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

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

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

Date Visited: 29 June 2019

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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