Essay on Tribal Problems in India

2. Cultural Problems:

The tribal culture is entirely different from the way of life of the civilized people. The tribals fail to understand the civilised people, their customs and practices, beliefs and attitudes and so on. They are suspicious towards the civilised people. They are clinging tenaciously to their customs and traditions.

During the British rule some foreign Christian missionaries made an attempt to propagalt their religion in some of the tribal areas, particularly in the North-Eastern provinces. They even t” to impose their culture on them.

Even today such an attempt is going on. On the other hand, the Ramakrishna Mission, R.S.S, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other organisations are spreading the Hinduism in these areas. Some of the tribal leaders have now started popularising the tribal religion. These different propagandas have created a great confusion for them.

The cultural gap between the civilised and the tribal people is coming in the way of the assimilation and integration of the tribal people into the mainstream of the national life of India.

3. Social Problems:

The tribals have their own social problems also. They are traditional and custom-bound. The; have become the victims of superstitious beliefs, outmoded and meaningless practices and harmful habits. Child marriage, infanticide, homicide, animal sacrifice, exchange of wives, black magic and other harmful practices are still found among them.

They believe in ghosts and spirits. They have keen desire to maintain all these practices in general, and their individual tribal character. Hence it is said that “the tribals are the tribesmen first, the tribesmen last and the tribesmen all the time”.

4. Economic Problem:

The tribal people are economically the poorest people of India. Majority of them live beta the poverty line. The tribal economy is based on agriculture of the crudest type. The main economic problems of the tribals are explained below.

(i) Exploitation:

The innocence, illiteracy and helplessness of the tribals are exploited by the outsiders. The British policy, in particular, had led to ruthless exploitation of the tribals in various ways as it favoured the zamindars, landlords, money-lenders, forest contractors and excise, revenue and police officials.

(ii) Unprofitable Agriculture:

About 90% of the tribals are engaged in cultivation and most of them are landless and practise shifting cultivation. They need to be helped in adopting new methods of cultivation. The tribals possess uneconomic holdings because of which their crop yield is very less. A very small percentage of the population participates in occupational activities in the secondary and tertiary sectors.

(iii) Problems of land ownership:

A good portion of the land in the tribal areas has been legally transferred to non-tribals. Tribals demand that this land should be returned to them. In fact the tribals had earlier enjoyed much freedom to use the forest and hunt their animals. They and emotionally attached to the forests for they believe that their gods, spirits live in forests. The tribals
who are “deprived’ of their rights to the land and forest have reacted sharply to the restrictions imposed by the government on their traditional rights.

(iv) Unemployment and Underemployment:

A large number of tribal young men and women are either unemployed or underemployed. They are unhappy for they are not able to get jobs that can keep them occupied throughout the year. They need to be helped in finding secondary source of income by developing animal husbandry, poultry farming, handicrafts, handloom weaving, etc.

(v) Non-Availability of Banking Facilities:

Banking facilities in the tribal areas are so inad­equate that the tribals have mainly to depend on the money-lenders. The tribals, therefore, demand that “Agricultural Indebtedness Relief Acts” should be enacted so that they may get back their mort­gaged land.

5. Educational Problems:

Illiteracy is a major problem of the tribals. More than 80% of them are illiterate. Literacy among them has increased from 0.7% in 1931 to 11.30% in 1970 and to 16.35% in 1981. These shows more than 3/4 of the tribals are illiterate. They have no faith in formal educational organisation. Many of them do not know anything about education, schools, colleges, universities, degrees, etc.

They feel no urge to educate their children. Since most of the tribals are poor, education appears to be a luxury for them. In the case of those people who are engaged in agriculture, their minor children are also engaged in it. The illiterate parents do not consider it as their primary responsibility to give education to their children.

i. The Problem of Language:

The medium of instruction is another hindrance to the promotion of education among the tribes. Most of the tribal languages do not have a script of their own. Hence the children are obliged to learn things in a language which is foreign to them. Even in tribal areas the number of tribal teachers is very less and hence communication problem always arises between the students and the teachers.

ii. The curriculum of education is another main problem:

The existing curriculum, as experts rightly have pointed out, is not suited and has little relevance to the tribal people.

6. Problem of Health and Sanitation:

Due to illiteracy and ignorance the tribals are not able to appreciate modern concept of health and sanitation. They do not take much care pertaining to their own health. They believe that diseases are caused by hostile spirits and ghosts. They have their own traditional means of diagnosis and cure.

Good number of them fall a prey to the diseases such as skin disease, forest fever, typhoid, T.B., leprosy, malaria, veneral diseases, small px, etc. Contact with outsiders further added to a few more diseases in the tribal areas.


It is observed that the Thodas of Niligiri Hills have been suffering from some modern diseases like veneral diseases, diabetes, blood pressure, etc. after com­ing into touch with the British who made Niligiri Hills one of their summer resorts. These diseases take a heavy toll of tribal life. Their suspicion and lack of faith in modern doctors have made them not to avail their selves of the modern medical facilities.

7. Problem of Separatism:

The “divide and rule” policy adopted by the British did a lot of damage to the tribal commu­nity of India. The British had superimposed their bwn administrative patterns in tribal areas and deprived the tribals of their traditional methods of interacting with people. The “Criminal Tribes Act” which the British had introduced gave an impression that the tribals were either “criminals” or “anti-social beings”.

The tribal groups such as Kolis, Mundas, Khasis, Santals, Naga, etc, who fought against the British were branded as “dacoits ” and “robbers”. The British government which wanted to humble these tribals and “correct” them gave direct encouragement to the foreign Christian missionary activities especially in, the Central and the North-Eastern Zone. These activities which

i. Tribal Revolts and Uprisings:

Numerous revolts and uprisings of the tribals have taken place beginning with the one in Bihar in 1772, followed by many other revolts in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Mizoram and Nagaland. The important tribes involved in revolt in the 19th century were Mizos. [1810], Kols [1795 and 1831], Mundas [1889], Daflas [1875],Khasi and Garo [1829],Kacharis [1839],Santhals [1853], Muria Gonds [1886], Nagas [1844 and 1879],Bhuiyas [1868] and Kondhs [1817], During the recent tribal uprisings the Nagas, Mizos and the Bodostook part in them in large number and created serious law and order problem.

ii. Smuggling, Infiltration and Drug Addiction:

The foreign infiltrators especially from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burma and China are entering the borders of India through what are known as “tribal belts” Some of them take undue advantage of the tribals’ innocence and ignorance for their smuggling activities.

Prohibited drugs and unlicensed weapons are smuggled inside the land and beyond the borders of India through the tribal areas. Some of the tribal have been made the victims of drug addiction. Hence, tribal areas in the borders have become extremely sensitive areas.