India’s Forgotten People

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
Seth Godin Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us 

As per my theoretical knowledge, the word ‘tribe’ is generally used for a socially cohesive unit, associated with a territory, the number of which regards them as politically autonomous. Different tribes have own cultures, dialects, life style, social structures, rituals, values etc. The forest occupies a central position in tribal cultures and economy. The tribal way of life is very much dictated by the forest rights from the birth to death. It is ironical that the poorest people of India are living in the areas that are richest in natural resources. Coming to the point, there are many such people living in India, who can be called “tribe” and yes, most of them face some kind of problem because they are not part of the so-called mainstream society:

– They possess small and uneconomical landholdings because of which their crop yield is less and hence they remain economically indebted.

– Only a small percentage of the population participates in occupational activities in the secondary and tertiary sector.

– Literacy rate among Tribes is very low.

Traditionally tribal communities have undergone drastic changes due to large scale migration, encroachment by outsiders and increasing vulnerability of the resources on which they have traditionally depended. Though many measures like scheduling of tribal areas, creasing land transfer and recognition of the rights over resources is encouraged by the Government of India. Yet, tribals are facing problems of land alienation, displacement, indebtedness and bonded labor. Many of the problems are rooted from their increasing attachment with the dominant culture and lack of basic competence in education:

– A good portion of the land in tribal area has been legally transferred to non-tribals

“Forest not only provide them materials to build their home but also give them fuel, herbal medicines for curing disease”

– Government welfare program for the welfare of the tribals have not significantly helped the tribals in raising their economic status.

“Still in tribal area people are not aware about then Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), 2005.”

– Banking facilities in the tribal area are so inadequate that is why tribals have to depend mainly on moneylenders.

– The medium of instruction is another hindrance to the promotion of education among the tribe. Most of the tribal languages does not have a script of their own.

– Hence the children are obliged to learn things in a language which is foreign to them. Even in the tribal areas the number of tribal teachers are very less and hence communication problem always arises between the students and teachers.

Mitting with Koytas Gujarat
Discussing about the basic problems and solution with Dang’s Tribe – District Dang – Gujarat

– Poor Health; Malnutrition, as expected, is the most common health problem among tribal. In addition, communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) are major public health problems. Some tribal groups are also at high risk for sickle cell anemia. Generally tribal diets are seen to be deficient in protein, iron, iodine, and vitamins. Tribal people from their basic ways of living remote places and shyness of mixing with community at large frequently are worst sufferers of health hazards.

Here are some suggestions and practices followed by different social workers in the tribal areas. Assimilation is one of the ways of dealing with the tribal problems. Thus, according to this approach, we cannot deal with tribal problems on the basis of tribal culture and life but by changing them into the frame of new community. According to this solution advocated by the social reformers and voluntary organizations, assisting and encouraging the tribals to assimilate them with the mainstream of national life, can alone permanently solve the tribal problems. The Christian missionaries on the one hand and the Hindu missionaries are trying to assimilate them into Christian and Hindu community respectively. This approach has its own limitations. Complete assimilation is a difficult task. The tribals are not prepared to give up all of their traditional tribal beliefs, practices and ideas. Any attempt to impose the external cultural practices on them, creates in them guilt feelings, confusions and mental conflicts. This solution may even create economic, religious and moral degradation among them.

Tribal must be kept at a distance from the rest of the society. Keeping them in isolation in some “national parks” or “reserved areas” would solve two problems: (a) the tribals would be in a position to maintain their independent identity; (b) they would be free from the exploitation of outsiders. The core idea behind the suggestion is that sufficient time must be given to the tribals to assimilate themselves with the rest of the community. The limitation of this approach is that when once these tribals are kept in isolation they are likely to develop vested interests and keep themselves permanently away from others. Various solutions have been presented for dealing effectively with the tribal problems. Every year government launches different schemes for the welfare of the deprived section of the society but still, we are very far from drawing a line from Exclusion to Inclusion.

I am living in the tribal area from last five months to understand what exactly this area requires from the government and civil society. What I understand currently is that solutions should come from the tribals at the time of making any plan or schemes and they should be part of the planning group. Generally, this is not a practice here. We are trying to impose solutions from outside without analyzing the need of the community, which is why tribal community in India are very far from development. Sometime I feel that this is not a part of India. That is why I say India’s forgotten people.



Nadeem Alam was working as a child laborer in a brass factory and was rescued in Moradabad, Uttar

Pradesh. During his time in Jamia Millia Islamia, he worked with various organizations working in the field of child labor and child development. He completed his masters in Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy from Dr. K.R. Narayanan center for Dalits and Minorities Studies. Nadeem is true to his inner voice and wants to go back to his locality to help thousands of others like him who are still involved in child labor activities. Nadeem is excited to develop his research skills and work with fellows from different cultures. Prior to AIF, Nadeem also completed two-year resident Gandhi Fellow program run by Piramal Foundation for Education Leadership at Udaipur Rajasthan.

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3 thoughts on “India’s Forgotten People

  1. Informative article and very good suggestions. I would not say we should solve their problems, lets be practical and say we together should go further to improve their condition. Since you have understood teen more than us, hope you would work forward towards it.

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