Report of the High-level Committee on Socio-Economic, Health and Educational Status of the Tribals of India
This report was written by a High Level Committee constituted by the Prime Minister’s Office in August 2013. It examines the problems faced by tribal communities in five areas: livelihood and employment, education, health, involuntary displacement and migration, and legal and constitutional matters.
The report analyses the causes and consequences of these problems and recommends appropriate remedial measures. It says that tribal communities face ‘disregard for their values and culture’ and social deprivation, and that the laws meant to protect them are often violated.
It examines the
effectiveness and limitations of existing state policies, institutions and
programmes for these communities, and states that many state-sponsored
programmes and schemes for them were not properly implemented.
51 out of the 58 districts where the forest cover was more than 67 per cent, were tribal districts. However, much of this forest was classified as Reserved Forests, Protected Forests, Wildlife Sanctuaries or National Parks, and tribal communities were treated as encroachers before of the Forest Rights Act of 2006.
Quoting from the work of Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi, the report says that about half of the top mineral-producing districts were predominantly tribal districts, where land had been diverted for mining. This had degraded the environment, reduced livelihoods and displaced many tribal communities.
The reports quotes a 1997 study by F. Fernandes and V. Paranjype, who estimated that the number of people displaced due to dams, mines, wildlife sanctuaries and industries in the first four decades since Independence was about 21 million. Government sources, show that at least 75 per cent of them had not been rehabilitated.
According to NSSO (2006), in rural areas, a substantial proportion of Scheduled Tribes owned very little land. In the less than one hectare category, 12.81 per cent of tribal households owned only up to 0.002 hectares, while 10 per cent of households in all social groups owned up to 0.01 hectares.
The overall intake of food among tribal populations was less than the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) or the levels of essential nutrients needed for a healthy person. In the 3-6 age group, about 53 per cent of boys and 50 per cent of girls were underweight, while 57 per cent of boys and 52 per cent of girls were stunted.
The Committee recommends that Adivasi groups who had been displaced by the conflicts in Chhattisgarh and the North East must be rehabilitated in their villages by their state governments and provided with housing, safe drinking water, healthcare, education, skill development training, electricity supply, irrigation facilities and agricultural inputs.
It also recommends that a High-Level Fact-Finding Committee be set up to investigate the quality of resettlement and rehabilitation of tribals displaced by all medium-to-large development projects undertaken in the last 40 years.
Large numbers of tribal men and women were in jail for what the report calls ‘Naxal offences’. It says a judicial commission must be appointed to investigate cases filed against Adivasis and those who support them. State governments must also provide legal aid to tribal petitioners so that they can hire competent lawyers.
The Committee says that if the consent of gram sabhas for development projects had been fraudulently obtained or forged, penalties must be imposed and those projects not be allowed to proceed.
The amendments proposed to the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act have an important component: the gram sabha’s prior informed consent. This is a necessary condition for the effective implementation of PESA.
Given the close relationship between forests, forest produce and women’s lives, women’s participation in gram sabhas and other levels of government, as mandated by the Forest Rights Act, has to be increased.
A clear mechanism is necessary for the recognition of community forest rights as well as the rights of vulnerable communities.
State apathy in implementing the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, has aggravated the exploitation of tribal migrant families, especially women and children. The Committee says that the enactment of a comprehensive migrants rights legislation deserved serious consideration.
The inclusion of local culture, folklore and history in school curricula could help to build the confidence of tribal children. The committee recommends that storytelling, theatre, painting, music and dance performances be promoted in schools.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare should redesign the primary and secondary health care services in Scheduled Areas. The Committee recommends a specially designed health plan that will not enforce a top-down national health programme but one that can ensure local participation.
Factoids and Focus compiled by Revathi Ram and Tarun Gidwani.
PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.
The High-Level Committee constituted by the Prime Minister's Office in August 2013.
Its members were Virginius Xaxa (Chairperson), Usha Ramanathan, Joseph Bara, Kamal Mishra, Abhay Bang, Sunila Basant and Hrushikesh Panda.
Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India