Tip | How many ‘Scheduled Tribes’ are there in India? And what distinguishes them from other communities? (‘tribal’ or otherwise) – Information provided by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes

Learn more from Virginius Xaxa & G.N. Devy Devy >>
Search publications via Indian publishers & libraries:
Virginius Xaxa & Ganesh Devy or G.N. Devy >>

There are over 700 tribes (with overlapping communities in more than one State) which have been notified under Article 342 of the Constitution of India, spread over different States and Union Territories of the country. The largest number of main tribal communities (62) has been specified in relation to the State of Orissa. The Scheduled Tribes have been specified in relation to all the States and Union Territories except Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi, and Pondicherry.

The Constitution of India seeks to secure for all its citizens, among other things, social and economic justice, equality of status and opportunity and assures the dignity of the individual. All Rights available to the Citizens of India, enshrined in the Constitution or any law of the land or any order of the Government are equally available to the Scheduled Tribes also.

Scheduled Tribes being backward and isolated from the rest of the population are not able to exercise their rights. In order to empower them to be able to exercise their rights special provisions have been made in the Constitution. Framers of the Constitution took note of this fact and incorporated enabling provisions in the Constitution in the form of reservation and measures to be taken to empower them to be able to avail the opportunities. Some people call these provisions as privileges for the Scheduled Tribes but these are only the enabling provisions so that Scheduled Tribes can avail the opportunities and exercise their rights and safeguards. […]

Who are Scheduled Tribes?
The framers of the Constitution took note of the fact that certain communities in the country were suffering from extreme social, educational and economic backwardness on account of the primitive agricultural practices, lack of infrastructure facilities and geographical isolation. The Constitution of India in Article 366 (25) prescribe that the Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 of the Constitution to be Scheduled Tribes. […]

Source: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS | National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
Address: https://www.ncst.nic.in/
Date Visited: 15 September 2021

Ex­er­cise on since its launch in Fe­bru­ary [2022] to in­clude 1,400 com­mu­ni­ties un­der SC, ST and OBC for scheme ben­e­fits [after] the Union Social Justice Ministry received 402 applications online from across the country for benefits under the Scheme for Economic Empowerment of Denotified, Nomadic, Semi-nomadic (SEED) Tribes. More than 10 crore [100 million] Indians from 1,400 communities belong to these groups, show the latest estimates available with the government.

None of the applications received so far on the SEED’s online portal has been approved yet. Multiple officials say the exercise to categorise all 1,400 communities under the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Classes is holding up the implementation of the scheme, unveiled in February by Social Justice Minister Virendra Kumar. […]

The scheme aims to provide free competitive exam coaching to students, health insurance and financial assistance for housing and uplift clusters of these communities through livelihood initiatives. […]

While the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) and Tribal Research Institutes are studying 267 uncategorised communities to classify them under SC, ST, or OBC, inconsistencies have been hindering the processing of SEED applications. The categorisation of these communities by the Idate Commission left room for inaccuracies as outlined by the commission in its 2018 report.

For instance, some communities such as the Banjara were under the SC list in Delhi, the ST list in Rajasthan and the OBC list in Uttar Pradesh.

The commission said some communities were under different lists in different districts even within a State. […]

Source: “Tribe categorisation work delays benefits under SEED” by Ab­hi­nay Lak­sh­man, The Hindu, 30 Aug 2022
Date Visited: 5 September 2022

“The smart boy or clever girl who is deprived of the opportunity of schooling, or who goes to a school with dismal facilities (not to mention the high incidence of absentee teachers), not only loses the opportunities he or she could have had, but also adds to the massive waste of talent that is a characteristic of the life of our country.” – Nobel Awardee Amartya Sen in The Argumentative Indian (Penguin Books, 2005), p. 344 | Find this and other books published in India >>

Related: Tribal Children’s Right to Education | Childhood | Ekalavya (Eklavya, Eklabya), EMR & Factory schools | Childrens rights: UNICEF India >>

Kolkata: Several Scheduled tribe (ST) organisations are planning to embark on renewed phase of agitations on September 20 concerning their long-pending demand for recognition of the Sarna religion. The organisations demand that it be assigned as a separate religious code in the Census 2021.

The agitations will also highlight other grievances that await redressal despite provisions legislated or administratively okayed. Before firming up plans for the upcoming round of agitations, one ST empowerment outfit wrote to President Droupadi Murmu, a person of tribal origin, urging her to use her good offices to meet their demands and redress their grievances.

A significant point that emerges is that the President is constitutionally empowered to take steps, through state governors, for the protection and welfare of STs. But, powers-that-be seldom utilise these provisions.

The demand for a separate religious code and recognition for Sarna got political support on November 11, 2020, when the Jharkhand Assembly passed a resolution backing the demand and asking the Centre to take appropriate steps. […]

Explaining what the Sarna religion is, the sources NewsClick spoke to pointed out that people believing in ‘Jal, Jangal and Zameen‘ and having faith in nature worship are followers of this religion. They worship trees and hills and go all out to protect forests. […]

Tigga [Bandhan Tigga, revered as a Sarna ‘dharamguru’] highlighted that their rites related to birth, marriage and death differ from those observed by the Hindus. For example, he says, “We regard birth as arrival upon the earth and offer our thanks by holding a special bhumi puja. For marriage, guardians from the boy’s side visit the girl’s place for negotiations, and there is no practice of dowry and ’tilak’.” […]

KSS [Kendriya Sarna Samiti] activist Hindu Bhagat who has a base in Gumla, which has the highest concentration of tribals in Jharkhand, said the organisation’s task is cut out.

Prevent efforts to dilute our distinctive identity and culture by vested interests, who regularly seek opportunities to lure them to their side with inducements and brainwashing”. […]

As for christening the religious code as Sarna, a contrarian view was expressed by Kripasindhu Mahata of Totemic Kudumi/Kurumi Mahata Samaj. Based at Baripada in the Mayurbhanj district, Mahata argued in favour of a generic nomenclature that is easily remembered, referred to and recalled, and all-inclusive.

“The religious code should ideally be ‘adivasi‘, and it would refer to the entire tribal population in the country and even those who have migrated and settled elsewhere,” Mahata told NewsClick. Some sections of tribals call their religion Sari, not Sarna. […]

Meanwhile, with the Union cabinet approving a Constitution amendment on September 14 for the inclusion of 15 groups of tribals in Himachal, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh in the ST category, the total number of tribes to be notified under Article 342 of the Constitution will increase, when the amendment is through, to 720 from 705 as of now.

Source: “Tribal Outfits Gearing up to Restart Stir on Sarna Religious Code Issue” by Rabindra Nath Sinha, Newsclick.in, 15 September 2022
URL: https://www.newsclick.in/tribal-outfits-gearing-restart-sarna-religious-code-issue
Date Visited: 16 September 2022

Article 342 in the Constitution of India

  • Provides for specification of tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within tribes or tribal communities which are deemed to be for the purposes of the Constitution the Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State or Union Territory.
  • In pursuance of these provisions, the list of Scheduled Tribes are notified for each State or Union Territory and are valid only within the jurisdiction of that State or Union Territory and not outside.
  • Scheduled Tribes are notified in 30 States/UTs
  • Number of individual ethnic groups, etc. notified as Scheduled Tribes is 705
  • There has been some changes in the List of Scheduled Tribes in States/ UTs during the last decade

Source: “Article 342 Constitution of India”
URL: https://www.indianconstitution.in/2016/07/article-342-constitution-of-india.html
Date visited: 13 January 2022

While the Constitution is silent about the criteria for specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe. The words and the phrase ‘tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within tribes or tribal communities” in Article 342 have to be understood in terms of their historical background of backwardness. Primitiveness, geographical isolation, shyness and social, educational & economic backwardness due to these reasons are the traits that distinguish Scheduled Tribe communities of our country from other communities. It takes into account the definitions of tribal Communities adopted in the 1931 Census. These facts are the basis for the provision in Article 342(1) which mandates to specify the tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within tribes or tribal communities as Scheduled Tribe in relation to that State or Union Territory as the case may be. Thus the list of Scheduled Tribes is State/UT specific and a community declared as a Scheduled Tribe in a State need not be so in another State. The Presidential notifications under Clause 1 of Article 342 of the Constitution are issued as the Constitution Orders. Two Constitution Orders were initially issued in relation to two distinct categories of States as existed at the time of adoption of the Constitution of India. […]

Source: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS | National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
Address: https://www.ncst.nic.in/content/frequently-asked-questions
Date Visited: 15 September 2021

Find up-to-date information provided by, for and about Indian authors, researchers, officials, and educators

List of web portals covered by the present Custom search engine

Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) – www.atree.org

Freedom United – www.freedomunited.org

Government of India (all websites ending on “.gov.in”)

Shodhganga (a reservoir of Indian theses) – https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in

Survival International – www.survivalinternational.org

Unesco – https://en.unesco.org

Unesco digital library – https://unesdoc.unesco.org

Unicef – www.unicef.org

United Nations – www.un.org/en

Video Volunteers – www.videovolunteers.org

To search Indian periodicals, magazines, web portals and other sources safely, click here. To find publishing details for Shodhganga’s PhD search results, click here >>

Search tips

Combine the name of any particular state, language or region with that of any tribal (Adivasi) community.

Add keywords of special interest (music, poetry, dance just as health, sacred grove and biodiversity); learn about the rights of Scheduled Tribes such as the “Forest Rights Act” (FRA); and the United Nations “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, “women’s rights”, or “children’s right to education”.

Specify any other issue or news item you want to learn more about (biodiversity, bonded labour and human trafficking, climate change, ecology, economic development, ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, global warming, hunter-gatherers in a particular region or state, prevention of rural poverty, water access).

For official figures include “scheduled tribe ST” along with a union state or region: e.g. “Chhattisgarh ST community”, “Himalayan tribe”, “Scheduled tribe Tamil Nadu census”, “ST Kerala census”, “Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group Jharkhand”, “PVTG Rajasthan”, “Adivasi ST Kerala”, “Adibasi ST West Bengal” etc.

In case the Google Custom Search window is not displayed here try the following: (1) toggle between “Reader” and regular viewing; (2) in your browser’s Security settings select “Enable JavaScript” | More tips >>

Note: hyperlinks and quotes are meant for fact-checking and information purposes only | Disclaimer >>

[*] 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

~ ~ ~

“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 

~ ~ ~

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/

~ ~ ~

“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

~ ~ ~

“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/

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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) >>