THE UNTOLD STORY OF TRIBE
Author: Archana Sathyan, IV year of B.B.A., LL.B.(Hons.) from School of Indian Legal Thought
On February 28, 2018, Madhu, a 30-year-old tribal man from Kerala's Attapadi region collapsed and died inside a police jeep as he was being taken to a Government Tribal Specialty Hospital at Kottathara. Madhu had been handed over to the police by an irate mob that had attacked him, accusing him of theft. India’s population includes nearly one hundred million tribal people.^(1) Why do they need to steal someone for food? And what makes them “special”? how are they marginalised?
Scheduled Tribes(ST) and scheduled castes(SCs) are official designations in the Indian constitution gathering various groups of historically disadvantaged communities in the country.^(2) also known as Adivasis. They mainly live in tribal areas mostly close to forest areas, but not all Adivasis are STs. Tribal groups are geographically isolated and lingered outside the realm of the country's development process. After independence, the government did set up special provisions for their recognition, welfare and development. However, with low political weight, infrastructure development in the tribal area remained comparatively low and it widening the socio-economic gap between the so-called ‘tribals’ and the rest of the population. The Indian constitution is supposed to protect tribal interests and their rights over the land through the fifth and six schedules. Under article 342, tribes are collectively identified as “Scheduled tribes ``and their right to self-determination is guaranteed by part X, and under Article 244 deals with the administration of the scheduled area and tribal areas. (3) tribals are also protected under the PESA Act 1996 enables tribal self-rule in these areas. (4)
Migration has been one of the major coping mechanisms of tribals to escape the lack of livelihood opportunities in their places of origin. This has created a cardinal gap between the ground realities and policymaking which needs to be bridged. Thousands of tribal women and girls migrate from their hinterlands in tribal areas to urban city centres mainly in search of employment. They are new to the city lifestyle and environment and find it difficult to make the adjustment with the changed situation and environment. They have to face a number of problems in the cities they migrate to. Moreover, they are exploited both financially and sexually by the non-tribals in the cities. There are also differences in the extent to which the tribes interact with non-tribal communities. An interesting fact is that there is no reliable migration data in India.
A large number of interstate and intrastate migration exist in India. An interesting fact is that there is no officially consistent data available in India. The National Commission for Rural Labour estimates that 10 million migrant workers are there. And Private Research estimates it’s about 120 million (2009). The various reasons that force tribals to migrate in places where they land up for economic succour. Almost 80% of the tribal population is rural and is mostly dependent on agriculture for livelihood.
However, the status of lands and irrigation available in those lands dissuades any form of sustainable agriculture. This makes agriculture a possibility for them only in the few months of monsoon. Another traditional source of livelihood for tribals is forest, produce and with the Scheduled tribes and other Forest Dwellers (recognition of forest rights) Act, 2006(5) the ownership of forest produced by tribals has got a new impetus. Regardless, most of the forest produce collected by tribals gets sold in local man where middlemen buy these products at cheap prices and pocket most of the profits, with the tribals getting very less for their hard work and knowledge of the forest. The local economy is strongly anchored on agriculture and forestry-based activities which have lost their value. Consequently, middlemen have begun filling some of the gaps by providing wage employment and thus triggering migration. In the process, in order to maintain their hold on the tribals, middlemen were pushing hassle-free cash loans and thus maintaining consistent pressure with so-called lucrative offers of repayment only through wages. As a result, tribals consistently remained in debt-trap. Many governments postulate and implement laws for the upliftment.
Like MGNREGA(6) has been launched to provide 100 days of work to rural people. National Rural Health Mission (8) has been launched to provide effective healthcare to the rural population. And also ensures reservation for women in panchayat and election. (9) Even though tribals undergo double oppression as compared to male counterparts due to the patriarchal community set up, distinct features of Tribal population like isolation, primitive economy, homogenous society and increasing encroachment by non-tribal population. Many tribal women are participating higher than the SC, ST women but lack a fixed income source and below the poverty line, hence they are working in rural areas to survive their daily life. Since tribal people are poor and below the poverty line they do not send their daughters to school and they think that girls can give hands in their work .Lack of awareness of nutrition and requirement they suffer from many diseases. These inversely affect the upliftment of their life and make them backwards. For the betterment of tribes, we should implement the laws and there should be a periodical review whether they are protected or marginalised. All are equal before the law and have the right to live with dignity. Through regular motivation and counselling, we can improve their social status and make them privileged as everyone lives.
(1)NEWS ARTICLE FROM MALAYALA MANORAMA
(2)Scheduled caste communities were considered varna, or outside the existing varna system. They were considered to be a section of people in Hindu society who are not from the four major varnas, i.e., Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra. Those who belonged to one of the four major varnas are called Savarna.
(3)Article 244 in the Constitution of India 1949
Administration of Scheduled Areas and Tribal Areas
(1) The provisions of the Fifth Schedule shall apply to the administration and control of the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in any State other than the States of Assam Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram
(4)Article 342 in The Constitution Of India 1949
(1) The President may with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within tribes or tribal communities which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State or Union territory, as the case may be
(2) Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Tribes specified in a notification issued under clause ( 1 ) any tribe or tribal community or part of or group within any tribe or tribal community, but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification PART XVII OFFICIAL LANGUAGE CHAPTER I LANGUAGE OF THE UNION.
1. The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 or PESA is a law enacted by the Government of India for ensuring self-governance through traditional Gram Sabhas for people living in the Scheduled Areas of India
2. Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act 2005, is Indian labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the 'right to work'
3. The National Health Mission was launched by the government of India in 2013 subsuming the National Rural Health Mission and National Urban Health Mission
4. State electionCommission. Seats are reserved for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, women belonging to Scheduled Cast, Scheduled Tribe and for Women, in every Panchayat/Municipality. Not less than 50% of the total seats (including Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe women) is reserved for women