Tribal communities are often easy to spot by things like being backward, having primitive traits, having a unique culture, living in a remote area, being afraid to interact with the rest of the world, and being shy. Along with these things, some tribal groups depend on hunting and gathering for food, have technology from before agriculture, have no or negative population growth, and have a very low level of knowledge. Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups is the name for these groups.
These groups are among the most susceptible in our society because there aren’t many of them, they haven’t made much progress in their social and economic lives, and they tend to live in remote areas with poor infrastructure and administrative support. Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) are made up of 75 of these kinds of groups.
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The need for identification:
• PVTGs are more at risk in tribal groups, so they need to be identified. Because of this, more developed and strong tribal groups get most of the money for tribal development. This means that PVTGs need more money to help them grow.
• In this situation, the Government of India decided in 1975 to put the most vulnerable tribal groups into a separate category called PVTGs. In 1993, 23 more groups were added to the category, bringing the total number of PVTGs to 75 out of the 705 Scheduled Tribes in India, which live in 17 states and one Union Territory (UT).
The characteristics of PVTGs:
• In 1973, the Dhebar Commission formed a separate group called Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs), which are the least developed of the tribal groups.
• The Government of India changed the name of the PTGs to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in 2006.
• PVTGs have some basic traits: they are mostly homogeneous, have a small population, are physically separated, have simple social institutions, no written language, simple technology, and a slow rate of change, among other things.
• In India, 8.6% of the total population is made up of tribal people. About 15% of the land in the country is home to people who are not part of a group.
• They live in plains, woods, hills, places that are hard to get to, etc.
• PVTGs can be found in many different parts of the country.
According to the 2001 census, there are about 27,68,322 people in the PVTGs. Twelve of the groups have more than 50,000 people, and the rest have 1000 people or less.
• The most people live in the Sahariyas PVTG, which has 4,50,217 people. The Sentinelese and Andamanese PVTGs, on the other hand, only have 39 and 43 people, respectively.
Social conditions and declining population:
• The cultural practises, systems, ways of self-government, and ways of making a living of PVTGs vary a lot based on the group and the area.
• These tribes have very different ways of life. PVTGs have a lot of differences in their social and economic situations. Their problems are also very different from one group to the next. Compared to the growth of the general population, the number of PVTGs is either staying the same or going down. This is especially true in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where the rate of decline is very high.
• The Great Andamanese, Jarawas, Onges, Sentinelese, and Shom Pens are some of the five PVTGs in the Andaman Islands.
In 1858, it was thought that there were about 3,500 Great Andamanese. By 1901, that number had dropped to 625.
According to the 2001 Census, there were only 43 Great Andamanese, 241 Jarawas, 96 Onges, 39 Sentinels, and 398 Shom Pens.
• PVTGs rely on many different ways to make a living, such as gathering food, harvesting non-timber forest products (NTFP), hunting, raising animals, shifting cultivation, and making crafts. Most of what they live on comes from the forest. The forest is their home and how they make a living.
• They gather NTFPs like honey, gum, amla, bamboo, bushes, fuelwood, dry leaves, nuts, sprouts, wax, medicinal plants, roots, and tubes. Most of the NTFP they collect is for their own use, and they sell the rest to middlemen. However, their ability to collect NTFP is getting harder because forests are shrinking, the climate is changing, and there are new rules about protecting forests. Middlemen have taken advantage of PVTGs because they don’t know how much NTFP goods are worth.
The health of PVTGs is very bad because of things like poverty, illiteracy, lack of safe drinking water, bad sanitary conditions, difficult terrain, malnutrition, poor maternal and child health services, lack of health and nutritional services, superstition, and deforestation. They have diseases like anaemia, upper respiratory problems, malaria, gastro-intestinal disorders like acute diarrhoea, intestinal protozoan, and mumps. The state of schooling is also very bad. In PVTGs, the average number of people who can read and write is between 10% and 44%.
Scheme for the PVTGs:
• On April 1, 2008, the Scheme for Development of Primitive and Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) went into action.
• The Scheme says that PVTGs are the most vulnerable of the Scheduled Tribes. Because of this, the Scheme tries to protect and grow them first.
• The Scheme tries to look at the social and economic development of PVTGs as a whole, and it gives state governments the freedom to plan projects that meet the particular social and cultural needs of the groups in question.
• The plan helps pay for things like housing, land distribution, land development, agricultural development, cattle development, building link roads, installing alternative energy sources, social security, etc.
• Funds are only given to actions that are necessary for the survival, protection, and growth of PVTGs and that are not already paid for by any other central or state government scheme.
• Each state and the government of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are required to make a long-term Conservation-combined-Development (CCD) plan for each PVTG in their territory. This plan must be valid for five years and describe the projects they will work on, how they will pay for them, and which agencies will be in charge of them. The CCD Plan is approved by an Expert Committee appointed by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The Scheme is then paid for by the Central government in its entirety.
Challenges faced by PVTGs
• Lack of consistency in identifying: Each state has its own way of identifying PVTG, so the process isn’t always clear.
The heart of the MoTA’s instructions wasn’t taken very seriously, so there isn’t a single rule for figuring out who the PVTGs are.
• Outdated List: According to the Anthropological Survey of India, the list of PVTG items overlaps and repeats itself.
For example, the Mankidia and the Birhor in Odisha are both names for the same group, but they are different ways of saying the same thing.
• Lack of baseline surveys: Baseline surveys are done to find out exactly who the PVTG families are, where they live, and how well off they are financially, so that development projects can be carried out in these areas based on facts and numbers.
The Anthropological Survey of India found 75 PVTGs. Even after they were named PVTGs, baseline studies were done on about 40 of these groups.
Lack of baseline polls makes it hard for welfare programmes to work.
• Different people get different benefits from aid programmes: In some cases, a PVTG only gets benefits in a few blocks of a district, while the same group doesn’t get anything in blocks next to it.
For example, the LanjiaSaora are known as a PVTG all over Odisha, but only two blocks have micro-projects. The rest of the LanjiaSaora are considered to be part of the Scheduled Tribes (STs), and these projects do not help them.
• Effects of development projects: In 2002, a Standing Committee set up by the MoTA to look at the “Development of Primitive Tribal Groups” said that development projects like dams, industries, and mines have the worst effects on tribal people, especially PVTGs.
• Loss of land rights: PVTGs have been cut off from their resources in an organised way because of conservation efforts, such as the creation of Reserved Forests and Protected Forests.
For example, under the Project Tiger, 245 Baiga people were forced to leave the Achanakmar Tiger Reserve in 2009.
Even though the Forest Rights Act of 2006 is in place, many PVTGs still lose their rights to their habitats.
For example, the state’s forest department won’t let the Mankidia people live in the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR).
• Problems with their way of life: Their Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) collection is affected by shrinking forests, changes in the environment, and laws meant to protect forests.
They don’t know how much NTFP is worth on the market, so middle guys take advantage of them.
• Health Problems: Because of poverty, lack of safe drinking water, bad sanitation, lack of health services, superstition, and deforestation, PVTGs have a lot of health problems, like anaemia, malaria, GI disorders, micronutrient shortage, and skin diseases.
Tribes that have never had touch with outsiders, like the Sentinelese tribe of Andaman, have a very high chance of getting diseases if they do.
• Illiteracy: Even though many PVTGs have become better at reading and writing over the past few years, only 30–40% of them can read and write. Also, the low learning rate of women is a big problem.
• Weaknesses of the tribes in Andaman and Nicobar: Outsiders have been taking over the ecosystems of the weak tribal groups.
Outside forces are affecting how they use their land, how they use the sea, and their species as a whole. This is causing both material and non-material changes.
India’s Supreme Court said in 2002 that the Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) that goes through the Jarawa reserve should be closed. However, the road is still open, and people use it to go on “human safaris” to see the Jarawa.
Ways forward for PVTGs:
• Along with the Census, a good survey should be done to collect complete data on PVTGs, including the number of people living there, their health, their level of nutrition, their education, their vulnerabilities, and so on. This would make it easier to put in place safety measures.
• Of the 75 PVTGs, those whose numbers are falling should be clearly identified, and a plan for their survival should be made. • PVTGs whose survival is threatened by moving wildlife areas or building projects should be named, and plans should be made to stop this from happening.
• It’s important to realise that PVTGs have a natural link to their lands and habitats. So, the growth of PVTGs should be based on people’s rights. Effective, preventative, and curative health systems should be made to deal with the health problems that plague PVTGs.
Communities, government leaders, and civil society groups all need to be made aware of PVTG Rights in a big way. It’s important to value their culture, traditions, beliefs, and ways of making a living that don’t hurt the environment.
The government needs to change how it protects the A&N islands’ native tribes from outside impact. India needs to sign the ILO agreement from 1989 and put its different policies into place to protect the rights of the indigenous people.
The government should also try to teach settlers and people from other places about the PVTGs of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
When helping PVTGs, the ideas of Tribal Panchsheel must be followed, and they must be given time to catch up with the rest of society at their own pace. Communities need to be given the power to make their own decisions about their lives and ways of making a living and to choose their own road to development.