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Uplifting India’s Tribal Population


The article emphasised the importance of uplifting India’s tribal population and the government’s efforts to empower them, address their pressing institutional issues, and integrate them into society by valuing their cultural heritage.


GS Paper 2: Social Justice

Mains Question

Explain how the imperatives of ‘development’ have shaped Indian attitudes toward tribes. Discuss how this has influenced state policies. (250 words)


  • Announcement: On the eve of Bhagwan Birsa Munda’s birth anniversary, the Government of India declared November 15 to be Janjatiya Gaurav Divas every year.
  • Insight: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that during the 25-year period leading up to India@100, the country resolved to give a more significant and majestic identity to India’s tribal legacy traditions.
  • Importance: This historic decision connects India’s tribal legacy, heritage, culture, and achievements with the spirit of Aatmanirbhar Bharat and strengthens India’s position in global forums.

Bhagwan Birsa Munda’s Biography

  • Birsa Munda was a young freedom fighter and tribal leader whose activism in the late nineteenth century is remembered as a powerful symbol of opposition to British rule in India.
  • He fought valiantly against the exploitative British colonial system and spearheaded the movement against British oppression, calling for ‘Ulgulan’ (Revolution).

The Indian Constitution includes a reference to tribes.

  • The term “tribe” is not defined in the Indian Constitution; however, the term “Scheduled Tribe” was inserted into the Constitution through Article 342. (i).
    • It states that “the President may, by public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within the tribes or tribal communities or parts which shall be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes for the purposes of this Constitution.”
    • There are over 730 Scheduled Tribes (STs) recognised under Article 342 of the Indian Constitution.
  • The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution calls for the establishment of a Tribes’ Advisory Council in each of the states with Scheduled Areas in order to promote self-government.
  • Essential characteristics: According to the Lokur Committee (1965), the following essential characteristics must be present in order to be identified as a Scheduled Tribe:
    • Indication of Primitive Characteristics
    • Individual Culture
    • Fear of making contact with the larger community
    • Geographical Exclusion
    • Backwardness

A summary of India’s tribal population

  • Statistics: India is home to approximately 25% of the world’s ethnic population, making it a diverse culturally diverse country.
    • According to the 2011 census, 10.42 crore Indians are classified as ‘Scheduled Tribes’ (ST), accounting for 8.6% of the country’s total population.
  • State-level data: Of the 15 major states, Chhattisgarh has the highest proportion of Scheduled Tribe population (30.62%), followed by Jharkhand (26.21%).
    • In addition, 71% of India’s Scheduled Tribes are concentrated in six states: Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand.
  • Recognition: Tribes are actively taking advantage of opportunities in fields such as education and sports. For example, one of the Khelo India Scheme’s verticals, “Promotion of rural and indigenous/tribal games,” is dedicated to encouraging and promoting traditional sports in the country.
    • They are also receiving Padma Awards and international recognition for their dedication and commitment.
    • The nation’s first tribal President exemplifies the Scheduled Tribes’ enormous potential.
  • Rejuvenated efforts: Despite their natural talent, tribals have had to struggle for a long time due to neglect and apathy towards them.
    • However, as India shifts to a people-centric approach, the issues confronting tribal people are being addressed one by one.
    • The Indian Prime Minister’s call for Reform, Perform, Transform has served as a guiding principle in ensuring last-mile distribution of benefits and improving development outcomes across the country.

Approach advancement

  • Knowledge Cultivation: The most important development strategy advocated is holistic education, a powerful tool that enables positive advancement, making necessary reforms while conserving traditional and cultural customs in order to preserve tribal heritage.
  • Overcoming Naxal resistance: Left-wing extremism has made establishing educational infrastructure in affected areas difficult.
    • The current regime aims to address these issues at the block level, provide tribal students with quality education by allowing them to attend the best Eklavya Model Residential Schools, with a special emphasis on young girls, and offer scholarship programmes.
    • GOAL (Going Online as Leaders) is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Meta (formerly Facebook) that aims to empower tribal youth and women digitally through the mentor-mentee model.
  • Technological advancement: The Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) has kept up with the latest technologies to digitally empower tribal people and upskill them even in remote locations to help them produce and sell their manufactured goods.
    • For example, IIT-Kanpur implemented the ‘Tech for Tribals’ initiative, which provides tribal entrepreneurs with hands-on training in value addition and processing of forest products through Van Dhan Vikas Kendras (VDVKs).
  • Preserving vernaculars: MoTA is also working to preserve and nurture several tribal languages, and has collaborated with academic institutions and experts to develop tribal language primers.
    • According to MoTA, there are 780 languages spoken in India, 443 of which are said to be spoken by tribal communities.
  • Increasing economic welfare: The Vision for India@2047 aims to achieve new heights of economic welfare and build the world’s most advanced infrastructure.
    • To give this vision traction, MoTA has prioritised sustainable livelihoods, income generation, education, health, and the promotion of tribal people’s diverse ethnic cultures.
  • Financial Assistance to Tribal Research Institutes (TRIs): To preserve tribal art and culture, financial assistance is provided to TRIs across the country to preserve and promote tribal culture and heritage.
    • This is accomplished through anthropological research and documentation, the maintenance and preservation of art and artefacts, the establishment of tribal museums, exchange visits for tribals to other parts of the state, the organisation of tribal festivals, and so on.


In the long run, India is viewed as a leader in sustainable development, with a solid socioeconomic foundation that provides a wide range of opportunities to all residents in order to unlock India’s potential and build a prosperous, people-led nation.

December 2023