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Socio-Economic And Educational Status Of Tribal Women In India

The tribal population in India, though a numerically small minority, represents an enormous diversity of groups. They share common dialects, common culture and at the same time vary in different aspects like- the size of the population, modes of making a livelihood, level of development, social stratification, etc. Since British rule, the tribal population has faced segregation. From being employed in tea gardens in Northeast to post-independence, much progress in the socio-economic, health, and education has not been noted.

In the post-Independence period, sincere efforts were made for the economic and educational development of tribes but still, the performance of the tribes in education is much lower than the Scheduled Castes and non-scheduled tribal population. They had been subjected to various forms of deprivation such as alienation from land and other resources. Tribal women, in particular, had also been facing deprivation of various basic amenities like- health issues, water availability, primary education, etc.

The Xaxa Committee set up in 2013 under the chairmanship of Prof. Virginius Xaxa studied five critical issues faced by the tribal population:
  1. livelihood and employment,
  2. education,
  3. health,
  4. involuntary displacement and migration,
Legal and constitutional matters. But, the fact remains - for the tribal children, teaching-learning has not always been friendly. Also, another report, High-Level Committee on Socio-Economic, Health and Educational Status of Tribal Communities of India, submitted in 2014 to the Government of India says that the state has paid a lot of attention to issues of development in tribal areas without caring for protecting them from the elements which have been exploiting them. This paper attempts to study the reports of various such committees, and papers and critically analyse the problems faced by the tribal women in India in general. The researchers have relied upon the secondary sources of data.

Comprising about eight per cent of the total population of India, the tribal people are among the most vulnerable groups in the country. Not only do they share with other hindered groups the common travails of monetary hardship, they are additionally confronted perennially with grave dangers to their social respectability and socio-political opportunities.

The tribal population in India, though a numerically small minority, represents an enormous diversity of groups.[1] They share common dialects, common culture but vary in various aspects like- size of population, modes of making a livelihood, level of development, social, satisfaction, etc.

Since British rule, the tribal population has faced segregation. From being employed in tea gardens in Northeast to post-independence, much progress in socio-economic, health, education has not been noted. In the post-Independence period, sincere efforts were made for the economic and educational development of tribals but still the performance of the tribes in education is much lower than the Scheduled Castes and non- scheduled tribal population.[2]

They had been subjected to various forms of deprivation such as alienation from land and other resources. Tribal women had also been facing deprivation of various basic amenities like- health issues, water availability, primary education, etc.

Tribal Population: Pre-independence to Post-independence India

Pre- Independence Period:
Before India�s independence, the tribals were headed by Kings. When the Britishers entered, they were dominating under their reign. Due to the dominating tendency of Britishers, many revolts and rebellions took place which were led by the tribal community.

Below mention are a few uprisings among those:
  1. Ghumusara uprising of Khonds (1835-37)
  2. Sambalpur uprisings (1857-64)
  3. The anti-feudal bhuiyan and juanga movement (1867-68 & 1891-93)
  4. Nilgiri peasant uprising (1930)
  5. Kol rebellion (1821)
  6. Santhal rebellion (1855)
  7. Koya movement (1879)
  8. Sardari agitation (1887)
  9. The rampha rebellion (1911)
  10. Gond and kolan movement (1941-42)
After these uprisings and revolts, the British Administration initiated work for the welfare and betterment of tribals. Even after India�s independence many commissions and acts were formulated for the development of tribals.

Regulations Made For Tribal Welfare:

The Scheduled District Act (1874)[3]: It was the first step taken to deal with the tribal areas & it envisaged those areas to be outside the jurisdiction of the normal administration of the British. This Act restricted general rules and granted special status for the tribal-dominated areas of Old Madras Presidency.

The Indian Education Commission (1882): This commission favoured the children of tribals by making payment of school fees of tribal inmates and also made the provision of grants for the schools prevailing in tribal areas.

Government of India Act of 1919 and 1935: These acts proved to be helpful for the tribals. In these acts, the areas which were covered or inhabited by the tribals were declared as partially and fully excluded areas and thereby restricting movements of common men.

Post- Independence Era:

After Independence, the framers of the constitution introduced various provisions for the social, economic and educational welfare of the tribals. After distinguishing the needs of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, constitution-makers drafted various footings for these two different minority groups and those footings are known as constitutional safeguards. And these constitutional safeguards help the minorities & privileged classes protect them from social injustice and political inequality.

In the Indian constitution, there are more than 20 Articles and 2 Schedules (Schedule-V & VI) embodied to protect them from inequality and injustice. These are for the welfare of tribal population which technically includes tribal women as well.

Here are some provisions of the Indian constitution inclined towards the tribal population as a whole:
  • Part (C) of Article 244(1) says that: The expression 'scheduled tribe' means such areas as the President of India may by order of 1950, 1975 and 1977 declare to be Scheduled Areas[4].
  • Article 15(4): Article 15 prohibits any form of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, sex, caste, birth in any institution maintained by the state. And clause 4 of this article empowers the state to make any special provision Scheduled Classes and Scheduled Tribes.[5]
  • Article 16(4): State can make any provision for the reservation of appointments on any posts in favour of any backward class of citizens if not represented adequately.
  • Article 19(5): State can impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of any of the rights either in the interests of the general public or for the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe.
  • Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989: This act was enacted to prevent atrocities against the minorities specially scheduled castes & tribes. And this act is known as the Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Castes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
  • Article 23 eliminates the system of bondage, forced labour. Most of the bonded and forced labour belongs to these communities so this article works in favour of these communities.
  • Article 29(2): No citizen shall be denied admission to any educational institution maintained by the state fund or receiving aid out of the state funds on the ground of race, religion, caste, language or any of them.[6]
  • Article 39: State shall in particular direct its policy towards securing adequate means of livelihood for all and the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment.
  • Article 45: State shall endeavour to provide free and compulsory education for all children till the age of 14 years.
  • Article 46 talks about the promotion of educational and economic interests of weaker sections of the people and, in particular, of the SCs and STs and especially to protect them from social injustice and exploitation.
  • Article 330, 332, 334 and 335 ensure reservation for the SCs and STs in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. Though such reservations were to be ceased on the expiry of a period of 40 years from the commencement of the constitution, i.e. in 1990 (Article 334) but, it has been repeatedly amended and the duration has been extended.

Putting forth much stress on each article aforementioned is futile. But, at the same time, it is here worth taking note that framers of India Constitution took into consideration the plight of these underprivileged and those falling into minorities back then.

In the next chapter, stress has been given on the educational status of tribal women in India and also what all recommendations were made by the committee set up by union government.

Tribal women: Challenges in education & scenario in India

If you educate a man you educate an individual, however, if you educate a woman you educate a whole family. Women empowered means mother India empowered.- PT. Jawaharlal Nehru

Napoleon was once asked, what the great need of France was. He replied:

Progress of the nation is impossible without educated mother. If the women of my country are not educated the about half of the people will be illiterate. Education is the key to success. The similarly is true for women. Women are the centres of formation in this world. They have played a stable and distinct role in the society, from daughter, sister, wife and mother.

The true evaluation of their contribution to the family, society and the country is scarcely done or counted till date. In this intense changing society and the world, women have to get aware about themselves, responsibilities, and their rights. At present times the role of women is considered in almost all aspects of social fiber. Education of women, which is about half of the nation�s population, therefore, indisputably, is the significant for a developing country like India. Women are the first teacher of the child in the whole world. Therefore, education of women is certainly considered the most important part of the development of the society.

Our human community must also understand the need of their education for the improvement of the society. Women education can help solve their problems, such as birth control, drug, poverty, dowry system, bridge burning case, inequality of women in society and child labor etc.

The basic principle of universal free compulsory education is enshrined in Article 45 and Article 46 of the Constitution of India directs upon the Indian State the responsibility of taking �special care� of educational interests of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.[7] As mentioned in the previous chapter that efforts have been made since pre-independence India. Not only during Even at the time of Independence, had governing provisions warranted that were the educational needs of the tribals sufficiently met with.[8]

But, to those efforts, there had been various hindrances as well. There are various hindrances in the path of education of tribal women. Attempts had been made to strengthen the measures taken by the government to mend the present status of education among these communities. In India, education of tribal women is major preoccupation of both government and civil society because the education is very important tool for the development of the country.

For the progress of the society, inclusive progress of all section is required, and for this perspective, it is necessary to bring the tribal women, such as deprived, weaker and marginalized section of society to the forefront, of these human resources of the educational revolution in India. It is important for equal development and overall development of the nation.

Literacy Trends Of Tribal Women In India:

No doubt, literacy is an important indicator of development of an individual. If one is deprived of educational facilities, then the deprivation is not limited to educational status only, but it affects and deprives of other facilities such as their health condition, economic condition, etc. as well.

On perusing a report[9] that shows the data of literacy among the tribal population from 1961-2011, researcher found that total literacy among the tribal population was as low as 8.54% in 1961 which gradually increased to 63.1% in 2011. But, to dismay, of total tribal women population, only 54.4 % are educated as compared to their male counterpart whose literacy rate stands at 71.7% in the year 2011.

Committees' reports & recommendations on the status of tribals in India

Bhuria Committee

This Committee was constituted under the chairmanship of Dilip Singh Bhuria in 1994, popularly called the Bhuria Committee to examine various dimensions of self-rule for tribals, the constitutional requirements and to make recommendations for extending the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution to the Scheduled Areas. Important recommendations of Bhuria Committee, inter alia, included:[10]
  1. The Gram Sabha at the hamlet/village level should exercise traditional functions such as management of land, forest, water and air.[11]
  2. States should consider reorganisation of the boundaries based on ethnic, demographic and geographic considerations.[12]
  3. Tribal aspirations can be satisfied if tribal regions are conferred sub-state status. Grant of autonomous district council status for districts in central Indian tribal tracts will be like sub-federalism.
  4. The schemes should pre-eminently be related to participative democracy, particularly at the grassroots and district levels.
  5. The tribal community should be regarded as in command of the economic resources. The districts and other councils should make appropriate laws for the regulation of the land and other resources for industries.

Dhebar Commission

  1. There is a need to advise the State Governments to ensure that the State legislations on Panchayats should conform with the customary law, social and religious practices and traditional management practices of community resources and where the State Governments have enacted legislation which does not conform with the customary law, social religious practices and traditional management practices, they should initiate corrective action to make suitable amendments in the State legislations.[13]

  2. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs should make all possible efforts to expedite the passing of the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005 which has already been introduced in Parliament and referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) for further examination which, inter alia, addresses the problems of the tribals relating to grant of pattas in respect of the forest land on which they have been cultivating/living for generations grant of pattas in respect of the forest land on which they have been cultivating/living for generations.

  3. The state governments were advised: (i) To take necessary steps to preserve the cultural heritage of the tribal people with particular reference to:
    1. places of worship,
    2. historical museums
    3. historical monuments and
    4. tribal art and crafts.
  4. Attempts should be made to dovetail resources available to ensure perceptible changes in the tribal areas as against the practice of spreading resources too thin under sectoral programmes in a disintegrated fashion.


Jawaharlal Nehru formulated the following five principles for the policy to be pursued vis-a-vis the tribals:
  1. People should develop along the lines of their genius, and the imposition of alien values should be avoided.
  2. Tribal rights in land and forest should be respected.
  3. Teams of tribals should be trained in the work of administration and development.
  4. Tribal areas should not be over administered or overwhelmed with a multiplicity of schemes.
  5. Results should be judged not by statistics or the amount of money spent, but by the human character that is evolved.


Despite various constitutional provisions and policies for the tribal population as a whole, it is a hard reality that the tribals in general & tribal women in specific, still are lagging in many respects. Their low level of economic activities, social backwardness, low level of literacy, poor health conditions make it important for a systematic process of tribal development. They work very hard and contribute significantly towards the economic condition of the family, but they are still in poverty mostly because no proper efforts are oriented towards them.

During the plan periods, various programmes are taken up for the development of the Scheduled Tribe population and a lot of betterment has been already done, but still, a lot more requires to be done. The families need to have a sufficient income to enable them to cross the poverty levels. Since economic status determines other aspects of life and living conditions, it is of utmost importance. Education for tribals is an essential aspect of development and their upliftment.

It is a vital instrument to bring about a change in the cultural norms and patterns of life of the tribals and to change their outlook and made them economically independent. Education will enable them to take up jobs so that they can improve their situation. The social and economic status of the scheduled tribe to a large extent depends on the educational attainment. In the present context, no one can remain completely isolated, but they are influenced by the growth of modern society and culture. The government has been providing a lot of support and grant for the education of Tribal students.

This will help to increase the literacy rate and it will lead to the right way to development. The health status of the tribals is explored to assess their awareness regarding their health. Sometimes they lack the essential nutrients. Many times they suffer from various diseases as there is a lack of health and hygiene awareness. Thus increasing the literacy rate and providing opportunities for gainful employment for tribal women will be instrumental in bringing about a change in the status of tribal women in India and to handle to challenges successfully.

Literacy campaign:A proper awareness campaign should be organized to create awareness about the importance of education.[14] Extensive literacy campaigns in the tribal-dominated districts may be undertaken on a priority basis to literate the tribal.[15]

Attitude of the tribal parents: The attitude of the tribal parents toward education should be improved through proper counselling and guidance. Relevant study materials in local languages - All study materials should be supplied in local languages of tribes.

Appointment of Local teachers and female teachers: It is suggested to appoint more tribal teachers and female teachers in the tribal areas. The ecological, cultural, psychological characteristics of tribal children should be considered carefully by the teachers in tribal areas.

Stipends and various scholarships: Since higher education among the tribes is less, special ST scholarships should be provided to the tribal students pursuing higher education particularly in medical, engineering and other vocational streams; though there are various scholarships and incentives available for the tribal children but either those are not updated properly or there are lacunae in implementation.

Residential schools: More residential schools should be established in each state and districts and extended up to PG level in tribal areas. Social security- Social security of students, especially of adolescent girls is of great concern in residential schools. Proper Monitoring - Higher-level officials should check the functioning of schools frequently relating to the teaching methods, working hours, and attendance registers.

Administration of incentives: It is needed that incentives be streamlined so that the students may avail all the facilities at the proper time

Internet sources:
  4. Bhuria Committee Report (2004). New Delhi: The Government of India.
  5. Maqsoodah Akhter & Rubeenah Akhter, Issues Of Tribes In India: Education And Health (2016), International Journal Of Research.
Books & Articles:
  1. Lal, M. (2005), Education-The Inclusive Growth Strategy for the economically and socially disadvantaged in the Society
  2. Jawaharlal Nehru, 'The Right Approach to Tribal People', Indian Journal of Social Work
  3. Annual Report 2010-2011 & Annual report 2008-2009, Ministry of tribal affairs, Government of India. Statistical Profile of Scheduled Tribes in India & 2010 Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Statistics Division, Government of India.
  4. Rao, G & Bhagat, R. (2005) Summary and Recommendations of National Seminar on Tribal Demography, Health and Development in India.
  5. M. R. Jyothi Frederick, Empowerment Of Tribal Women In Srikakulam District (5 Ed. 2018), International Journal Of Business, Management And Allied Sciences.

  1. T. Brahmanandam & T. Bosu Babu, Educational Status among the Scheduled Tribes: Issues and Challenges (2016).
  2. Ibid
  3. The Scheduled District Act (1874)
  4. J.N.Pandey, Constitutional law of India,(56th ed.2019).
  5. Added by the Constitution (1st Amendment Act), 1951, S.2.
  6. Dr.J.J.Ram Upadhyay, Constitution of India, 15 (2002).
  7.,%20May-June%202014.pdf (last visited Feb 20, 2020)
  8. Ibid
  9. Ramesh Naik. B, Social, Economic And Educational Status Of Tribal Women In India: Some Issues, V International Journal Of Scientific Research , 47-48 (2016)
  10. PESA - The Provisions Of The Panchayats (Extension To The Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, (2016), Https://Pesadarpan.Gov.In/En_US/Legislations.
  11. Bhuria Committee Report For PESA Report Of Mps And Experts To Make Recommendations On The Salient Features Of The Law For Extending Provisions Of The Constitution (73rd) Amendment Act, 1992 To Scheduled Areas (2011)
  13. Ibid
  14. Sachin Gupta, Development of STs (2018),
  15. Maqsoodah Akhter & Rubeenah Akhter, Issues Of Tribes In India: Education And Health (2016), International Journal Of Research.
  16. Ibid

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