Major problems of scheduled tribes

Major problems of scheduled tribes

Land Alienation

The Scheduled Tribe people are basically land holders. The holding pattern and the amount may vary from place to place but they are agricultural based communities. Land, forests and water sources are the bedrock of their livelihood.

Tribal communities traded with outsiders for few necessities like salt and iron. The twentieth century, however, has seen far-reaching changes in the relationship between tribals in India and the larger society and by extension, traditional tribal economies, improved transportation and communications have brought ever deeper intrusion into tribal land. Merchants and variety of government policies have involved tribals into cash economy. Large areas fell into the hands of the non-tribals round 1900, when many regions were opened by the government to homestead-style settlement. Immigrants received free land in return for cultivating it. The notion of land ownership was at most communitarian for the tribals. By the time tribals accepted the need of obtaining land titles they had lost the opportunity. The colonial regime realized the necessity of protecting tribals of India from the predations of outsiders and prohibited the sale of tribal lands. Yet
there were some loopholes like grant of lease form. Little land was left for the tribals. In the post independence era tribal land has been rapidly taken away by industries, mines, big dams, sanctuaries, reserve forests etc, driving the tribals into utter poverty and misery. Out of the 40 million people displaced since independence across India 40% are tribals. This shows the magnitude of the development-induced displacement. Land alienation is the major problem of the tribals today. The causes of land alienation are hydroelectricity and irrigation, mega dams, power plants, mines, industries, military installations, weaponry testing, railways, roads, reserves, sanctuaries etc.

Losing Rights Over Community Forests

For a large number of tribal people, forest is home, a livelihood, yes the very existence. Forest is one of the mainstays of tribal economy. It gives them food – fruits of all kinds- edible oils, honey, nourishment roots, herbs, wild game and fish. Minor forest produce gives them supplementary income to their meager produce. From time immemorial tribal people have enjoyed freedom to use the forest and hunt animals and this has given them a conviction that remains even today deep in their hearts that the forests belong to them. Traditionally local communities exercised their rights over the forests because it was the source of livelihood, house construction and agricultural implements. The forests provide
fuel, food, fodder, fibre and timber for housing, ploughing and other materials.

While the community utilized the forest produce it was in the nature of the tribals to conserve the forests for their sustainable economy and livelihood. The tribals had free hand in exploiting the forest resources, and they also regulated it continuously, like restrictions in cutting certain kinds of trees. But it did not pose any problem as the population was small and the forest vast. After the British came into the scene they realized the value of timber and started controlling its use especially after 1855-56.

Forests Acts

a) Forest Acting Director 1865 – This covered the management and preservation of Forests. Any land covered with trees was declared as forest and hence controlled by the government.
b) Forest Act 1878 – Forests were classified under
i) Reserved forests
ii) Protected forests
iii) Village forests
c) Forests Policy 1894 – Provided that the State Forest to be used for public benefit and valuable timbers to be declared as commercial.
d) Forest Act 1927 – It was related to the question of duty on timber, therefore commercial approach to the use of forests.
e) Forest Act 1935 – The subject of forest was included in the provincial list under this act empowering the province for forest management.

Post Independence:
a) National Forest Policy 1952 – Declared that the forests should be used strictly for the national interests. “The accident of village being situated close to a forest does not prejudice the right of the country as a whole to receive the benefits of a National Asset” (Paty Kr Ed 2007). Logic was that the rural people have not contributed much towards the maintenance and regeneration of the forests (National Commission on Agriculture – 1976:25). This act does not consider the needs of the adivasis/ tribals for the use of even the minor forest products. A study team of the Tribal Development Programme of the Planning Commission presented a report that asserted, “ that the tribals have special claim over the forest and forest produces, they have the rights to collect fuel, food, fodder and minor produces”

b) The Forest Policy 1988 with amendment – The Act stressed on the forest conservation but did not blame the people statement as in earlier documents. But it did not analyse the causes of destruction and solution.

c) The Conservation of Forests and Natural Eco-system Act 1995 – It was proposed as a New Forest Bill to replace the Forest Act 1927. This bill was not covering the people’s right over forest for livelihood. But this bill stressed the need of people to manage and conserve forests. Forests are national assets to be protected and enhanced for the well-being of the people and the nations. Management was decentralized by the 73rd-74th Amendment of the Constitution implying people’s participation.

Traditional Agriculture

By and large the tribals take to primitive technology for agriculture even to this day. It depends on the mercy of monsoon entirely which of late is coming more and more unpredicted and erratic due to climatic change. The animal power, monsoon rain, mono cropping, meager land holding, less fertile soil, land erosion, depletion of forests are some of the main characteristic features of tribal agriculture. The annual per acre yield remains to be low. There is a high level dependency population on the agriculture and the labour surplus is the added reason for poor agriculture. For most of the tribal households the produce of the land is hardly sufficient for six months, so for the remaining months they have to depend on daily wages either locally available or outside. There is also undue pressure on agriculture land because of the large population to be fed. The modern technology has not touched primitive agriculture extensively and high yielding varieties are limited in use. Cultivation remains the main occupation of the tribals but with so many constrains.


The kharif crop cultivation activities keeps the tribal farmers busy for about six months and for the remaining six months they are largely idle and unemployed. The rabi crop is taken up only by about 2 per cent of the tribals because of the lack of irrigation facilities. These are the non-productive days when the tribals are unemployed. In the rural sectors there are government schemes now to give them employment but insufficient. Some of the schemes under rural employment programmes are: National Rural Employment Programme (NREP), Jawahar Rojgar Yojna (JRY), Food for Work Scheme, and now the latest is National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The last one gives a guarantee of 100 days work by Act of the parliament. Most of the unemployed tribals and
other poor people are the beneficiaries. The youth have a very high rate of unemployment because there is also high degree of school dropouts. The result is that they are migrating to the urban areas in search of job and livelihood.

Development Displacement

Development projects of the country are mostly located in the tribal belts. Industries, mines, mega dams, reserves are maximum located in the tribal dominated habitat. The tribals are being pushed out of their home soil by force.
Since independence the number of development-induced displaced people in the country was about 40 million of which 40 per cent were tribals. This number has increased to 50-55% by all estimates till 2008. This is a fact that the stream of displacement continues.


Migration by definition is the movement of population from one place to another in search of livelihood or other necessities of life not available in the place of birth. Such movement could be from less developed villages or cities to more developed villages and cities. It could also be from a traditional agricultural occupational area to modern industrial occupational areas. The desire is to gain basic necessities and amenities of life for a higher standard of life. Such a motive to movement is called the “push” factor and the availability of goods and services in another place is called the “pull” factor. The push and pull factors can be both economic and non-economic. Need of higher income in the industrial sector
could be the pull economic factor whereas the aspiration of modern amenities like films and TV and running water for household use could be the non-economic factor. More concretely economic factors are poverty, search for livelihood, better employment opportunities etc. Lack of proper education, social discrimination, open war, media influence, and desire to be away from social control are some of the social and non-economic factors of migration. In this sense it is different from the displacement which is by compulsion rather than voluntary. The tribals in general have moved to towns and cities main in search of jobs and better opportunities.

The main cause of their move is poverty and poverty is caused mainly by the unviable agricultural yield in the traditional villages. The government has not given enough attention to modernize agriculture or provide irrigation facilities.

The available job opportunities are found only in towns and cities and industries. So because of this economic development policy of the government the people migrate to towns and cities. The consequences are:
• loss of tribal population in the state/districts of birth
• tribals are becoming minority in their own homelands
• transfer/alienation of tribal lands
• identity of tribals in danger
• increasing slums in cities and poverty as well

Problem of Maoist Extremism

This is very pernicious fallout of the poverty and exploitations of the tribal society particularly in the central regions of India. The Maoist organization found fertile ground to take roots and flourish in the poverty stricken regions of central regions in India. They made their inroads in Bengal and Andhra Pradesh central Bihar.

Today they have got firm footing in all most all the tribal belts of India. Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh are rigged with the menace of the Maoist terrorism. They induce the young unemployed from the tribal belts and recruit them to their regiment on a paltry sum of money, uniform and a gun. The developments of these regions have been sabotaged by the Maoists. These extremists groups are nearly running a parallel government in the rural areas. The efforts of the government to squash these groups have been very unsuccessful.