• The tribes are the native people of the land, who are believed to be the earliest settlers in the Indian Peninsula
    • They are generally called Adivasi, implying original inhabitants
  • The ancient literature mentions, a large number of tribes living in India
    • Before the introduction of caste system during the Brahminic age, people were divided into various tribes
    • A tribe was a homogenous and self-contained unit without any hierarchical discrimination
  • The study of tribal population suffers from serious anomalies, as there is no clear cut and scientific criteria for this purpose
    • For example, the Gonds are a Scheduled tribe in Madhya Pradesh, and are Scheduled caste in Uttar Pradesh
  • Article 366 (25) defines scheduled tribes as “such tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 to be Scheduled Tribes for the purposes of this constitution”.
  • Article 342 of the Indian Constitution provides for specification of tribes or tribal communities, which are deemed to be for the purposes of the Constitution of Scheduled tribes, in relation to that state or Union Territory

Growth of Tribal Population

  • The demographic study of tribal population has suffered seriously, due to the adoption of arbitrary criteria for ‘scheduling’ the tribes
  • The enumeration of Schedules tribes in India, soon after Independence, led to strains in the Indian polity, as a large section of them were left out
    • The modification order of 1956, enumerated more tribal people, and in total they accounted for 23% of total population of the country at that time
  • According to 2011 Census, the tribal population formed 8.61% of total population
    • 97% of them live in rural areas and 10.03% in urban areas
    • The decadal population growth of the tribals from Census 2001 to 2011 has been 23.66% against the 17.69% of the entire population
    • The sex ratio for the overall population is 940 females per 1000 males and that of Scheduled Tribes 990 females per thousand males
  • The growth of scheduled tribes population was due to following reasons:
    • There has been a rapid natural growth of tribal population
    • Additions have been made to the list of Scheduled tribes time and again

Distribution of Scheduled Tribes

  • The spatial distribution of tribes is characterized by a striking tendency of clustering and concentrating in pockets, which have suffered from isolation and are situated in areas where environmental setting is, by and large, not suitable for settled agriculture
    • Thus, most of tribal communities live in hilly and forested tracts and other remote areas of the country
  • Constrained by the rigors of environment, which fostered physical and social isolation for ages, the tribal communities have developed their own traditional mode of living
    • However, their interaction with non-tribal people after Independence has changed the scenario to some extent

State level patterns

  • No tribes have been scheduled in Punjab and Haryana, and the Union Territories of Delhi, Chandigarh and Puducherry
    • While as much as 94.43% of total population in Mizoram and 94.79% in Lakshadweep belong to Scheduled Tribes
    • The other states/UTs with predominantly Scheduled Tribes population are
      • Nagaland (86.48%)
      • Meghalaya (86.15%)
      • Arunachal Pradesh (68.79%)
    • Among the states, Chhattisgarh has the largest proportion of Scheduled Tribes population of 30.62%, followed by Jharkhand 26.21%
      • Gujarat, Assam, Rajasthan, Jammu-Kashmir region and Goa are the four major states in which more than 10% of the population belong to Scheduled tribes
    • Roughly one-third of the Scheduled tribes population of India lives in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha
    • Going by absolute numbers, the Scheduled Tribes population was the highest in Madhya Pradesh, followed by Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jharkhand and so on

The complete list of name of tribes, along with their location in India, can be found on the below link:


Tribal Economy

  • The dominant economies of the tribes are:
  1. Hunting, Fishing and Gathering
    • The main tribes which practice these professions are the Raji in Uttar Pradesh; Kharia, Birhor, Korwa, Pariha and Birgias in Jharkhand; Kuki in West Bengal; Bhil in Rajasthan; Konyak and Naga in Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh; etc.
  2. Shifting Cultivation and Lumbering
    • In this type of cultivation, a piece of forest land in cleared by slash and burn technique and crops are grown
      • After 2-3 years, the fertility of the soil is reduced and the farmer shifts to another piece of land
    • It is called Jhum in North-East India, Kumari in Western Ghats, Watra in South-East Rajasthan; penda, bewar, dahia and deppa in different parts of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh
    • Lumbering involved obtaining wood from forests
    • Main tribes involved in shifting cultivation and lumbering are Bhutias in Uttar Pradesh; Korwa in Jharkhand; Bhil in Maharashtra and Gujarat; Naga, Chakmas, Garo, Notia in North eastern states; etc.
  3. Sedentary Cultivation and Animal husbandry
    • Sedentary cultivation is a type of agriculture in which a farmer grows crops to meet his own requirements and not much is left for sale in market
      • This is generally practiced along with Animal Husbandry
    • Main tribes adopting these are Tharu, Bhotias in Uttar Pradesh; Santhal, Polia and Bhumji in West Bengal; Irula in Tamilnadu; Bhil in Maharashtra; etc.

Challenges faced by Indian tribes

  • Loss of Control over Natural Resources
    • With the advent of industrialisation in India and the discovery of mineral and other resources in tribal inhabited areas, the tribal pockets were thrown open to outsiders and state control replaced tribal control.
    • With the impetus to the development process after independence, pressure on land and forests increased
    • This resulted in loss of ownership rights over land, owing to chronic indebtedness, unscrupulous landlords, money­lenders, contractors and officials
    • With the concepts of protected forests and national forests gaining currency, the tribals felt themselves uprooted from their cultural moorings and with no secure means of livelihood.
  • Lack of Education
    • As per Census 2011, literacy rate of Scheduled Tribes (STs) was 59%
    • The factors which inhibit the tribals from taking to education are superstitions and prejudices, extreme poverty, nomadic lifestyle of certain tribes, lack of interest in alien subjects taught through an alien language and a lack of suitable teachers and other facilities in the tribal areas.
  • Problems of Health and Nutrition
    • Because of economic backwardness and insecure livelihood, the tribals face health problems, such as prevalence of disease, like malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, diarrhoea and jaundice, problems associated with malnutrition like iron deficiency and anaemia, high infant mortality rates, low levels of life expectancy, etc.
  • Gender Issues
    • The degradation of the natural environment, particularly through the destruction of forests and a rapidly shrinking resource base, has had its impact on the status of women
    • The opening of the tribal belts to mining, industries and commercialisation has exposed tribal men and women to the ruthless operations of the market economy, giving rise to consumerism and to commoditisation of women.

Measures taken towards Tribal Development

  • Constitutional Provisions and Safeguards
    • Article 342 lays down that the President may by public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within tribes or tribal communities or parts which shall for the purpose of this Constitution deemed to be Scheduled Tribes
    • Article 164 provides for a Ministry of Tribal Welfare in each of the State of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa which have large concentration of Scheduled Tribes population
    • Article 244 provides for the inclusion of a Fifth Schedule in the Constitution for incorporating provisions for the administration of Scheduled Areas and Tribes of the States which have sizeable tribal population (other than those of Assam)
    • Article 275 provides for the grant of special funds by the Union Government to State Government for promoting the welfare of Scheduled Tribes and providing them with a better administration.
  • Representation in Legislatures and Panchayats
    • Under Article 330 and 332 of the Indian Constitution, seats have been reserved for Scheduled Tribes in Lok Sabha and state Vidhan Sabhas.
    • Following the introduction of Panchayati Raj, Suitable safeguards have been provided for proper representation of the members of the Scheduled Tribes by reserving seats for them in the Gram Panchayats, Block Panchayats, District Panchayats etc.
  • Reservation in the Service
    • Government has made provisions for their adequate representation in the services. To facilitate their adequate representation certain concessions have been provided, such as:
      • Exemption in age limits
      • Relaxation in the standard of suitability
    • Commissioner for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes
      • Under Article 338 of Indian Constitution a Commissioner has been appointed by the President of India. The main duty of the Commissioner is
      • to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under the Constitution and
      • to report the President on working of these safeguards.
  • Other schemes by the Government Include:
    • The scheme of Mechanism for Marketing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) through Minimum Support Price (MSP) and Development of Value Chain for MFP covers various activities including procurement of MFPs when their market price falls below their notified MSP, setting up/expansion of storage facilities, expanding the knowledge base on MFP, training for sustainable collection, value addition, etc.
    • Pre Matric Scholarship Scheme for ST students
    • Post Matric Scholarship Scheme for ST students
    • National Overseas Scholarship for ST students for studying abroad.
    • National Fellowship and Scholarship for Higher Education of ST students
    • Grants-in-aid to Voluntary Organisations Working for welfare of STs
    • Strengthening Education among ST Girls in Low Literacy Districts
    • Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)
    • Special Central Assistance(SCA) to Tribal Sub-Scheme(TSS)
    • Grants-in-aid to Tribal Research Institutes
    • Research Information & Mass Education, Tribal Festival and Others