ePaper | Tribes need to be prioritised according to the “UNICEF Working Paper Series Children of India”: The Status of Tribal Children in India: A historical perspective

Excerpts from the IHD – UNICEF Working Paper Series, Children of India: Rights and Opportunities (2011)
By Virginius Xaxa, Professor of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University | Read the full report (PDF) >>

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2. Status of Tribal Children 
On the eve of Independence, a large section of the tribal communities which came under colonial rule in different phases, lived in relative isolation from the rest of the Indian society. If at all this isolation was broken, it was more in terms of land, labour and the credit market, which were predominantly exploitative. As for infrastructure such as education, health, agricultural development, irrigation and road networks, tribal communities, however, remained completely neglected. The state in which they found themselves during Independence was primarily attributed to their social and geographical isolation. In fact, the use of the category ‘tribe’ has greatly shaped the discourse on tribes in India. From this angle, the critical issue is their isolation, both geographical and social. The onus of the problems of tribes is squarely put on their isolation and economic, social and cultural features of their societies. While this has been the dominant view, exploitation of tribes by non-tribes, especially in the form of alienation of land from tribes to non-tribes has not altogether been overlooked.  […]

Under the broad strategy of tribal sub-plan a number of schemes have been introduced from time to time with a view to uplift the condition of the tribal people. Broadly the schemes fall under two categories – economic and social. Social development has been pursued along two lines – education and health – which take up the issue of women and children as well. For promotion of education, in addition to introduction of schools at various levels, several schemes have been worked out to give a boost to education among tribal children. Some of the key schemes have been residential schools, vocational education, scholarships, book grants, free uniforms, mid day meals, etc. In the sphere of health, emphasis has been laid on extending and improving health infrastructure such as PHC, CHC, etc. as well as prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Many of the schemes under health and education exclusively deal with women and children’s issues. Employment and income generation, credit and market support mechanism, skill and vocational training are some of the activities geared towards addressing specific economic issues to make way for overall economic development.

The development schemes under the TSP have been at work for about 36 years now. Yet the results are still very depressing. In 1993-94, the proportion of tribal population falling below the poverty line was 51.14 per cent, as compared to 35.97 per cent for the country as a whole. By 2004–05 the share of tribal population living below the poverty line had declined to 46.5 per cent, as compared to 27.6 per cent for the total population living below the poverty line (Mathur 2008). Thus, although there has been a decline, the level of poverty in the tribal population is still much higher than the national average and the gap between the two continues to be one of the major issues of concern in poverty discourse in India.

The same is the case with regard to other social indicators such as education and health. […]

11. Way Forward 
What this means is that groups, tribes and regions need to be prioritised in programmes of action taken up for the development of the tribal population. Programmes of action taken up to address issues often lack a holistic approach. For example, those addressing specific problems of children meet with failure as it is often carried out without any reference to the larger needs of the families or communities to which they belong. This means that new pedagogic practices require to be evolved in order to execute various developmental programmes. In doing so, good practices that exist in the society may turn out to be very handy. In case of tribal societies, for example, there are two striking aspects with regard to caring for the child and nurturing the young. One is the prevalence of breast feeding and the other is the tradition of kin/community care of the children. It is the kin care that explains as to why it is rare to find destitution and begging among tribal population, including tribal children. Equally important in this respect is the emphasis on ethics of work, which the children internalise quite early in life. Things have however begun to change because of displacement due to development projects and lack of rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced population.
Source: IHD – UNICEF Working Paper Series Children of India: Rights and

Source: Opportunities, Working Paper No. 7, The Status of Tribal Children in India: A historical perspective, 2011
Institute for Human Development, India
United Nations Children’s Fund, India
URL: http://www.ihdindia.org/pdf/virginius_xaxa.pdf
Date Visited: 31 March 2022

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

“Restoring land and livelihoods, empowering women, providing basic civic amenities such as fuel, water and sanitation are preconditions to advancements of rights of tribal children. Unless the government undertakes urgent steps to address these issues, its proclamations on child rights would remain examples of empty rhetoric and its actions would effectively continue to exclude those already sidelined.” – Archana Mehendale in “Isolated Communities and Ignored Claims: Tribal Children’s Right to Education in India” >>

“If women are empowered, there is more development in society” – Droupadi MurmuFind this and other speeches by the 15th President of India >>

Convention on the Rights of the Child – Article 5

States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention. […]

Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989 entry into force 2 September 1990, in accordance with article 49

Source: The Convention on the Rights of the Child: The children’s version | Read and download the child-friendly text.
URL: https://www.unicef.org/media/60981/file/convention-rights-child-text-child-friendly-version.pdf
Date Visited: 9 February 2022

Objective of EMRS (“Eklavya Model Residential Schools”)
[Peruse the government guidelines here or in the 2010 backup included below]

i. Comprehensive physical, mental and socially relevant development of all students enrolled in each and every EMRS. Students will be empowered to be change agent, beginning in their school, in their homes, in their village and finally in a large context.

ii. Focus differentially on the educational support to be made available to those in Standards XI to X, so that their distinctive needs can be met.

iii. Support the annual running expenses in a manner that offers reasonable remuneration to the staff and upkeep of the facilities.

iv. Support the construction of infrastructure that provides education, physical, environmental and cultural needs of student life. […]

Source: REVISED GUIDELINES FOR SETTING UP EKLAVYA MODEL RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL (EMRS)June 2010
URL: https://tribal.gov.in/DivisionsFiles/sg/EMRSguidlines.pdf
Date visited: 30 Jul7 2021

Ekalavya (Eklavya, Eklabya), EMR & Factory schools >>

“The Big-brother attitude of educators must end. The approach to tribal education has to be a two-way transaction of give and take, based on an informed appreciation of traditional tribal values and wisdom.” – Uma Ram (Professor & Head Department of English, Kakatiya PG College, Chhattisgarh) in Issues in Tribal Education in Bastar, Chhattisgarh (Folklore Foundation, Lokaratna, Volume IV 2011)

Residential, Ashram and Factory schools

Backgrounder & image © Economic Times
  • Ekalavya* Residential School Scheme (EMR): a network of boarding schools where tribal children are to be educated in accordance with rules and syllabi provided by the government; such schools are being designated as “Eklavya Model Residential School (EMR)” with the objective of empowering students “to be change agent, beginning in their school, in their homes, in their village and finally in a large context.” – Government Guidelines 2010 | Backup >>
  • Residential School and Ashram School
    In some regions there are similar “Residential Schools” and “Ashram Schools” for tribal children, as in Tripura where they are managed by a society called “Tripura Tribal Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (TTWREIS)” – Tribal Welfare Department, Government of Tripura
  • Factory schools “exist to turn tribal and indigenous children – who have their own language and culture – into compliant workers-of-the-future. The world’s largest Factory School stated that it turns ‘Tax consumers into tax payers, liabilities into assets’.” – survivalinternational.org/factoryschools | Learn more >>

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* Ekalavya (Eklavya, Eklabya): the name of a legendary archer prodigy “who, being a Nishada [Sanskrit Niṣāda, “tribal, hunter, mountaineer, degraded person, outcast”], had to give his thumb as a fee to the brahmin guru thus terminating his skill as an archer.” – Romila Thapar (“The epic of the Bharatas”) | Read the full paper here | Backup download link (pdf) >>

Note: “Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” amounts to genocide, which the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention defines as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” (Article II, d & e)

Learn more about Childrens rights: UNICEF India | Ekalavya (Eklavya, Eklabya), EMR & Factory schools | Rights of Indigenous Peoples >>

Tip: click on any red marker for details on endangered languages in a particular region of India.
Please note: the facts and figures cited (via hyperlinks) links call for updates and fact checking >>
Cultural invisibility – India’s 600 potentially endangered languages | Linguistic Survey of India (official website) >> 

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[*] Some clarifications on caste-related issues by reputed scholars

Understanding “caste” in the context of Indian democracy: The “Poona Pact of 1932”
“Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar differed over how to address caste inequities through the electoral system. Their exchanges led to the Poona Pact of 1932, which shaped the reservation system in India’s electoral politics. […]
Two prominent figures who have significantly contributed to this discourse are Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, and Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Father of the Constitution. The two stalwarts of Indian politics, while revered equally by the public, had contrasting views on the caste system. Their subsequent debates have shaped the course of Indian society and politics. While Gandhi denounced untouchability, he did not condemn the varna system, a social hierarchy based on occupation, for most of his life. He believed in reforming the caste system through the abolition of untouchability and by giving equal status to each occupation. On the other hand, BR Ambedkar, a Dalit himself, argued that the caste system disorganised and ‘demoralised Hindu society, reducing it to a collection of castes’. […] 
And yet, despite their differences, they developed an understanding to work for the betterment of the marginalised.” – Rishabh Sharma in “How Ambedkar and Gandhi’s contrasting views paved way for caste reservation” (India Today, 6 October 2023)
URL: https://www.indiatoday.in/history-of-it/story/ambedkar-gandhi-caste-system-poona-pact-1932-reservation-2445208-2023-10-06

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“That upper caste groups should declare themselves to be OBCs [Other Backward Castes] and want to avail of the reservation policy is a pandering to caste politics of course, as also are caste vote-banks. It is partially a reflection of the insecurity that the neo-liberal market economy has created among the middle-class. Opportunities are limited, jobs are scarce and so far ‘development’ remains a slogan. There’s a lot that is being done to keep caste going in spite of saying that we are trying to erode caste. We are, of course, dodging the real issue. It’s true that there has been a great deal of exploitation of Dalit groups and OBC’s in past history; making amends or even just claiming that we are a democracy based on social justice demands far more than just reservations. The solution lies in changing the quality of life of half the Indian population by giving them their right to food, water, education, health care, employment, and social justice. This, no government so far has been willing to do, because it means a radical change in governance and its priorities.” – Romila Thapar  (Emeritus Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University) interviewed by Nikhil Pandhi (Caravan Magazine, 7 October 2015)
URL: https://caravanmagazine.in/vantage/discipline-notion-particular-government-interview-romila-thapar 

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Casteism is the investment in keeping the hierarchy as it is in order to maintain your own ranking, advantage, privilege, or to elevate yourself above others or keep others beneath you …. For this reason, many people—including those we might see as good and kind people—could be casteist, meaning invested in keeping the hierarchy as it is or content to do nothing to change it, but not racist in the classical sense, not active and openly hateful of this or that group.” – Book review by Dilip Mandal for Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (The Print, 23 August 2020)
URL: https://theprint.in/opinion/oprah-winfrey-wilkerson-caste-100-us-ceos-indians-wont-talk-about-it/487143/

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“The theoretical debate on caste among social scientists has receded into the background in recent years. [However] caste is in no sense disappearing: indeed, the present wave of neo-liberal policies in India, with privatisation of enterprises and education, has strengthened the importance of caste ties, as selection to posts and educational institutions is less based on merit through examinations, and increasingly on social contact as also on corruption. There is a tendency to assume that caste is as old as Indian civilization itself, but this assumption does not fit our historical knowledge. To be precise, however, we must distinguish between social stratification in general and caste as a specific form. […]
From the early modern period till today, then, caste has been an intrinsic feature of Indian society. It has been common to refer to this as the ‘caste system’. But it is debatable whether the term ‘system’ is appropriate here, unless we simply take for granted that any society is a ‘social system’. First, and this is quite clear when we look at the history of distinct castes, the ‘system’ and the place various groups occupy within it have been constantly changing. Second, no hierarchical order of castes has ever been universally accepted […] but what is certain is that there is no consensus on a single hierarchical order.” – Harald Tambs-Lyche (Professor Emeritus, Université de Picardie, Amiens) in “Caste: History and the Present” (Academia Letters, Article 1311, 2021), pp. 1-2
URL: https://www.academia.edu/49963457

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“There is a need for intercultural education. We all need to work together to bridge these divides not only between religions and castes but also regions. It is not correct to think that one part is better than the other. Some of the limitations of India as a whole are due to our common heritage, say the one that has restricted women from having a flourishing life for themselves.” – Prof. V. Santhakumar (Azim Premji University) in “On the so called North-South Divide in India” (personal blog post in Economics in Action, 13 April 2024)
URL: https://vsanthakumar.wordpress.com/2024/04/13/on-the-so-called-north-south-divide-in-india/