This article is written by Shubhanshi Phogat.

Ralph Linton, the eminent anthropologist defined tribes as: 

“A group of bands occupying a contiguous territory or territories and having a feeling of unity deriving from numerous similarities in a culture, frequent contacts and a certain community of interests.”


Originally the word ‘tribe’ has its origin in the Latin word ‘tribus’ which was used for the identification of the three divisions of the Roman people. Later some anthropologists like- F.G. Bailey, a social anthropologist defined tribes to be ethnic groups with an organic unity, lack of interaction and absence of any hierarchical system. S. Sinha too made few valuable observations about tribal people and stated that tribe is isolated from other ethnic group in ecology, demography, economy, political and other social relations and this generates a strong in-group sentiment which ultimately alienates them from others in society. The ancient Indian texts defined them as dasyus, daityas and nishads. Additionally, many sociological literature define this community as aboriginals, submerged humanity, backward Hindus while others perceive them as sub-human who lives under primitive conditions.

The present popular meaning and understanding of tribes were however acquired during the expansion of colonialism particularly in Asia and Africa. This ethnic group with a combination of racial, territorial and cultural characteristics carved out for itself a small and close-knit society known by different names like Vanvasi, Pahardi, Janjati, Adimjati, Adivasi, Vanyajati. It was in 1950 when the Constitution of India officially defined tribes as the ‘Scheduled Tribes’ as such tribes or tribal communities as under Article 342 to be Scheduled Tribes for the purpose of the constitution.

Tribal populations are spread across the world, in which India is having one of the largest concentrations of tribal people. The configuration of the tribal population according to the last three census years- in 1951 India had 5.6% of tribal population which by the next census year which is 2001 increased to 8.2% of the total population. In 2001 majority of the Scheduled tribes lived in rural areas amounting to 10.4% of the total rural population to its contrary there was meagre 2.4% tribal people in urban areas. Finally, at present, according to the 2011 census the tribal population stands at 8.6% of the total population out of which 11.3% lives in rural areas whereas 2.8% lives in urban areas of the country.

India is a country that reflects varied facets of human existence ranging from diversity in cultures, religions, language, race, lifestyle and much more. In this diverse country, the tribal population has always formed an essential part, not because of their increasing population percentage but because these tribal people reflect the rich indigenous colour of the country along with their enigmatic cultures, dialects and economic pursuits in different ecological settings. They are considered significant and have been in focus since the inception of the constituent assembly of the country where, in one of its discussions a political stalwart, Mr. Jaipal Singh Munda strongly stood for the rights of the tribal and stressed the word ‘Adivasi’ in the fifth schedule of the constitution for them. 

The Scheduled tribes are one of the backward or depressed classes of the country since Independence. They represent the historically disadvantaged section of society that stands at the lowest rung of the social, economical, geographical and political divisions among the members of society. Their position in the society not only distances them from the mainstream society leading to indefinite alienation and isolation but also exposes them to various problems- social injustice, exploitation, violation of rights and forcible conversion. Thus, to safeguard the tribal population as well as their heritage which makes India diverse in a true sense, the Constitution of India and the Central government as the ‘guardian of the rights’ of the people and the ‘prime protector’ of the country, with the passage of time made efforts to priorities the needs of the tribes and aimed to ensure complete inclusion resulting into an equitable and sustainable life for the tribal population.

The tribal population when adopts complex ways of modern civilization and parts with their natural rights and certain eccentric practices, they like every other citizen of the country too deserves to be protected by certain special civil rights, acts, rules and procedures and schemes for their inclusive upliftment and blanket inclusion in the mainstream society. Considering the vulnerability of this section of society the Central government has with time introduced various schemes in order to protect their basic irreducible rights that every human being requires to sustain and evolve. Thus, this article shall be analyzing such schemes of the Central government relating to inalienable areas of human life – Education, Economic welfare and public cooperation schemes.

Educational schemes

Education is one of the imperative fields that would greatly influence the lives of the tribes, as per 2011 census the literacy rate of Scheduled tribes was 59% thus, this makes it obligatory for the government to promote formal education among the tribes. Also, it is not only because of such constitutional obligation that the tribals should have access to education but it is the power of education that would make them aware of their rights, duties and aid in their upliftment. 

The following are certain schemes launched for the promotion of education among tribes:

Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme (1944-1945)

This scheme provides financial aid to the Scheduled Tribes students who are studying at the post-secondary level so as to enable them to complete their higher education. The ST students whose parent’s annual income is Rs. 1.08 lakh or less stands to be eligible for the same.

Establishment of Ashram School in Tribal Sub-Plan Areas (1990-1991) 

The scheme provides for the establishment of Ashram schools in Tribal areas, ashram schools refer to such educational centers which not only cater to educational facilities but at the same time provide for accommodation for the children. This creates an environment conducive to learning and lays off the economic burden from their shoulders.

Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship (2005-2006) 

This is a central fellowship scheme that provides fellowship to Scheduled Tribes students for pursuing higher studies such as – M.Phil. and Ph.D. Under this scheme, the ST student would get admission for full-time M.Phil. and Ph.D. courses in academic institutions as per UGC. Moreover, the rate of fellowship for Junior Research Fellow (JRF) and Senior Research Fellow (SRF) is at par with the UGC Fellowship as amended from time to time.

National Overseas Scholarships for Scheduled Tribes (2007-2008)

This is a central financial assistance scheme for meritorious students who want to pursue higher education like- Master’s degrees, Ph.D. and Post-Doctoral research programmes in foreign universities for certain disciplines of Engineering, Technology and Sciences. Through this, the government aims to increase the ambit of employment opportunities for the tribal people.

Vocational Training Centers in Tribal areas (1992-1993)

This scheme provides opportunities for the scheduled tribes to develop themselves for a variety of job and self-employment in order to enhance their economic pursuits. This scheme is implemented through NGOs and State institutions where tribal trainees are appointed and are taught trade activities, research tasks, seminars and workshops for 6 months.

Coaching for Scheduled Tribes students

This scheme provides for coaching to the STs for competitive examinations like- Civil Services, State Civil Services, CDS, Railway recruitments, Insurance companies etc. in order to ensure a level playing field for all the aspirants. The financial assistance under the scheme revises with time.

Adivasi Shiksha Rrinn Yojana (ASRY)

This scheme provides for soft loans to tribal students who want to pursue technical and professional education. In this a loan up to Rs. 10 Lakh per family is provided at the rate of 6% p.a. Additionally, in this scheme the Government of India provides interest subsidy to students in which no interest is payable during the course period or one year after getting a job. 

Other Educational upliftment schemes 

The government has also launched schemes relating to the construction of hostels for ST girls and boys. Such schemes stand to be most essential as they provide accessibility to the students who are otherwise deprived because of the remote location of villages and poor economic conditions which prevents them from travelling and attending schools regularly. Also, in order to reduce the drop-outs rates of the ST a ‘book bank’ scheme was implemented under which funds are provided for the purchase of books. 

Economic welfare schemes

Economic welfare is an imperative area that the government should address for the efficient upliftment of the tribes. The tribes need to be economically strong so that they can be socially independent. 

The economic welfare schemes of the government not only aim to protect the tribals by forming special provisions under the Constitution of India but also caters to their economic needs by either giving long-term loans or giving grants with minimal interest rate. 

Thus, the following schemes would encourage the tribals to engage in new economic activities and explore more in society.

Term Loan Scheme

This scheme provides for Term Loans for viable business units costing up to Rs. 50 Lakhs whereas soft loans under this scheme are extended up to 90% of the unit cost. The loans are provided with a moratorium period and are to be repaid within 5 to 10 years according to the projected returns from the units.  

Adivasi Mahila Sashaktikaran Yogna (AMSY)

It is an economic development scheme for the scheduled tribe’s women. Under this scheme, a loan up to 90% for units for unit cost up to Rs. 2 Lakhs. Further, the loan under this scheme is extended at 4% p.a. which stands to be a highly concessional rate.

Micro Credit Schemes for Self-Help Groups (SHGs)

This scheme caters to the small loan requirement for the tribal SHGs. Under this scheme, a maximum loan of Rs. 50000 is provided per member of the tribe, while a maximum of Rs. 5 Lakhs is provided for the SHGs. Further, the repayment period for this scheme is 5 years.

Special Central Assistance to Tribal Sub-Scheme 

It is a 100% grant scheme from the Government of India as an effort for tribal development. The grant is utilized for the economic development of Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP), Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Modified Area Development Approach (MADA), Clusters, Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) and dispersed tribal population.

Grants-in-Aid under Article 275(1)

This is an annual grant scheme from the government of India, under which according to the provisions of Article 275(1) of the Constitution of India, grants are released for 27 states for raising administration in tribal areas and for the welfare of tribal people. These grants are released to States timely with the aim to bridge the gap in few sectors such as- education, health and agriculture etc.

Public cooperation schemes

Development of Private Tribal Groups (PTGs)

Primitive Tribal Groups refers to a group of a certain community under the Scheduled Tribes who have a declining population, low literacy rate and are economically backward. This scheme aims at planning the socio-economic development of the PTGs holistically so that they become the prime focus of action and in return, their quality of life could be improved. Activities under it include housing, land distribution, agricultural and cattle development, bringing nomadic PTGs to the settled mode of life.

Eklavya Model Residential School (EMRS)

The EMRS is established to provide quality middle and high-level education and habitation to Scheduled Tribes students who live in remote areas. These residential schools help the students to undergo comprehensive development both mentally and socially. Such schools aid in their growth and empower them to be the torchbearers for their community. These setups help the families of scheduled tribes to send their children to study, learn and grow irrespective of them belonging to the most backward class in the country.

Development of forest village

There are tribal groups in the country who still continue to live in primitive conditions and are aggressive towards any change in their lifestyle. Living in the forest from past hundreds of years have made them adapted to it permanently as forests provide them with every essential supply to sustain. In India there are nearly 2474 forest villages which make this scheme more relevant. The basic activities under this programme are providing- healthcare, drinking water, sanitation, primary education, livelihood etc. Thus, development in this process would help the tribal groups to evolve and develop by living close in their home forest.


The Central government of India through various programmes and schemes has been making sincere efforts for improving the social, economic and political status of the tribal population. Over the years the central government as per the necessities and requirement of the tribal people have made regular efforts in their holistic upliftment in the country ranging from launching schemes empowering the Scheduled tribes students to learn and grow, aiding families by granting long term and soft loans at highly concessional rate of interests and even increasing the budgetary allocations, an increase of 36.62% was seen for the budget of 2021-22 over the previous years.

However, even after such efforts, the schemes of the central government are not a panacea for the tribal people. The benefits these schemes have merely reached to the rightful beneficiaries. The schemes launched seems to be only on papers as their implementation and the expected results are far from achieving. Living in the primitive condition in remote areas with mere social and political awareness makes it difficult for the scheduled tribes to make benefit out of them, in such case the central and state governments, NGOs, local media, and local leaders can work jointly for first creating awareness among the STs about their rights and then getting themselves familiar with their ground realities, needs and demands as their upliftment and inclusion in mainstream society can only be achieved through mutual cooperation and assistance.


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