Globalization and other challenges to customary, civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of tribal communities: Government report – Kerala

Photo: Tribal elder in Wayanad © Arun VC >>


1.1 Background

The Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the country are the groupings of historically disadvantaged people that are given express recognition in the Constitution of India.

The Scheduled Tribes in the state of Kerala is largely heterogeneous and each community has different traditions, social custom, beliefs, rules, and practices. Census (2011) identifies 35 tribal communities in Kerala with 1.20 percent of the state’s total population. Wayanad has the highest number of tribes with 37.36 percent, followed by Idukki and Palakkad (14 percent and 10.89 percent, respectively) which constitutes for more than 60 percent of STs in the State (KSPB, 2013). A socio-economic survey conducted by the Scheduled Tribes Development Department during 2008-10 in association with Kerala Institute of Local Administration and local bodies revealed that the total families of Scheduled Tribes in Kerala are enumerated as 1,07,965 spread over in all the 14 districts of the State.

Wayanad District has 36,135 Scheduled Tribe families (33.47%) followed by 14,315 families (13.26%) in Idukki, 13,223 families (12.25%) in Palakkad and 11598 families (10.74%) in Kasaragod. Seventy eight per cent of Scheduled Tribe families in the State are located in five districts, namely; Wayanad, Idukki, Palakkad, Kasaragod and Kannur. (Scheduled Tribe Development Department, Govt. of Kerala)

The tribal communities in Kerala have been historically marginalized and oppressed by various development factors and forces. The policies and schemes implemented by successive governments at the Centre and the state have further worsened the situation. The challenges to their civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights have been critical today, insofar as they perpetuate extreme form of deprivation in many ways. Their customary rights over natural resources such as forests, cultural identity, and traditional knowledge, including intellectual property rights, cultural heritage and traditional wisdom have been continuously at stake due to the interplay of various factors and forces. (Nithya, 2014)

Many studies show that, even after sixty years of formation of the state, tribals continue as one of the most marginalized community within the state, the post globalized developmental projects and developmental dreams of the state has again made the deprivation of the tribals of Kerala and the developmental divide has increased between the tribal and non-tribal in the state. Despite government initiatives, the existing socio-economic profile of the tribal communities is low compared to the mainstream population. The instruments of globalization have not rendered any positive impact in achieving the intended objectives of social security to the indigenous people. […]

Source: Impact of Janamaithri Suraksha Project on the Safety/Security of the Tribal People in Kerala: Submitted to: Home Department, Govt. of Kerala by Dr. Celine Sunny (Executive Director)
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Date visited: 4 July 2019

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“Tribals are subject to oppression and cruelty even after independence and still picked up by the investigating officers to cover up shoddy investigations.” – D.Y. Chandrachud (Chief Justice of India since 9 November 2022) quoted in “Members of De-Notified Tribes Picked Up to Cover Up Shoddy Investigations” | Learn more >>

“Tribal languages are a treasure trove of knowledge about a region’s flora, fauna and medicinal plants. Usually, this information is passed from generation to generation. However, when a language declines, that knowledge system is completely gone.” – Ayesha Kidwai (Centre for Linguistics, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) quoted by Abhijit Mohanty in “Seven decades after independence, many tribal languages in India face extinction threat” | Learn more about the work done by the People’s Linguistic Survey of India and endangered languages worldwide >>

“The notion of ‘mainstreaming’ needs to be challenged not just because Adivasi culture is being crushed, but also because Adivasi values and ways of life offer insights that the ‘mainstream’ needs. If we are to halt the destruction of ecosystems, we need to understand how closely biodiversity and cultural diversity are intertwined. Perhaps it is time to reverse the gaze and begin to learn afresh from Adivasis.” – Felix Padel & Malvika Gupta (The Hindu) | Learn more about the role of tribal communities in fostering biodiversity, ethnobotany and cultural diversity | Success stories | Tribal identity >>

“I think that by retaining one’s childhood love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies and … toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little more probable, and that by preaching the doctrine that nothing is to be admired except steel and concrete, one merely makes it a little surer that human beings will have no outlet for their surplus energy except in hatred and leader worship.” – George Orwell | Learn more: Childhood | Customs | Games and leisure time | Literature – fiction | Storytelling >>

“The theoretical debate on caste among social scientists has receded into the background in recent years. [C]aste 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.” – Harald Tambs-Lyche (Professor Emeritus, Université de Picardie, Amiens) in “Caste: History and the Present” (Academia Letters) | Learn more: Accountability | Democracy | Education and literacy >>

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See also

Biodiversity and development – Kerala

Childhood – Kerala | Childrens rights: UNICEF India | Safe search

Childrens rights: English or Malayalam (UNICEF India)

eBook | Background guide for education

Education and literacy | Right to education

eLearning | “National development and the development of tribal communities are linked to each other”: Droupadi Murmu – 15th President of India

Ethnobotany & ethnomedicine

Food distribution

Health and nutrition

Human development – Kerala

Kerala | State wise ST list (Scheduled Tribes)

Literature and bibliographies

Literature – fiction | Poetry


Recommendations by the Expert Committee on Tribal Health

Success stories

Tribal schools and educational projects – Kerala

Video – Kerala

Video | M.S. Swaminathan on Biodiversity and the sharing of resources

Video | Trailer to “Have you seen the arana?” – Kerala

Vulnerable tribal groups – Kerala


Women | Safe search | President Droupadi Murmu on women’s empowerment