have very low literacy rates. Their population are stagnant or declining.

Several questions arise out of the information provided in the draft policy document.

Earlier it has been mentioned that one of the criteria for identifying STs is possession of primitive traits. With this as the backdrop when 75 STs are particularly identified as Primitive Tribes, should it mean that they are more primitive than other STs who also are primitive by definition ? In that case there is a hierarchy of primitiveness. Would the nodal Ministry indicate the nature of the hierarchy ? Or should it mean that some communities STs are notified as STs not for possession of primitive traits but for possession of other traits ? In that case some criteria are at the core and other are at the periphery of the totality of the criteria, which are taken into consideration when the President notifies a community as ST. Will the nodal Ministry indicate what are the core criteria and what are the peripheral criteria ?

In respect of the primitive tribes, the draft policy further states that they continue to live in a pre-agricultural stage of economy. Is the nodal Ministry aware that many anthropologists currently discard the state theory of evolution of human social organisation ? Diverse technologies and life-styles associated with the same are now considered by many to be different types of social formations, not necessarily taking position in a under mar scheme of evolution ? Besides is the nodal ministry aware that most so-called primitive tribes do not live exclusively on their products or collections of their own labour. While most then are in a relationship of exchange of products and goods with agriculturist neighbors or local traders, some send their collection to even international markets through middlemen ? In such a situation is it not that like the village cowherd, or ironsmith manufacturing plough share, are not the so-called primitive rope-makers very much part of the agricultural economy ? Or is not the monkey-catcher dispatching his catch to foreign markets for bio-technological research and other uses very much part of the world capitalist economic system ? In that case is it not denigrating the dignity of the concerned peoples by stamping them as primitive tribes, simply because some amateurish bureaucratic experts take a fancy in describing them in this manner ? Will the nodal Ministry explain what is the policy implication of sticking to the term primitive tribes ? If the purpose is to take special care for the more disadvantageous section of the ST peoples, is it not better to call them vulnerable tribes - a term which is used by some better informed anthropologists ? Besides, will the Ministry reflect whether it is necessary to create a separate post for this category of population as has been done in some states ? Has it come to the notice of the Ministry that such practice unnecessarily stigmatizes the concerned population and even creates more problem for them ?

8.It has been stated in the draft that though the Constitution has provided for the socio-economic development and empowerment of Scheduled Tribes there is no national policy which could have translated the constitutional provisions into a reality.

Does it mean that according to the nodal Ministry the policy  enunciation made by the First Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission to the effect the development dimension should have higher priority over Centre’s paternalistic protective dimension (which is the real essence of the Fifth Schedule) did not have the status of a national policy after the report of the Commission was accepted by the parliament ? One may not agree with this policy formulation, but can one legally deny if the status of a national policy ?


Besides the explicit policy formulation by the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission ; every five year plan contains a chapter indicating the policy frame, for operationalising the provisions of the Constitution. Does not the bland observation contained in the draft policy document arbitrarily turns blind eyes to the Planning Commission’s formulations.

9.It has been stated in the draft that “five principles enunciated by Nehru in 1952, have been guiding the administration of tribal affairs. After listing out the five principles, the draft says “Realising that the Hehruvian Panchsied was long on generalities and short on specifies, the Govt. of India formed a Ministry of Tribal Affiars for the first time in October 1999 to accelerate tribal development”.

As far as known the five cardinal principles in respect of the tribal peoples were included by Nehru in 1957 in his foreword to Verrier Flwin’s Book “A Philosophy for NEFA”. If it was published any where else in 1952, will the Ministry kindly give the reference so that one may know in what context Nehru had spelt out tribal panchaseel and what is the status of this formulation ? As it is, one would like to ask the nodal Ministry whether Nehru’s five point approach to the tribal peoples, included in the foreword to a book was ever put to the parliament for endorsement ? If not, does it have the status of a National Policy Instrument ? Besides, what is the source of information of the nodal Ministry that the tribal administration in the country has been guided by Nehru’s Panchaseel ? Keeping in view one of the Nehruvian principle that “the index of tribal development should be the quality of their life and not the money spent” will the Ministry agree that the tribal sub plan approach, (the core idea of which is that the amount of money should be spent in different sectors, in the same proportion as the tribal population constitute to the general population) is a radical departure from Nehruvian perspective ? Has the newly constituted Tribal Affairs Ministry formulated any new policy of moving away from the fund-quantum oriented tribal development approach ? Does the newly created Ministry’s mandate go beyond coordination in the disbursal and accounting funds for tribal development in different sectors ? During my discussion with the Second Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission I raised the question of the nature of the mandate of the newly created Tribal Affairs Ministry. I was informed by some of the members of the Commission who were holding pivotal positions even when the tribal affairs were dealt with by the Tribal Wing of the Home Ministry that while the jurisdictional coverage of the Tribal Wing of the Home Ministry did not extend to the tribal predominant states of North East India, the functional coverage was much deeper. While the line departments implemented the schemes the Tribal Unit of the Home Ministry had significant role to ensure that the norms and other specific details of the schemes harmonised with the tribal situation in different parts of the country. Thus it appears that while the tribal peoples are expected to be satisfied that there is a separate Ministry for them, the Ministry has hardly any role in ensuring that the concerned line Ministries and line departments orient their operative policies, programmes and schemes to the specific needs of the tribal peoples of specific areas. For the sake of transparency, rather than making uncalled for comments on so-called “long generalities” of Nehruvian approach, will the nodal Ministry provide a comparative picture of the mandate of the Tribal Units attached to the different ministries of the Govt. of India since the commencement of the Constitution of the Country ?

10.The draft policy covers the following aspects (a) Formal education (b) Traditional wisdom (c) Health (d) Displacement and resettlement (e) Forest villages (f) land alienation (g) Intellectual property rights (h) Primitive tribal groups (i) Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Areas (j) Research (k) Participatory approach (l) Assimilation.

Among them “assimilation” and “participatory approach” are really policy issues others are inventory of plans and programmes. None of these plans and programmes are new. But even in the presentation of plans and programmes most of which are in existence of decades, in the light of long experience had the operative frames guiding action been projected these could be qualified to be called policy instruments at the secondary level. But as they are lacking in most cases, the nodal Ministry is expected to clarify in what sense, what they have presented can be called “National Policy on Tribals”. Here one point is to be further mentioned. Most the plans and programmes in respect of the tribal peoples are formulated and implemented by sectoral line departments. This implies that unless specifically reoriented to historical, ecological, cultural and socio-economic needs of the diverse tribal communities, the plans and programmes of the sectoral line departments meant for the general population will be implemented by the respective line department, to the extent possible, within the budgetary limits of the tribal sub plan. This can be called a policy decision. To be relevant for the tribal peoples, the sectoral plans will have to be reoriented to the historical ecological, cultural and socio-economic needs of such peoples. But from the rules of business of the Tribal Affairs Ministry, its annual reports and the schemes for Tribal Development handbook published by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, it does not appear that the Ministry has the requisite mandate or that even it has an unstated mandate to reoriented the functional norms of the line ministries or departments. Will the Ministry clarify whether it is a question of lag of appropriate policy or of failure of implementation of policy.


11.Out of the two real policy issues, namely ‘Assimilation’ and ‘Participatory approach’ the first one has already been examined and has been found to be incoherent and disharmonic not only to the national reality of symbiosis of pluri-cultural, pluri-ethnic structures, but even to the national ethos of unity in diversity. But the nodal Ministry should have an opportunity to have its say on this prima facie analytical observation. Can we expect a response ?


12.As regards participatory approach, the draft policy confines itself to the involvement of the NGOs only as conduits for the reaching government plans, programmes and policies to the grass root level. It is a strange perception of the meaning of participation. There is not a single word about the participation of the tribal peoples themselves in formulating plans and programmes meant for them and in implementing and monitoring the same. The lacuna in the context of the fact that the 73rd and 74th amendment along with PESA 1996 purported to promote grass-root level direct participation in approving plans and programmes meant for the Tribal people and monitoring the implementation of the same, particularly in the Scheduled Areas, comes to sharp focus as a massive incongruity. Will the nodal Ministry explain this phenomenon ? Has it something to do with the fact that the Nodal Ministry for operationalising the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution including the PESA Act is the Rural development Ministry and not Tribal Affairs Ministry ? In that case will it be wrong to say that what the nodal Ministry has circulated as Draft National Policy on Tribals is primarily Draft operational programme of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs with inclusion of the policy of assimilation and promotion of NGOs, which came at end, purposively or not ? Here it may be noted that the Draft Approach paper to the 10th Plan (Planning Commission Govt. of India, 1st May 2001) while discussing the unresolved issues in tribal development stipulated the formulation of a “comprehensive National Policy for Empowerment of Tribals through their integrated development, which will lay down the responsibilities of the different wings of government with appropriate accountability” (P8) Does the nodal Ministry feel that it has done its job required in the Approach paper to the tenth Five Year Plan.


13.Among the programmes in the draft policy first comes Formal Education. One wonders whether the draft policy speaks, in the education sector, only about formal education, because the nodal Ministry is concerned only about coordinating financial out lay for different schemes related to formal education ? Would the nodal Ministry tell us whether it has a holistic view of education ? In that case is it reflected in the draft policy document ? The mid-term appraisal of the Ninth Plan (1997-2002) speaks of programmes like Minimal Level of Leaning (MILL). Education Guarantee schemes, Non-Formal Education (NFE), District Primary Education Programme, Alternative Education, Adult Literacy and so on. In the mid 1990s being the Chairman of HRD Committee on Complete Eradication of illiteracy among the Tribal Peoples, I became aware that in all these scheme specific orientation for specific tribes was necessary. Does the nodal Ministry think that the situation has radically changed by this time ? If not why the Draft Policy on Tribals has confined itself only to a segment of total field of Education ? Also one would like to know why the draft policy document has confined itself to repetition of the approaches which have been advocated since the very beginning of planning in India ? Why as required in the Approach Paper to Tenth plan no attempt has been made to fix the responsibilities of the different wings of the government with appropriate accountability, so that the new policy could cover the lacunae ?

14.Traditional Wisdom

The draft policy has correctly mentioned about the traditional wisdom of the tribal people in different spheres of life and has mentioned that their invaluable knowledge needs to be properly documented and preserved. It has also advocated that such knowledge should be disseminated through models and exhibits and should be transferred to non-tribal areas. One would ask the nodal Ministry whether they are aware that such dissemination has created a dispute between two government departments and that the matter went to the court. As a sequel to the same a Committee was set up with myself as Chairman of which a Deputy Secretary of the Tribal Wing of the Welfare Ministry was a member ? Is the Ministry aware that at the international level, for protecting the IPR of the tribal and indigenous peoples has made a provision in general terms in Article (J) of Biodiversity Convention adopted by the UN in 1993 and the while to spell out the specific contents of Article (J) there was an international Convention at Bratsuva in 1998, India participated in it without any preparation because even the Deputy Secretary of the Tribal Wing of the Welfare Ministry could not evoke any response from the then nodal Ministry namely MOFF in this matter ? Now that there is a separate Ministry for Tribal Affairs one would have expected that in formulating the National Policy on Tribals, the Ministry would be in a position to deal with such specific issues. Will the Ministry tell the public why it has failed to do it ?



In respect of the health care sector the policy document notes that the tribal peoples have their own systems of diagnosis and care of diseases. Against this background the National Policy seeks to promote the modern healthcare systems and also a synthesis of the Indian systems of medicine like Ayurveda and Siddha with tribal systems. Proceeding further the policy seeks to strengthen the allopathy system of medicine in Tribal Areas with the extension of three tier-system of village health workers, auxiliary nurse midwife and primary health centres ; expand the number of hospitals tying up the tribal population and develop primarily hospital based approach to health care. At the same time the draft policy intendeds to promote cultivation of medicinal plants related value addition strategies through imparting training to youth.


On going through the draft policy one wonders whether the Ministry has examined the national health policy while making its observations and suggestion. The national health policy focuses on both medical and non-medical aspects of health care. The draft tribal policy of health care has virtually ignored the non-medical aspect - will the nodal Ministry explain the reason for this lapse ? Besides the national health policy has provided an agenda for the development and integration of different systems of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. The nodal Ministry should tell us the reason for the lapse in this matter.

16.Displacement and resettlement

As is the general practice, the draft tribal policy focuses only on project related physical displacement. The nodal Ministry may like to examine whether dispossession from life support resource base, through direct or indirect means, without physical displacement should be included under the rubric displacement. Otherwise the term ‘Displacement and Dispossession’ should be used. The most important form of dispossession is intrusive jurisprudence centering round the concepts of resnullius and terra nullius. In a seminar organised by Delhi University 33 different types of dispossession were identified. It is not necessary to list all of them here. It is however necessary to point out that use of the term resettlement is inappropriate. The nodal Ministry should consider whether the term rehabilitation is a more appropriate one.

As regards resettlement or better speaking rehabilitation policy the nodal Ministry may be asked whether it is aware of T.N. Singh Formula and Rourkela package of late 1950s and also whether it is aware of the rehabilitation package drawn up by the Tribal Wing of the Ministry of Welfare in 1988. If the Ministry examines the documents it will find that the policy package suggested in the document under consideration falls far short of the earlier formulations. There is also a suggestion that in case of displacement or dispossession rehabilitation should be supplemented by equity shares I wonder whether the nodal Ministry would like to examine it.

17.Forest Villages

Forest Villages were created by law, to ensure regular supply of labour for Forest Department or the contractors engaged by the Department. The terms and conditions are almost similar to those of  bonded labour. When the policy document speaks of developing these village at par with the revenue villages even if these cannot be converted to revenue villages, does it not mean that the policy acquiesces to the continuation of the virtual bonded labour system ? Going into the programmatic aspect of development of these villages one would ask whether the nodal department has examined the components and supportive inputs for promoting technologies ? There are studies which show that the norms and supportive inputs are generally invisible. If the nodal Ministry is not aware of these studies will it further look into the same ? As regards right to minor forest produce, one wonders whether the nodal Ministry is aware of the controversy between the Ministry of Rural development and the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Govt. of India, I had about what constitutes Minor Forest Produce. I had drawn the attention of the then Ministry of the Ministry Welfare to which Tribal Development Wing was attached, but got no reply. During my recent tour in Orissa. I have found that the controversy remains unresolved. Will the nodal Ministry look into the matter before finalising the Tribal Policy ?


In the context of dealing with the problem of Forest Villages it has been suggested that efforts will be made to eliminate exploitation by middlemen in Cooperatives like TDCC, LAMPs and FDC by introducing minimum prices for non-agricultural produce. Though it is a welcome move, it should first be noted that the negative roles of TDCC, LAMPs are particularly important in tribal predominant areas outside Forest Villages. Will the nodal Ministry examine the role of these institutions in totality ? As regards price support for NTFP, there are complex problems involving national and international markets as well as the expected expanded intrusive role of WTO starting from the year 2005. Has the Ministry examined the complex problem ?

18.Primitive Tribal Groups

Several issues about the incongruity of listing some peoples as PTG and of having separate administrative set up for them (in some states) have already been discussed. The problems of two special categories of so-called PTG remained to be covered. One of them is the so-called Ex-Criminal Tribes ; the other is Nomadic Tribes. One wonders whether the nodal Ministry has examined the lists of the peoples who were notified as Criminal Tribes under the Act of 1874. In many cases it was not the entire communities, but specific segments of specific areas or some named bands within the communities were notified. In several states it has been found that in ignorance of this fact, the entire communities are being treated as ‘ex-criminal’ or ‘de notified tribes’ and to them the ‘benefit’ of indignity as descendants of criminals extended. Has the nodal Ministry checked the list ? Besides, even in those cases where the people who are really descendents of ex-criminals is it correct to deal with them through separate administrative machinery as is done in some states ? Does it not perpetuate the stigma of their being criminals in the eyes of their neighbors ? In some states while the separate administrative set up for denotified tribes continue to exist, in the name of integration the separate educational institutions meant for them have been discontinued. Has the Tribal Affairs Ministry the mandate and the machinery to monitor such situations ? If it has, does it think that what is being done in the correct policy ?

As regards nomadic tribes is the Ministry aware that generally the nomadic movements are not based on ad hoc decision ? The nomadic movements are ordinarily within defined orbits involving long lasting relations between the nomads and sedentary population. Nomadism is a structural feature, underpinned by institutional arrangements. Ignoring this nomadic tribes sedentarisation schemes are frequently implemented and, no wonder, they fail. It is strange that the policy document claiming to address specific PTGs on the ground is silent on this phenomenon.

19.Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Areas

Under the title Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Areas the document deals with the Tribal Areas also as defined in the Constitution.


As regards the Scheduled Areas (Under Fifth Schedule) is the Ministry aware that there is a confusion in some quarters as to whether under the Fifth Schedule the Governor functions in his discretion or in his capacity as the contritutional head of the state ? Will the nodal Ministry consult the Law Ministry and clarify the position.


Part 5(1) of the Fifth Schedule vests power with the Governor to set aside any legislation of the Parliament or of the state legislature by issuing a notification without consulting the Tribes Advisory Council or without obtaining the assent of the President. Does the Ministry think that this highly undemocratic provision should continue ?

Para 4(2) stipulates that Tribes Advisory Council can only advice on matters referred to it, and it is not indicated whether the advice that it may render is binding or not on the government. Does the Ministry think that this arrangement should change.

In the context of the provisions in 73rd and 74th amendments as well as the PESA Act 1996 the relations between panchayati bodies and the TAC appears to be a grey area of ambiguity. Has the Ministry examined this issue ? Or, has the Ministry of Tribal Affairs the mandate to examine this issue ?

As regards the Tribal areas under the Sixth Schedule the Draft Policy document’s observations is thoroughly inadequate. First one wonders whether the Ministry is aware that since 1986 there is no Regional Council. On the other hand a new Territorial Council with wide ranging power has been set up in Bodo area of Assam under the Sixth Schedule. Then there is the law of repugnancy introduced in Meghalaya and Mizoram. There is also the question of extension of 11th scheduler to the Tribal Areas under Sixth Schedule. And then there is the demand of the Autonomous Councils that their financial requirements should be dealt with by the National Level Statutory Financial Commission and not by the State Finance Commission. Apart from these core important issues there are a number of ancillary issues. One wonders why the Ministry has failed to take note of the same in the policy document.


20.On administrative the policy document has made an almost perfunctory statement. It observes “The existing administrative machinery in states and districts comprising Integrated Tribal Development Agencies (ITDA) and Integrated Tribal Development Projects (ITDP) have not been up in terms of quality of performance and development indicators”. This is a statement of fact, with which one may or may not agree. But one wonders why the policy document has not provided an analysis of the reason of the unsatisfactory state of affairs and why it has not spelt out the policy parameters to rectify the situation ?

21.Shifting Cultivation

On shifting cultivation the draft policy has failed to take note of the recently available acrial survey data and other field materials. This is understandable as adverse propaganda is so intense that without extra effort one may not know the reality. What however taken one’s breath away is the statement that the tribals involved in shifting cultivation do not seem to have any emotional attachment to the land as an asset or property needing care and attention. There is hardly any ethnographic literature which would uphold this view. Perhaps Hardin’s discredited thesis ‘Tragedy of the Commons” has given this curious idea to the Ministry. If not, will the Ministry cite any authentic source in support of the view expressed here. Are the functionaries of the Ministry aware of the publications of TIR Orissa Govt., or of F.G. Bailey or of the history of the Sauria Paharia of Jharkhand or of inter-tribal feuds among the shifting cultivating tribes of Arunachal ?

22.Land Alienation

Is the Ministry aware of the recent report of Jugandhar Committee of Land Alienation ? Besides there are plethora of reports on tribal land alienation and policy parameters for remedy of the situation. Will the Ministry explain why it had failed to draw upon the same in the draft policy ?

23.Intellectual Property Rights

This has already been discussed in a different context.

24.Tribal Languages

Is the Ministry aware that in recent decades there is a language revival movement among many tribes ? Bodo ethnic movement and Tripuri ethnic movement started with language issue. The Indira Gandhi Rastriya Manav Sangrahalaya has a collection of around 4000 books in 50 tribal languages, most of these were published during the last two decades. Is the ministry aware that this is a global trend among indigenous and tribal peoples ? Will Ministry tell us whether its tribal language policy is geared to this reality and in that case how ? Incidentally some of the policy instruments in respect of tribal languages are in existence since the 1980s. The present policy document could have given an analysis of how the same have functioned and what improvements are to be made.


Is the nodal Ministry aware that most of the state research institutes are in a state of coma. These do not enjoy functional autonomy and are cut off from both academic mainstream, and from recent paradigm shifts in the realm of development. Many of them are headed by administrative personnel with questionable knowledge about tribal peoples and with hardly any credible knowledge about research methodology. One research institute has been found to change its stand with change in the party in power at the state level. One research institute has been found to go back on its own published finding at the instance of the administrative head of the department. One research institute with huge building and impressive structure did not have updated list of Scheduled Tribnes of the state in 1995. It was headed by an IAS officer of very high seniority. In the 1960s onwards to mid 1970s in the annual meetings of the Directors of these institute at last 4-5 senior social scientists used to be invited to attend and to chair the meetings. I had chaired twice. Since late 1970s, if outside social scientists were invited care was taken, to see that they were junior persons with hardly any national stature and specialisation in respect of the tribal peoples. The meetings were chaired most of the time by a Joint Secretary. As a result research has been subverted. Apart from the State Research Institutes, the Tribal Wing of Home and later Welfare Ministry had been financing research by various organisations. In late 1980s the Planning Commission set up a Committee with Dr. Hamumantha Raoi then a member of the Planning Commission as Chairman, Dr. Bhupinder Singh, then Adivsor Planning Commission as Secretary and myself as member to review the quality and findings of the researches. The Ministry failed to submit a single report on the plea that they were scattered and not easily available. The list of perfunctory approach to research could be enlarged, but it is not proposed to do it here. A thorough enquiry should be conducted by qualified persons with national credibility.

 26 & 27Participatory approach and assimilation

On these two aspects observations have already been made.