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Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG)

Context: John Allen Chau, an American national who secretly landed on North Sentinel Island, was allegedly killed by people belonging to the protected Sentinelese tribe (a PVTG) in November 2018

Who are Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups(PVTGs)?

  • The PVTGs are the marginalized section of the Scheduled tribes of India. They are a section who are relatively isolated, educationally and socio-economically backward, living in a habitat far away from amenities.
  • PVTG is not a Constitutional category, nor are these constitutionally recognized communities.
  • It is a government of India classification created with the purpose of enabling improvement in the conditions of certain communities with particularly low development

The criteria followed for determination of PVTGs are as under:

  1. A pre-agriculture level of technology;
  2. A stagnant or declining population;
  3. Extremely low literacy; and
  4. A subsistence level of economy.
Scheduled Tribe: The term ‘scheduled tribe’ is primarily an administrative and constitutional concept. Article 366 (25) of the Constitution of India refers to Scheduled Tribes as those communities, who are scheduled in accordance with Article 342 of the Constitution.
The essential characteristics laid down by the Lokur Committee, for a community to be identified as Scheduled Tribes are –
1.primitive traits;
2.distinctive culture;
3.shyness of contact with the community at large;
4.geographical isolation; and
5.backwardness – social and economic

Background:

  • In accordance to the provisions conferred in the Clause (1) of Article 342 of the Constitution of India, the notification of STs is state specific and their identification is done on the basis of the following characteristics- a) Primitive Traits (b) Distinctive Culture (c) Geographical Isolation (d) Shyness with contact with the community at large, and Backwardness.
  • However, Dhebar commission (1960-61) and other studies suggested that there exists inequality amongst tribal communities in terms of their development
  • In 1975, based on the Dhebar Commission report, the governmentcreated Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category and identified 52 such groups.
  • In 1993, 23 more groups were added making it 75 PTGs
  • In 2006, the Government of India renamed the PTGs as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).

Statistical Overview of PVTGs in India:

  • Among the 75 listed PVTG’s the highest number are found in Odisha (13), followed by Andhra Pradesh (12), Bihar including Jharkhand (9) Madhya Pradesh including Chhattisgarh (7) Tamil Nadu (6) Kerala and Gujarat having five groups each.
  • The remaining PVTGs live in West Bengal (3) Maharashtra (3), two each in Karnataka and Uttarakhand and one each in Rajasthan, Tripura and Manipur.
  • All the four tribal groups in Andaman, and one in Nicobar Islands, are recognised as PVTGs
  • The Saharia people of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are the largest among the PVTGs with population more than 4 lakhs.
  • Smallest population size among the PVTGs are the Sentinelese (as per the last contact effort on March 9, 2005, groups of 32 and 13 persons were sighted at different places)
State / UT NamePVTGs Name
Andhra Pradesh and TelanganaBodo Gadaba, Bondo Poroja, Chenchu, Dongria Khond, Gutob Gadaba, Khond Poroja, Kolam, Kondareddis, Konda Savaras, Kutia Khond, Parengi Poroja, Thoti
Bihar and JharkhandAsurs, Birhor, Birjia, Hill Kharia, Konvas, Mal Paharia, Parhaiyas, Sauda Paharia, Savar
JharkhandSame as above
GujaratKathodi, Kohvalia, Padhar, Siddi, Kolgha
KarnatakaJenu Kuruba, Koraga
KeralaCholanaikayan (a section of Kattunaickans), Kadar, Kattunayakan, Kurumbas, Koraga
Madhya Pradesh and
Chhattisgarh
Abujh Macias, Baigas, Bharias, Hill Korbas, Kamars, Saharias, Birhor
ChhattisgarhSame as above
MaharashtraKatkaria (Kathodia), Kolam, Maria Gond
ManipurMarram Nagas
OdishaBirhor, Bondo, Didayi, Dongria-Khond, Juangs, Kharias, Kutia Kondh, Lanjia Sauras, Lodhas, Mankidias, Paudi Bhuyans, Soura, Chuktia Bhunjia
RajasthanSeharias
Tamil NaduKattu Nayakans, Kotas, Kurumbas, Irulas, Paniyans, Todas
TripuraReangs
Uttar Pradesh and UttarakhandBuxas, Rajis
West BengalBirhor, Lodhas, Totos
Andaman & Nicobar IslandsGreat Andamanese, Jarawas, Onges, Sentinelese, Shorn Pens

Legislation associated with PVTGs

  1. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) has a special section regarding the 75 PVGTs and the Act recognises forest and habitat rights of PVTGs.
  2. The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA):It extendsScheduled Areas of India under the purview of national framework of Panchayat. However, this act is not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram and certain other areas including scheduled and tribal areas.
  3. The Sentinelese and other aboriginal tribes of the Andaman& Nicobar Islands are protected under The Andaman and Nicobar (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation, 1956
  4. Under the Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands are a “Restricted Area” in which foreigners with a restricted area permit (RAP) can stay.
  5. The habitats of the PVTGs of Andaman and Nicobar Island is protected Tribal Reserve under the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation, 1956
  • In August 2018, in a bid to promote tourism and encourage investment, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) decided to exclude 30 islands from Andaman and Nicobar from the RAP or Restricted Area Permit regime notified under the Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963. North Sentinelese island was among the 30 islands
  • According to critics, the removal of RAP from North Sentinel island sent an extremely dangerous message that the island was now open for visitors. Further, it has also put uncontacted Sentinelese tribe at the risk of contracting diseases

International Conventions:

  • Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957, of the International Labour Organisation (ILO): It advocated integrationist approach for development of tribal communities. India ratified the convention.
  • Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957, of the International LabourOrganisation (ILO), 1989: The convention advocated non-intervention approach for protection and conservation of tribal communities. India has not ratified the convention.

Government Measures for development of PVTGs

During different five-year plan periods various models, approaches and theories of development have been propounded for the development of tribes. For example: Community Development Program, Multipurpose Tribal Blocks, Tribal Development Block, Development Agencies, Integrated Tribal Development Projects, Modified Area Development Approach, Tribal sub-Pan (TSP) etc.

SCHEME OF DEVELOPMENT OF PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE TRIBAL GROUPS (PVTGs)

The scheme was first started in 1998-199 for exclusive development of PVTGs and later revised in 2015. The key features of the scheme are:

  • The scheme aims at planning their socio-economic development in a comprehensive manner while retaining the culture and heritage of the community by adopting habitat development approach
  • The scheme follows the strategic approach of Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojna, which is need-based and strives to optimise utilisation of resources available under various programs and aims at specific outcomes.
  • The scheme mandates all the 18 State Governments and the Union Territory of A&N Island shall prepare a long term “Conservation-cum-Development (CCD) Plan” for each PVTG of their State based on baseline survey
  • For implementation of the scheme, ‘Micro Project’ located in or near the habitation iscreated if not already existing.
  • The Micro Projects make efforts to access funds under various Central Sector and Centrally Sponsored Schemes as well as funds available under State TSP for the activities
  • Activities supported under the scheme include housing, land distribution, land development, agricultural development, cattle development, construction of link roads, installation of non- conventional sources of energy, social security, etc. 
Nehru’s Tribal Panchsheel
Panchsheel is five fundamental principles for tribal development in India laid down by Jawaharlal Nehru.
The Five Principles are as follows:
1. First, the tribals should develop along the lines of their own genius; there should be no imposition or compulsion from outside.
2. Second, tribal rights in land and forests should be respected and no outsider should be able to take possession of tribal lands. The incursion of the market economy into tribal areas had to be strictly controlled and regulated.
3. Third, it was necessary to encourage the tribal languages which ‘must be given all possible support and the conditions in which they can flourish must be safeguarded’.
4. Fourth, for administration, reliance should be placed on the tribal people themselves, and administrators should be recruited from amongst them and trained.
5. Fifth, there should be no over-administration of the tribal areas. The effort should be to administer and develop the tribals’ through their own social and cultural institutions.

Issues and Challenges:

  1. Incoherency in identification: The process of identification of PVTG adopted by the states differ in its methods. The spirit of the direction made by MoTA was loosely considered as a result there has been no uniform principle adopted in identifying the PVTGs.
  2. Outdated List: The Anthropological Survey of India observes that the list of PVTG is overlapping and repetitive. For example, the list contains synonyms of the same group such as the Mankidia and the Birhor in Odisha, both of which refer to the same group.
  3. Lack of baseline surveys: The Anthropological Survey of India observed 75 PVTGs, base line surveys exists for about 40 groups, even after declaring them as PVTGs. Lack of baseline surveys hinder effective implementation of welfare schemes
  • Note: Base line surveys are done to precisely identify the PVTG families, their habitat and socio-economic status, so that development initiatives are implemented for these communities, based on the facts and figures
  1. Unequal Benefits from welfare schemes:In some cases, a PVTG receives benefits only in a few blocks in a district, while the same group is deprived in adjacent blocks.  For example, the LanjiaSaora are recognized as a PVTG across Odisha but the micro-projects are established only in two blocks. The rest of the LanjiaSaora are treated among the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and do not receive benefit from these projects.
  2. Impact of developmental projects:In 2002, a Standing Committee formed by the MoTA to review the ‘Development of Primitive Tribal Groups,’ shared that the tribal people, especially PVTGs, are worst affected by developmental projects like dams, industries and mines.
  3. Denial of land rights:
  • PVTGs have faced systematic alienation from their resources due to conservation purposes-declaration of Reserved Forests and Protected Forests.For example: In 2009, 245 Baiga families were forced out from the Achanakmar Tiger Reserve, when it was notified so under the Project Tiger
  • Further, despite Forest Rights Act (2006) in place, habitat rights of PVTGs are still being forfeited in many instances. For Example: Mankidia community of Odisha are denied habitat rights in Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) by state’s forest department
  1. Livelihood issues: Due to shrinking forests, environmental changes and forest conservation policies, their Non Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) collection is affected. They lack awareness about market value of NTFP and are exploited by middle men.
  2. Health Issues:
  • PVTGs suffer from many health problems like anaemia, malaria; gastro-intestinal disorders; micro nutrient deficiency and skin diseases due to poverty, lack of safe drinking water, bad sanitation, lack of health services, superstition and deforestation
  • Uncontacted tribal group such as the Sentinelese tribe of Andaman are also at the very high risk of contracting diseases in case of contact with outsiders
  1. Illiteracy: Though literacy rate among many PVTGs have increased over the past years, it still remains low at 30-40%. Further, poor female literacy is a major concern
  2. Vulnerabilities of tribes in Andaman and Nicobar:The fragile tribal communities have been facing expropriation of their ecosystem by outsiders. The outside influences are impacting their land use patterns, use of the sea, overall biodiversity leading to material and non-material changes.
Human Safari:
Although India’s Supreme Court in 2002 ordered that the The Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) through the Jarawa’s reserve should be closed, it remains open – and tourists use it for ‘human safaris’ to the Jarawa.

Way Forward:

  1. Along with the Census, a proper survey should be conducted to comprehensively capture the data on PVTGs- population enumeration, health status, nutritional level, education, vulnerabilities etc. This would help implement welfare measures better
  2. Of the 75 PVTGs, those groups whose population is declining should be clearly identified and survival strategy should be devised
  3. PVTGs threatened with relocation of wildlife areas or development projects should be identified and actionable strategies should be devised to prevent the same
  4. It is important to recognise the innate connection between PVTGs and their lands and habitats. Therefore, a rights-based approach for development of PVTGs should be adopted
  5. Effective, preventive and curative health systems should be developed to address the health issues plaguing PVTGs
  6. A massive exercise in creating awareness about PVTG Rights, amongst communities, officials and civil society groups, is needed. It is important to respect their culture, traditions, beliefs and sustainable livelihoods.
  7. The government needs to revamp its priorities towards protecting the indigenous tribes of A&N islands from outside influence. India needs to sign the 1989 convention of the ILO, and implement its various policies to protect the rights of the indigenous population.
  8. The govt. should also make efforts to sensitise settlers and outsiders about PVTGs of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
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