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1.1 Tribal’s -A
Snapshot

Based
on the available sources, it is learned that the term tribe is derived from the
Latin word ‘tribes’ meaning the ‘poorer the masses’.  The term tribe was used for the first time in
English language in 16th century and it denoted a group or community
of people claiming their origin from a common ancestor. Tribes may also be
considered as  a social division in a
long established  society consisting of
families or communities linked by their own 
cultural, social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common
culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader. Merriam Webster
defines tribe as a social group comprising numerous families,
clans, or generations together with slaves, dependents, or adopted strangers.
The tribal people live in forests and mountains which they consider as their
own world with their own typical life style, tradition and customs which are
unique and different from the urban population. Basically these categories of
people are food gatherers with very low literacy rates and they live in
poverty. They also don’t get engaged into agriculture. Such tribes may be
called as the primitive tribes. The most important primitive tribes in Kerala
are the Koragas, the Kattunaikans, The Kadars, The Kurumbas and the
CholaNaikkans, the most primitive of all the above.There
are about four lakhs of tribal inhabitants in Kerala. These people were
originally natives of Wayanad. From the detailed reviews of literature it is
inferred that tribal’s basically had their origin in Wayanad. But after British
invasions they opened up commercial plantations in these areas as well as other
hilly areas of Kerala. Further they constructed roads interconnecting these
plantations which resulted in the migration of people from other parts of
Kerala to these areas. The tribal’s thus lost their land and started moving to
other parts of Kerala. The tribal community now found in Kerala is listed
below.

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considered as  a social division in a
long established  society consisting of
families or communities linked by their own 
cultural, social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common
culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader. Merriam Webster
defines tribe as a social group comprising numerous families,
clans, or generations together with slaves, dependents, or adopted strangers.
The tribal people live in forests and mountains which they consider as their
own world with their own typical life style, tradition and customs which are
unique and different from the urban population. Basically these categories of
people are food gatherers with very low literacy rates and they live in
poverty. They also don’t get engaged into agriculture. Such tribes may be
called as the primitive tribes. The most important primitive tribes in Kerala
are the Koragas, the Kattunaikans, The Kadars, The Kurumbas and the
CholaNaikkans, the most primitive of all the above.Indigenous
populations like the tribes add to the rich cultural diversity of India. For
several generations they have helped to preserve the biodiversity of the
country with their unique ecological practices. However, being located in
remote corners of India, the tribal population suffers from lack of access to
key resources like Education, Healthcare and Sanitation. Aphale and Bairagi (1984) observed that there is high percentage of
disparity among the tribal’s and the general population due to their
backwardness, ignorance and poverty.If
we look at the tribal community in Kerala, there are various problems that they
face.1.1     
Tribal’s – Their Hurdles & ChallengesChopra K (1989)
wrote that the alienation and destruction of the tribal lands and forests have
disrupted the very basis of tribal life. The problems of tribal’s differ from
area to area even within their own groups (Dubey,
2009). The demographic figures reveal that the tribal population is the
most disadvantaged, exploited and the neglected lot in India. Despite certain
constitutional provisions, they are backward compared to the general
population, even their situation is worse than the Schedule Caste (SC) and
Other Backward Class (OBC) population (Xaxa,
2012).The article written by Gare
(1983) found that the tribal backwardness in the field of Education, Social
and Economic life was responsible for continuous exploitation of tribal in
various areas. Singh and Jabbi (1996)
write about Empirical studies in different parts of India and they have
highlighted that the health, education and employment status of the tribal’s in
India is very low, lower than other 77 social groups, including the Scheduled
Castes. Belshaw (1972) adds that
that though a lot has been done for their social and economic betterment, yet a
great deal remains to be done. The main problems plaguing tribals are
highlighted below:1.2.1 Malnutrition     The
major problem they currently face is malnutrition. Earlier, they had very good
traditional food habits. They ate grains and vegetables like ragi, cholam,
leafy vegetable, ground nuts, and root vegetables from the yield of the
traditional agriculture.  But since many
of the tribal’s have stopped farming in their own land and depend on the free
and 1 rupee ration rice they have stopped the intake of nutritious food. They
have started adding unhealthy fried foods to their diet as well. Furthermore,
on days when they do not get work as day laborers, there is no food in the
house. As a result, most of the women and children are vulnerable to diseases
and secondary infections due to their low immunity level. When it comes to
child nutritional status, tribal people are some of the most malnourished in
the country. Lack of access to nutritional food can impact the development of
children and adolescents in the longer run.1.2.2    Addiction to Alcohol and other DrugsAnother
problem that is rampant among the tribal community in general is the addiction
to alcohol. For instance, many tribal people in Attappadi are addicted to
alcohol. Both men and women have the habit of regularly using tobacco, and even
pregnant ladies chew tobacco. Keeping youngsters from becoming addicted is a
major part of the battle and is much easier than trying to de-addict them
later.’Idukki
Gold’ is the name of the marijuana grown widely by the tribal in the midst of
the thick forest. They also brew and distill illegal alcohol which they sell
and use indiscriminately. The adolescent boys help in brewing, high up in the
hills, and they also get addicted. 1.2.3    Illiteracy        

The
next major problem in the tribal community is illiteracy.  This very issue leads to the exploitation of tribal’s
in general. The majority of youngsters lack interest in studies and dropout of
school in search of labour work as a means of additional income it would bring
for the family. Among members of their community, the tribal’s demonstrate as
much discernment, skill and knowledge as the more educated members do amongst
themselves in the society.  However, when
having to deal with other members of the society they are ignorant of the
external system resulting in a behaviour that is detrimental to their own
interest. Being illiterate and not knowing how to read or write, they become
easy victims of any fraud or misrepresentation which more educated exploiters
are likely to devise. For instance, since some of them are not aware of the
market price of the crops they cultivate, they sell those agricultural products
at very low prices to buyers. Abdulraheem,
A. (2011) explained that education as an important parameter for any
inclusive growth in an economy and the policies have to focus on inclusive
rather than divisive growth strategies. States, namely, Tamil Nadu, Odisha,
Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Kerala have shown gap of more than 18
percentage points in literacy rate of STs as compared to total population
during 2011.Comparatively
the dropout rates in Kerala based schools are less. The drop out ratio in 2014-2015
in Kerala was found to be 0.34 percent, slightly higher than the dropout rate
in 2013-2014. It can be understood from the table that the highest dropout
rates in rural areas are found in Idukki, Wayanad and Palghat districts. The
higher drop-out rate may be attributed to the higher population of Scheduled
Tribe students in these districts.1.2.4    Safety of Women and Girls & Hygiene       Like any other social group half of the
population of tribal community is women. The girls in tribal communities are
more illiterate compared to men. Many research studies points out the
difficulties that tribal women are facing especially regarding their safety. Research
studies states that tribal women were used by the non-tribal communities
for their sexual gratification. Such activities posed a real threat to the
safety of tribal women (Jose et al.,
2010). Another study conducted by Luckose, (2004) & Jose et al, (2009) also points out about the sexual
exploitation of tribal women in Wayanad. Manas
Jena, (2015), in her studies about tribal women says that tribal girl
children are more exposed to various forms of harassment from places where she
is expected to get full support and protection. She is exposed to violence in
her personal life from her own family members, the extent to which tribal girls
are being discriminated at the schools are very high. Thus she fears that she
is not secure enough to have life with dignity, a life where she is not being
exploited. Lalitha &
Sapna et al (2016) in their
studies on tribal school girls says that tribal girls always had a sense of
insecurity as they were worried about the harassment from
teachers and teasing by boys on the way to school. This in fact resulted in a feeling
of unsafe environment and also resulted in school dropout. Discriminating them
on the basis of caste, isolation by teacher’s etc lead to poor academic
performance by the tribal girls. Lack of toilet facilities for girls at some
schools were also a cause for worry. So in general the tribal girls had a feel
that the school environment was quite unsafe. There are still taboos existing among
the tribal regarding marriage between clans. There used to be no demands for
dowry and if a girl had a failed marriage, she was welcome to come back home
with her children. But now things have changed. The current culture of dowry
has now influenced the tribal also. Sexual harassment is on the rise. They are
also helpless to get out of it. Under demographic compulsion, rural natives and
particularly women confront with challenges like hardship, poverty and
unemployment (Ghosh & Choudhuri,
2011). Most of the physical harassment occurs from their husbands, so the
girls are too scared to talk about it. 

As
per data released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Ministry of Home
Affairs, Kerala reported the highest rate of crime against Scheduled Tribes
(35.2) as compared to the national average of 10.5.It
is understood from the above Table that in 2015, 10914 cases of crimes
including both atrocities and non-atrocities were registered as committed
against the scheduled tribes, nationally. This was actually 4.7% less compared
to the cases registered in 2014.Rajasthan reported the highest in such
unpleasant brutal acts with 1409 cases , the second highest rate was noted in
Madhya Pradesh with 158 cases. It can be inferred from the above table that the
highest rate of cognizable offences was reported from Kerala (34), in 2015, followed
by other states like Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh etc. Quite shocking is that
Kerala is known for its highest literacy rate of 93.91 %.It
is understood from the above table (Table 1.8) that in Kerala the assault on ST
women to outrage their  modesty is high
(3.9) . The rate of kidnapping and abducting women is also high in Kerala
compared to elsewhere (0.8).

To
prevent such atrocities, there has to be a coordinated effort from all corners.
To curb this evil from happening, what is required is a fundamental change in
attitude and behaviour of the tribal women where they become bold enough to
report such atrocities to the police and also to bring them to the notice of
society. This can be made possible by empowering the tribal women community
through education. Imparting IT Skills can play a very major role in this by
educating these women on their rights and encouraging them to register cases
online.

 

 1.2.5 Land related
issues – its possession and livelihood

The
tribal community in Kerala originally were food gatherers. They earned their
bread and butter from what they used to get from forests. Commonly called as
the sons of forests, they always stood for preserving the forest. Now
Government has come up with stringent policies with matters related to
environment protection. Tribals don’t live in concrete buildings. They live in
Forests. Cutting a tree trunk for building a hut has become an offence. Large
scale industrialization, urbanization and exploitation of natural resources due
to deforestation to meet the urban and industrial demands have greatly affected
the livelihood pattern. This trend has been responsible for displacing large
number of tribes from their habitations (Nathan
&Xaxa, 2012; Singh, 2012).

1.2.6 Health &
Hygiene

God
Own Country – The State of Kerala has achieved stupendous progress in human
development. There have been a number of studies on the tribes, their culture
and the impact of acculturation on the tribal society. But studies relating to
tribal health, concept of disease and health beliefs and practices are rather
scanty and specific study on this topic with reference to the tribal’s,
covering the different facets is practically non-existent (Chaudhuri 1986). It is learned from various studies conducted by
eminent research scholars that government initiatives to improve the health of
tribal people in Kerala has brought in dramatic results by reducing the
mortality rate.

But
the serious concern is that co-existing with reduction in death rate, the
condition of being diseased mostly caused by diseases linked to underdevelopment,
poverty and chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and other physical health
conditions poses an area of serious concern. There have been reports which
reveal that tribes in Kerala have serious health issues. Many tribal people die
of malnutrition, ignorance and superstitious beliefs. Other reasons perhaps may
be the recent changes in land usage pattern and land alienation has adversely
affected their livelihood. In addition to this lack of cleanliness poses a
great threat. Figure 1.3 highlights the Health Indicators among Tribal’s in
India.

 

 

 1.2.7 Lack of basic
infrastructural facilities

The
State government in Kerala from time to time has been coming up with
initiatives to redress the grievances of the tribal community in Kerala. There
are many non-governmental agencies also supporting the initiatives of the State
Government or coming up with their own initiatives to resolve the issues in
tribal areas. But it’s very discouraging to comprehend that even after all
these efforts most of the tribal colonies even now is found to be deficient in
the very basic infrastructural facilities like drinking water  facility, road transportation , electricity ,
housing, toilet facilities etc. According to the survey conducted by KILA,
“there are about one lakh tribal families, among them mere 27,416 families have
land,…49 per cent don’t have toilets and more than 39850 families don’t possess
a kitchen … 98,536 tribal people of Kerala are still illiterates and the number
of people who received the formal education is 2.48 lakhs only, The dropout
rate among the tribal students is also high in the state, 15393 students in the
primary, 12907 students of secondary and 145391 students from the higher secondary
dropped out for several reasons… about 2402 families take meal one time in a
day and amongst them half are agricultural laborers and 34,092 families only
have two meals a day and the number of family members who are having
malnutrition is 13,960…The socio economic position of most of the tribal’s
residing in the scheduled area of the state is miserable, Socially they are at
the lowest rank of the society…” (Khan,
2012).

1.2.8 Other issues of
concern in tribal areas

Naxalism
is now Kerala’s latest bogey, an issue that gets talked about everywhere. The
presence and activities of rebellious and disruptive groups like Maoists, Dalit
Human Right Movement (DHRM) or other extremist groups in the state are based in
the forests where the tribal’s live. These inconsiderate groups exploit the
tribal population to find a safe haven for their disruptive activities. Tracing
the recent events in the southern region, the areas around the point of
confluence among Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu record most of the events
related to the Naxals. While there has been a weakening of the Naxalites in the
Red Corridor, there has been substantial growth in places like Kerala (A Deb, 2015). 

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