Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups

The Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) are the marginalized section of the Scheduled tribes of India. They are a section who are relatively isolated, educationally and socio-economically backward, living in a habitat far away from amenities. PVTG is not a Constitutional category, nor are these constitutionally recognized communities. It is a government of India classification created with the purpose of enabling improvement in the conditions of certain communities with particularly low development. As per Census 2011, there are a total of 75 PVTGs out of 705 Scheduled Tribes, spread over 17 states and one Union Territory (UT).

During the Fourth Five Year Plan, a sub-category was created within Scheduled Tribes to identify the most vulnerable groups which were considered to be at the lowest levels of development. onsequently, on the basis of the Dhebar Commission report, a criterion for identifying Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups was established as:

  • Pre-agricultural level of technology,
  • Low level of literacy,
  • Economic backwardness,
  • A declining or stagnant population.
  • Incoherency in identification:
    • The process of identification of PVTG adopted by the states differ in its methods.
    • The spirit of the direction made by MoTA was loosely considered as a result there has been no uniform principle adopted in identifying the PVTGs.
  • Outdated List:
    • The Anthropological Survey of India observes that the list of PVTG is overlapping and repetitive.
    • For example, the list contains synonyms of the same group such as the Mankidia and the Birhor in Odisha, both of which refer to the same group.
  • Lack of baseline surveys:
    • Base line surveys are done to precisely identify the PVTG families, their habitat and socio-economic status, so that development initiatives are implemented for these communities, based on the facts and figures
    • The Anthropological Survey of India observed 75 PVTGs, base line surveys exists for about 40 groups, even after declaring them as PVTGs.
    • Lack of baseline surveys hinder effective implementation of welfare schemes
  • Unequal Benefits from welfare schemes:
    • In some cases, a PVTG receives benefits only in a few blocks in a district, while the same group is deprived in adjacent blocks.
    • For example, the LanjiaSaora are recognized as a PVTG across Odisha but the micro-projects are established only in two blocks. The rest of the LanjiaSaora are treated among the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and do not receive benefit from these projects.
  • Impact of developmental projects:
    • In 2002, a Standing Committee formed by the MoTA to review the ‘Development of Primitive Tribal Groups,’ shared that the tribal people, especially PVTGs, are worst affected by developmental projects like dams, industries and mines.
  • Denial of land rights:
    • PVTGs have faced systematic alienation from their resources due to conservation purposesdeclaration of Reserved Forests and Protected Forests.
    • For example: In 2009, 245 Baiga families were forced out from the Achanakmar Tiger Reserve, when it was notified so under the Project Tiger
    • Further, despite Forest Rights Act (2006) in place, habitat rights of PVTGs are still being forfeited in many instances.
    • For Example: Mankidia community of Odisha are denied habitat rights in Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) by state’s forest department
  • Livelihood issues:
    • Due to shrinking forests, environmental changes and forest conservation policies, their Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) collection is affected.
    • They lack awareness about market value of NTFP and are exploited by middle men.
  • Health Issues:
    • PVTGs suffer from many health problems like anaemia, malaria; gastro-intestinal disorders; micro nutrient deficiency and skin diseases due to poverty, lack of safe drinking water, bad sanitation, lack of health services, superstition and deforestation
    • Uncontacted tribal group such as the Sentinelese tribe of Andaman are also at the very high risk of contracting diseases in case of contact with outsiders
  • Illiteracy:
    • Though literacy rate among many PVTGs have increased over the past years, it still remains low at 30-40%. Further, poor female literacy is a major concern
  • Vulnerabilities of tribes in Andaman and Nicobar:
    • The fragile tribal communities have been facing expropriation of their ecosystem by outsiders.
    • The outside influences are impacting their land use patterns, use of the sea, overall biodiversity leading to material and non-material changes.
    • Although India’s Supreme Court in 2002 ordered that the The Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) through the Jarawa’s reserve should be closed, it remains open – and tourists use it for ‘human safaris’ to the Jarawa.
  • Along with the Census, a proper survey should be conducted to comprehensively capture the data on PVTGs- population enumeration, health status, nutritional level, education, vulnerabilities etc. This would help implement welfare measures better
  • Of the 75 PVTGs, those groups whose population is declining should be clearly identified and survival strategy should be devised
  • PVTGs threatened with relocation of wildlife areas or development projects should be identified and actionable strategies should be devised to prevent the same
  • It is important to recognise the innate connection between PVTGs and their lands and habitats. Therefore, a rights-based approach for development of PVTGs should be adopted
  • Effective, preventive and curative health systems should be developed to address the health issues plaguing PVTGs
  • A massive exercise in creating awareness about PVTG Rights, amongst communities, officials and civil society groups, is needed. It is important to respect their culture, traditions, beliefs and sustainable livelihoods.
  • The government needs to revamp its priorities towards protecting the indigenous tribes of A&N islands from outside influence. India needs to sign the 1989 convention of the ILO, and implement its various policies to protect the rights of the indigenous population.
  • The govt. should also make efforts to sensitise settlers and outsiders about PVTGs of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

The principles of Tribal Panchsheel must be followed while working for the welfare of PVTGs and they must be allowed to catch up with the mainstream at their own pace. An enabling environment must be created in which communities are empowered to make their own life and livelihood choices and choose their path of development.