Tribals and their existentialism: past and present

Posted by Vikas Upadhyay
May 29, 2017

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There is unity in diversity in India. She accommodates people of all sorts-of different religion, caste creed, colour, culture, cuisine etc. That is what makes India a cosmopolitan country. Empowerment, in such an eclectic environment becomes an indispensable need for all the citizens. Empowerment literally means conferring some authority as well as ability to an individual so as to enable him to live a life of dignity along with basic social, economic and political rights. It is more of a process than a phenomenon. The basic idea of empowerment is, and should be, giving some inalienable rights to people for enjoyment of life without any prejudice. In the context of a complex social place like India the underprivileged need greater attention and they need to be empowered first.
Scheduled Tribes of India have been a marginalized section of society since the colonial era. India has seen many Adivasi movements and struggles for the rights by tribal people- The Naga movement 1948,The Santhal Movement, the Jharkhand Movement- to name a few. Most of these movements can essentially be related to the injustice they faced and depriving them of thier land, forest and identity.
Post-independence there were attempts to bring STs to the front. Jawaharlal Nehru was a pioneer who strived hard to integrate Scheduled Tribe with the mainstream population of the nation. His plan was to preserve the identity, culture and tradition of tribal population and at the same time mingle them with Indian majority. I believe his model to be the best till date to improve the socio-economic status of Scheduled Tribes as identity crisis is unwanted by any ethnic group and Nehru knew this. The 2nd Five Year plan (1956-61) incorporated Panchsheel plan that enlisted rudimentary principles of Tribal Development. Under the plan Tribal Development Blocks were formed that had the capacity of accommodating 25000 tribal people. Though the facts suggest that much was done to empower the Adivasis, I still feel it would be contentious to blatantly state that his vision of empowerment of tribal people was a success. The implementation of his ideas fell weak because of two main reasons. One, there was poor execution of the well intended measures and improper justice delivery system. Also, there was a lack of awareness about the legal provisions to them. It can therefore be concluded that there were some improvements in the facilities to Scheduled tribes in post –colonial times, but their total integration and complete empowerment is still a happy reality that India envisages.

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