Third Report of the Standing Committee on Inter-Sectoral Issues Relating to Tribal Development on Standards of Administration and Governance in the Scheduled Areas


The Standing Committee on Inter-Sectoral Issues Relating to Tribal Development was constituted in January 2004 by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Office. Its chairman was Dr. B.L. Mungekar, Member, the Planning Commission (now NITI Aayog), and its members were from various ministries.

This 2009 report – the Committee’s third – was preceded by two interim reports in October 2005 and April 2007. Based on the recommendations of these interim reports, the government enacted the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers Act, 2006, and the New Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007. The report was the outcome of consultations with the government and individuals, and discussions at a workshop at the National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad.

It examines the efficacy of Constitutional provisions for Scheduled Areas and the dissatisfaction among tribals living there. The Committee discusses the urgent need for specific policies for Scheduled Areas (related to health, education, housing, drinking water, roads, rural development and so on) and makes 20 recommendations.

The report also highlights the failure of successive governments to respond to the needs and expectations of tribal communities. It says that a lack of development in Fifth Schedule Areas, the alienation of people due of undefined property rights, and the constant threat of displacement have led to many problems related to the distribution of growth, the environment, wildlife, natural resources, and law and order.    


  1. The report says that the framers of the Constitution were aware of the need to safeguard the interests of tribals and so, they created special provisions for their protection from all kinds of exploitation.

  2. Under Article 244(1) of the Constitution and Para 6(1) of the Fifth Schedule, areas can be declared ‘Scheduled Areas’ by the President after consulting with the governor of a state. A Scheduled Area must have a preponderance of tribal population; compactness and reasonable size; be a viable administrative entity, such as district, block or taluk; and be economically backward as compared to neighbouring areas.

  3. Under the Government of India Act, 1935, no law of the federal or provincial legislature applied automatically to the ‘Excluded Areas and the Partially Excluded Areas’, and the governor of a state would decide if a particular law was extended to an area or not. However, after the Constitution was adopted, all central and state laws applied to  Scheduled Areas automatically, and the governor could only make exceptions and modifications to these laws.

  4. The report says that the extension of a variety of laws to Scheduled Areas created a unilateral system, and there was no space in this legal regime for tribal systems of self-governance. This eventually led to the criminalisation of tribal communities and a loss of control over resources.

  5. Tribal communities living in Scheduled Areas are diverse – some are hunter-gatherers, shifting cultivators or agriculturalists, while others are artisans or are involved in industrial activity. The Committee recommends that laws must be adapted to “the specific situation of each group howsoever small and miniscule, rather than forcing the simple people to adapt to a frame that they do not know or are not in a position to appreciate.”

  6. The report says that industrial enterprises near tribal areas have created an in-flow of migrants, forcing indigenous people to “recede [into] the backwoods.” There have also been instances of some enterprises “easily commandeering [the] unflinching support of the administration and political establishment,” and many tribals have been displaced.

  7. The Scheduled Tribes (STs) have the lowest human development indices when it comes to education, income and health. Coupled with this, the Scheduled Areas have the weakest infrastructure, especially roads, electricity, irrigation, communications, banks and so on. The Committee says that in order to develop tribal areas, a highly particularised approach is needed at the micro level that focuses on the specific needs of the area and of ST groups.

  8. The rights of STs over natural resources on which their lives are dependent have been largely undefined. As a result, corporations and state forest departments monopolise the collection of minor forest produce, and STs end up being employed as labourers by contractors.

  9. STs are often denied equal access to development schemes since they do not have legal titles for lands they have occupied for generations. So, no community-based schemes for hospitals, schools and roads or schemes for individuals like housing, credit and distribution of assets can be implemented for their welfare.

  10. The Committee says that the state’s legal framework does not recognise the existence of tribal self-governing systems, which creates a dissonance between the state government and the people. However, Para 5 of the Fifth Schedule aims to erase the possibility of such dissonance, and the state’s legal framework can be adapted to Scheduled Areas under the Seventh Schedule, which “cuts across the formal boundaries set out for the Union and the States.”

  11. The Committee says that the foundation of good economic development for tribal areas lies in the quality of their administration, and that this has been neglected.

  12. According to the report, the tribal economy has been badly ‘mauled’ through expropriation in countless forms and weakening communitarian traditions. The Committee recommends laying the foundation for long-term sustainable development by delineating micro agro-climactic zones, which would help to rejuvenate the economy.

  13. The Committee urges that protective measures for tribals should be prioritised over developmental programmes in order to protect them from a repeat of earlier neglect and historical injustices, such as the criminalisation of these communities.

  14. The Committee considers self-governance as the most sensitive aspect of tribal life and urges that gram sabhas be made fully functional. It recommends that communities should be informed about programmes being implemented for them and their impacts, and that gram sabhas should be “legally and operationally empowered to conduct [a] social-audit of tribal development programmes” to ensure people’s participation as well as transparency and accountability from the implementing agencies.

    Focus and Factoids by Sruti Penumetsa.


Standing Committee on Inter-Sectoral Issues Relating to Tribal Development 

The Committee’s chairman was Dr. Bhalchandra Mungekar, and its members included M.K. Narayanan, B.N. Yugandhar, T.K.A. Nair, the secretaries of the ministries of Home Affairs, Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Environment and Forests, Corporate Affairs and Tribal Affairs, and the secretaries of the departments of Legal Affairs and Industrial Policy and Promotion. 


Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi


Feb, 2009