tribal communities of India
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About the Author:

Sonakshi Singla is has written this research paper. She is a law student (B.A.LL.B) of Army Institute of Law , Mohali.


Tribal Population is around 5.6% of the total population of the country. They have some common characteristics which are easily observed in all the tribal groups, these are territory, language, ancestor , religion ,culture , political organization ,economic organization. The central government as well as state government is trying to uplift the tribal communities. The government is trying to elevate the tribals from the state of ignorance , illiteracy , poverty etc through its department of tribal welfare and by various welfare schemes and programs.Through this paper we will try to analyze these schemes, their success rates as well as what more should be done for the welfare of the tribal population. 


Tribal population, governmental schemes, welfare , implementation, social problem.


The tribal community represents one of the most important categories of Indian social structure. India is a multiracial country and tribes are considered to be original inhabitants of India. There are several groups which occupy India, which have their cultural characteristics and varying level of development. Many groups are still in their primitive stage and they are often known as the Hill Tribes , Adi Praja , Girijans, Vanavasis , Aranyavasis, etc. According to the 2011 census 8.6 % of the population constituted tribals. Tribal population is spread over the length and breadth of the entire country.

 S.C Dubey commented that “the term tribe is indiscriminately.”Thus the constitution of India adopted the term scheduled tribes, and this was introduced by Simon Commission in 1928. There are  various sociologists who defined the term  ‘tribe’ , one of them is – 

D.N. Majumdar described tribe as “a social group with territorial affiliation, endogamous with no specialization of functions ruled by tribal officers hereditary or otherwise, united in language or dialect recognizing social distance with other tribes or caste.[1]

As it is very evident from the definition that there are some common characteristics which are easily observed in all the tribal groups, these are territory, language, ancestor , religion ,culture , political organization ,economic organization .There is even a feeling of unity among the tribes. Tribal communities in India are facing some common problems like the problem of geographical separation , economical problems, social problems , health-related issues , the problem of illiteracy, unemployment, etc. The government did recognize the problem faced by them and attempts have been made to deal with them effectively. The Britishers during their rule over India didn’t do anything for the tribal population and through their policy of indirect rule they ensured that they are protected from neighboring dominant communities. After independence, not only the central government but also the state government tried to uplift the tribal communities. The government is trying to elevate the tribals from the state of ignorance , illiteracy , poverty etc through its department of tribal welfare and by various welfare schemes and programs. 


“ C N Shankar Rao, Sociology of Indian Society” , is a book by Rao which entails vast explanation about various facets of the Indian society and enhances students understanding on Indian social structure by focusing on both structural and phenomenological aspects of Indian social system.

“ Large Area Multipurpose Societies Lamp Scheme”, is an article by IndiaFilings which aims at explaining the LAMP scheme initiated by the government and its purpose.

“Tribal people want strengthening of LAMPS” is any article by staff reporter at The Hindu which aims at telling the plight as well as the expectations of the tribals from Tamil Nadu regarding the LAMP initiative by the government.


  • To find about various tribal welfare schemes launched by the state and central governments.
  • To check whether these schemes are implemented properly .
  • To provide suggestions for better implementation of these schemes.


This descriptive and secondary data-based analysis is conducted to understand the role and effect of centre and state government welfare schemes on the tribal communities in India . The data collected for the purpose of research is mostly from various articles, journals, newspaper reports, etc.


Tribal schemes and programmes in India

The central government assists the state and union territories through the special central assistance (SCA) which tries to supplement their efforts in development of tribal population. This assistance is mainly focused on assisting in family oriented income generating schemes like horticulture , agriculture , fisheries , co-operative farming and small scale industries. Under Article 275 (1) , grants are provided to states and UT to meet the costs for tribal development . Rs.500 crores was allocated for Annual Plan 2004-05.[2]

The central government initiated one major scheme which is LAMPS i.e. Large Sized Multi Purpose co-operative Societies [3]which aim at providing loans to tribal for the sale of surplus products as well as to purchase necessities for life . The tribals are provided with improved seeds , fertilizers, agriculture equipment, etc and they aim at protecting tribals from the exploitation of middlemen , moneylenders, etc. 

The success story of LAMPS is evident in various states, one such instance is 20 LAMPS are functioning in the state of Tamil Nadu to assist the tribes in marketing their products and providing interest-free short and medium term loans. Along with this, LAMPS runs 101 fair-price shops. Tribal communities sell coffee, pepper, honey, tamarind, tea, fruits, flowers, grains, and spices to these societies located in hill areas and tribal populated areas.[4] But the people there have more expectations from LAMPS they want it to be attached to the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited. Also, they wanted LAMPS to become the nodal agency of the National Scheduled Tribe Financial Development Corporation.[5]

Another important scheme is  the tribal cooperative marketing development Federation of India (TRIFED) which was set up by GOI in 1987, and its main goal was to assist tribal communities in the field of marketing. TRIFED also aims at providing remunerative prices to forest produce which is surplus so that the tribals are not exploited by the hands of middlemen and private traders. TRIFED is launching its e-commerce portal named “Tribes India” and has received Rs 105 crore from tribal ministry and Rs 17 crore from Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).[6]  The government is working for this and we are hopeful that we might see some positive outcomes in the coming years.

20-point program[7] is also one such initiative taken by the government which aims at the development of scheduled tribes , which also includes elevation of the tribal families above the poverty line. It also aims at improving their quality of life and ensuring justice to them.The central government even came up with a scheme in 1992-93 which aimed at developing the skills in tribal youth so that they could have better employment as well as self-employment opportunities. Under this scheme Vocational Training Centers were set up at various tribal areas. The capacity of all such centers is around 100 trainees , and each center might cater to at least five vocational skills or other courses which could enhance the employment prospects in the particular tribal area . Funding to these centers is provided through National Scheduled Tribes Finance Development Corporation (NSTFDC) in the form of a loan through State Channelizing Agencies.[8]We can see various examples from different states across India which suggest that crafts and home industries be encouraged. 

Bihar even has established a Woman’s Co-operative Society[9] so that the tribal women can participate more and more in pursuing handicrafts. Even attempts are made to safeguard the labor interests of the tribal population. States as well as the central government did even take various initiatives to provide educational facilities to the scheduled tribes. The very basic of them is that students from the S.T community are provided with concession in fees, stipend, free stationery, books , etc. The mid-day meal is even provided to the students. 20% of seats are even reserved in technical institutions and various relaxations are provided for the passing marks and the age limit for various examinations.[10]


In 1993-94 center launched Educational of ST Girls in Low Literacy Pockets[11], which aimed at increasing the literacy of tribal females in 48 tribal districts in 8 states of India where the literacy was even below 2%. In 1998 the scheme was revised and is aimed at establishing residential educational complexes from class 1 to class 5 and this was implemented through the help of state government/ UTs. Another scheme that was introduced in 2007-08 which aimed a Top Class Education for ST Students, providing a center-sponsored scholarship scheme for scheduled tribe students. This envisaged encouraging ST students to pursue higher education at the post-graduation level in the institutes which are identified by the ministry of tribal affairs. Under this Scheme, during the 11th Five Year Plan period (2007-08 to 2011-12), an amount of Rs. 13.83 crore was released to cover 814 students.[12]

Another scheme is Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship for ST Students, which is a Central Scheme that aims to provide fellowship to Scheduled Tribe students for pursuing higher studies such as M.Phil and Ph.D. The scheme was introduced in the year 2005-06. Under the Scheme, during the 11th Five Year Plan period (2007-08 to 2011-12), an amount of Rs. 232.64 crore was released.[13]

Ashrama Schools[14] are established in various tribal areas with the basic motive of providing education as well as vocational training to the scheduled tribes. In these schools, training is provided in areas of hunting, agriculture, beekeeping, poultry, husbandry, etc. Around 600 residential ashrama schools are situated in various states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujrat, Madras, Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan, etc. This scheme was initiated in 1990-91 in tribal sub-areas to assist the states and UTs on a 50 percent and 100 percent basis respectively. 

Pre-examination training centers for S.C.s and S.T.s have been established so that the tribal students can even prepare for the UPSC examination and be I.A.S and I.P.S for the country. As per Census 2011, the literacy rate of Scheduled Tribes (STs) was 59% whereas the overall literacy rate was 73% at all Indian levels.[15]Another scheme that was initiated by the central government was the Girls/Boys Hostel Scheme, under the third five-year plan the girl hostel scheme was started which focused on providing residential facilities to the tribal girls who are pursuing their education. The central government provided 50% assistance for the construction of such hostels. Similarly in 1989-90, the boys’ hostel scheme was initiated in the same pattern. During the 10th Five Year Plan, both these schemes were merged into a single scheme.

In the context of the trend of establishing quality residential schools for the promotion of education in the tribal areas, the Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) for ST students. [16]These are set up in States/UTs with grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution of India. It aimed at the physical, social and cultural development of the students as well as to cater to their needs.


What the government needs to do is to understand the ground reality of the tribal population. The administration is required to go to tribal areas and meet them to find out what are the problems which they face and make suitable schemes and programs. There is very less representation of tribal population in shaping policies, making plans or implementing services, if there representation is increased we might see some positive outcomes. There is still a gap between the tribals and non-tribals as well as there is a gap between the rich tribals and the poor tribals in India. We need to bring a change in our attitude towards tribal people so that we could see some positive changes in their regional, societal as well as at national levels. We need to integrate them into the mainstream and stop discriminating against them. The government needs to understand the plight of the tribal community. The government has enacted various schemes for tribal welfare but where we are lacking is in its implementation.


Assessment of these Welfare Schemes

No doubt the central government has taken various initiatives to safeguard the interests of the tribal communities, either by legislative provisions or by constitutional safeguards. Various committees are even set up from time to time to suggest new policies and schemes , the state government is even encouraged to initiate more schemes for the upliftment of the tribals.

Despite all these actions by the government , the plight of the tribal population has not improved much. Many of these schemes proved to be a failure and didn’t benefit the tribals at all. S.C 

Dube in his article the Encyclopedia of Social Work in India Vol 3 suggested various failings and shortcomings in these tribal welfare schemes.[17] The tribal welfare program planners failed to understand the diversity which existed among the tribes and they considered them as one monolithic and undifferentiated entity. The amount of money which was spent in practicality is very low, as compared to what is mentioned in the papers officially . Most of the money was spent on the salaries of these planners, the bureaucrats who are employed on the construction of buildings, offices, maintenance of roads, bridges, etc. Moreover, the type of services which was provided under these schemes either educational, medical, or any other kind of service it was not of very good standards. Many schemes ensured that the tribals would be supplied with enough food grains but failed to do it. Even today many tribals live in very far off places where they do not have even the supply of pure drinking water and the tribal woman have to still walk miles  to fetch drinking water.

Even though the government has made various promises to provide self-employment as well as other employment opportunities to these tribal groups, there are still many cases where people have no jobs for the entire year and  suffer to make both ends meet. As we have already seen that various educational schemes were being promoted by the government but these schemes and programs are found to be very disappointing. It was also found that the various state governments have failed miserably in making judicious use of the center’s financial assistance, there are many instances in which the funds were diverted for their gains as well as devoted towards another department. The government employees are quite indifferent, irresponsible as well as lethargic in their approach towards tribal welfare at the grassroots level.


 We can agree that the center and the state government have taken a lot of interest in the tribal development and have initiated various programs projects and schemes for the same but a lot of it still pending to be done. Even the 6th plan document concerned that three decades of development have not shown the desired impact on the socially economy weaker and the educational handicap section. In the coming years, some more attention must be paid to the tribals so that they could be uplifted. It is to be noted that 92% of the tribal population live in rural areas and they face numerous problems to date even despite these development programs. The tribals even do not have proper health-care facilities it is very poorly designed and inefficiently managed .At the grassroots level, there are various development projects which the government wants to initiate at the cost of displacing the tribals from their lands. India needs to adopt the policy of inclusive development so that everyone could be taken care of. Even if government official try to communicate  with any tribal community their first reaction would be that the government still treats them as a second class citizen. There is no equality and the desire for a democratic and secular government.

Despite this, we have seen some social changes in tribal communities after independence some of them are tribals who are now taking more and more non-agriculture occupations. Many of them started working in non-agriculture occupations in the state of Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, etc. They have even acquired political awareness and started to participate in the political arena of the country and have  started to exercise their right to vote, contest elections, form political parties etc. Tribal economy for a long time was dependent upon the forest produce and r export activity such as collecting fruits, nuts, berries, medically viable plants, etc. They have lately shifted from subsistence economy to commercial and diversified economy.


[1] C N Shankar Rao , Sociology of Indian Society 344[ S. Chand Publishing, 2004].

[2] Budget_archieve, visited on June 2,2021).

[3] Indiafilings, visited on Sep 29,2021)

[4] Tribal people want strengthening of LAMPS visited on June 2,2020).

[5] Supra.

[6] TRIFED to strength e-biz portal by connecting tribal startups,, (Last visited on June 2,2020).

[7] Tripura Gov,,privileged%20population%20of%20the%20country,(Last Visited on Sep 29,2021)

[8] Vocational training centres for tribals,

spx?PRID=1606123 (Last visited on June 2,2021).

[9]Indiancooperative, visited on Sep 29,2021)

[10] C N Shankar Rao , Sociology of Indian Society 344[ S. Chand Publishing, 2004].

[11] Scheduled tribes welfare scheme , visited on June 2,2021).

[12] Scheduled tribes welfare scheme , visited on June 2,2021).

[13] Supra.

[14]PIB.GOV, visited Sep 29,2021)

[15] Government is Implementing a Number of Schemes / Programmes to Increase Literacy Rates and Education Level of STs,,73%25%20at%20all%20India%20level.&text=The%20PLFS%202018%2D19%20report,compared%20to%2078.1%25%20over%20all(Last visited on June 2,2020).

[16]Tribal.nic,,get%20employment%20in%20various%20sectors,(Last visited Sep 29,2021)

[17] C N Shankar Rao , Sociology of Indian Society 368[ S. Chand Publishing, 2004]


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