Existential Realities of the Tribals of India
India, with 67.8 million tribals, has the largest tribal population in the world. Mynammar and Mexico have the second and third largest tribal populations with 14 and 10.9 million respectively. The tribal population in India is more than the population of the United Kingdom or France. If all the tribals in India had lived in the same state, it would have been the fifth most populous state of the country through it constitutes only 8 per cent of India's population.
About 93% of the tribals live in rural, forest and mountain areas. Thus, they are called vanvasi and girijan. Majority of the tribal men and women are cultivators, agricultural labourers or are engaged in forstry and livestock. A greater percentage of the tribals (52.6) were below the poverty line than the total population (33.4) and even the Scheduled Castes (44.7) in 1987-88. The tribals also had lower per capital expenditure as compared to other categories. Boodytrap of Development: Being deprived of their land and forest, the tribals have been pushed to the urban aras to become daily wage earners. Their culture and identity have been destroyed. AFter more than four decades of Independence, the health, education and employment status of the tribals is lower than all other social groups of the country.
Understanding the Tribal Culture: The modern civilisation can learn a great deal from ancient tribal wisdom about herbal medicine, collective decision making, and respect for environment.
All over the world, the balance of nature is the most important factor in forest and wildlife conservation, but nowhere is it so urgently necessary as a means of protection as it in India. The unplanned growth of industries withou taking into account the effect on the natural envionment, pollutes the soil, air and water, and we are heading for a time when the wide-open spaces, including lakes, marshes, coasts, pasturelands, forests and other natural areas, will no longer exist. The changes in physical enviornments have created, and will continue to create, a disturbance in the balance of nature, often unintentionally but no less effectively and will kill off wildlife which it will not be possible to replace. An appropriate legislation and effective implementation which is currently lacking, is the need of the hour.