The Tribes In The Indian Censuses History Essay

The thought of folks is peculiarly complex in the Indian subcontinent, where indigenous/primitive inA­habitants were neither eliminated, nor rather absorbed, by the lifting civilisation in the class of history.

It is apparent plenty that the human ecology of tribal people can non loom big in India ‘s overall demographic scene ( the former ‘s comparative size being merely a little more than 8 % ) . But, as we will see, demographic characteristics in tribal societies have frequently been distinguishable and/or instead distinguished both in historical and comparative positions. In peculiar, the main object of the present paper is to measure the overall demographic characteristics and their common sociocultural underpinnings in the sum tribal population, in comparing, peculiarly, with their closest opposite numbers, viz. , the lower caste ( officially known as scheduled caste ( SC ) ) people and others. Apart from lighting utile penetrations into the nature and strength of the well-known connexion between sociocultural surroundings and demographic behavior, this paper throws fresh visible radiation on the Indian impression of the “ folk ” and its comparative place vis-a-vis the mainstream since the late nineteenth century, particularly in the modern-day context of developA­ment and globalisation.

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Cardinal Footings: Tribes, Demographic Patterns, Socio-Economic, Sociocultural Characteristics


The notion/identity of “ folks ” is peculiarly complex in the Indian subcontinent, where indigenous/primitive inA­habitants were neither eliminated, nor rather absorbed, by the lifting civilisation in the class of history. For illustration, although India ‘s folks have been studied intensively ( and extenA­sively ) for many decennaries, both before and after independency, they appear every bit vague as of all time ( Xaxa 1999 ) . While they have frequently been glorified ( peculiarly by older-generation anthropologists ) , their popular image has remained instead obscure, indifA­ferent, and so, full of misconceptions and folklore. Despite significant accretion of literature ( official and non-official alike ) on the ( comparative ) exposure of folks, despite “ countless ” Torahs enacted for protecting their rights, and despite about half the state ‘s mineral and forest resources belonging to “ tribal countries ” , they remain the “ most developing community ” ( Jones 1978 ) . All this clearly reflects a resolute ambivalency on the portion of the Indian province towards folks ( who fetch a numerically undistinguished fraction of electoral support ) .

It is apparent plenty that the human ecology of tribal people can non loom big in India ‘s overall demographic scene ( the former ‘s comparative size being merely a little more than 8 % ) . But, as we will see, demographic characteristics in tribal societies have frequently been distinguishable and/or instead distinguished both in historical and comparative positions. In peculiar, the main object of the present paper is to measure the overall demographic characteristics and their common sociocultural underpinnings in the sum tribal population, in comparing, peculiarly, with their closest opposite numbers, viz. , the lower caste ( officially known as scheduled caste ( SC ) ) people and others. Apart from lighting utile penetrations into the nature and strength of the well known connexion between sociocultural surroundings and demographic behavior, this paper throws fresh visible radiation on the Indian impression of the “ folk ” and its comparative place vis-a-vis the mainstream since the late nineteenth century, particularly in the modern-day context of developA­ment and globalisation.

For illustration, India ‘s large-scale developA­ment enterprises in the post-independence period are frequently being seen by bookmans to hold induced a switching orientation in tribal surveies, viz. , from a focal point on folks as communities to a position of them as topics of modernisation and development or as their victims ( Xaxa, 2003 ) .

Our present aggregate attack, of class, departs from anthropologists ‘ ( and likely of many others ) overruling perA­ception that a study/analysis of aggregative tribal people can barely do sense. However, the latter position is non ever unquestionable. First, this ( anthropological ) perspective though it has for long dominated India ‘s tribal discourse, has arguably failed to supply cohesive and consistent statements on the preA­dicaments of tribal people as a whole and on their effectual remA­edies. As the study of an Advisory Committee on the Revision of the lists of SCs and scheduled folks ( STs ) had observed in 1965,

… it would be in the best involvement of these communities if they are taken out from the list of scheduled castes and folks and are treated excluA­sively as a typical group, with development strategies specially deA­signed to accommodate their dominant features

Second, since diversenesss – sociocultural, environmental, and geophysical – are as much ( or at least no less ) germane to the tribal and non-tribal populations likewise, it is pertinent to inquire as to why merely tribal diverseness, instead than commonalty, should merit academic precedence and attending. If aggregative ( or averA­age ) tribal patterns – say, demographic and sociocultural – are distinguishable from those of their non-tribal opposite numbers, the former could good be treated as one entity vis-a-vis the latter. Therefore, while non denying the value of anthropological methods and micro-level surveies, we adopt here an aggregate attack which we believe to be utile to policy preparation for India ‘s overall tribal people.

Tribes in the Indian Censuss

India is one of really few non-western states for which elaborate decennial nose count information is available since every bit back as the 1870s. The nose count studies and statistical tabular arraies have since been showing demographic information individually for the tribal population – and frequently for many single folks. However, the nose count information, like most other large-scale informations, is non perA­fect, naming for appropriate cautiousness in pulling decisions. In analyzing the long-run tendencies, the inquiry of comparison of informations from one nose count to other could be of cardinal importance, while in a comparative demographic analysis of two sub-populations for a individual nose count twelvemonth the inquiry of comparative truth and coverage would be of greater significance. In the nose counts of British India ( except in 1941 ) , faith was one outstanding standard for categorization of the state ‘s populaA­tion, with folks being categorized as those practising 100s of different “ crude ” faiths. In fact, they used to be classified as “ animists ” until the 1931 Census, in which they were enumerA­ated under the header “ tribal faith ” . Therefore, up to 1941, the usage of spiritual class in the nose count numbering enabled the auA­thorities to short-circuit many complex issues – anthropological, socioA­logical and historical – involved in the impression and/or individuality of diverse folks across the state.

It was merely in 1941 that the tribals were defined, for the first clip in the history of the Indian nose count, non in footings of their faith or religion, but their “ beginning ” . In fact, this major displacement in the standard of numbering brought in a serious trouble of compaA­rability between 1941 and the predating nose count numberings ( Davis, 1951 ) . Around the clip of India ‘s independency, a serious rethinking on the impression of the folk or tribal individuality was initiated by political leaders who wanted tribal and other backward subdivisions to convey bit by bit through “ fondness ” , “ friendliA­ness ” and some particular protections and commissariats to the mainA­stream degrees.

The Constitution of India empowered the president to declare any tribal community or portion thereof as a “ scheduled folk ” eligible for those particular commissariats and benefits. With the acceptance of the Constitution in 1950, the president promulgated in the same twelvemonth a list of STs and scheduled countries, which was based, in a big step, on the list of backward folks promulA­gated in 1936 by the British colonial disposal. At the first nose count of independent India in 1951, the figure of scheduled tribal communities or portion thereof was 212, with specific countries being earmarked for each. The Constitution commissariats, therefore, “ sealed the boundaries between folk and non-tribe ” and gave to the tribal individuality “ a sort of determinateness it lacked in the yesteryear ” ( Beteille, 1986 ) . Therefore, since the 1950s, there emerged non merely a definite tribal individuality with legal countenance, but besides a disA­tinct political involvement forging that individuality.

Without puting down specific standards for scheduling a folk, the Constitution has empowered the president of the state to name a backward classes committee, with three major undertakings: to measure conditions of socially backward categories ; urge policy for betterment of their adversities and wants ; and re-examine the bing list of STs for proposing its alteration, if necessary.

The first such backward categories committee was appointed in 1953, which came up with a recommendation for declaring some extra communities as scheduled. AccordA­ingly, a modified ( and enlarged ) list of STs was notified by the president in 1956, and the list was published under SCs and STs ( Modification ) Order, 1956. Consequently, by the 1961 Census, the figure of STs rose to 427 ( which was an addition by more than twice the figure at the 1951 Census ) , and to 432 by the Census of 1971.

Owing to assorted jobs and ailments, the Removal of Area Restrictions ( Amendment ) Act of 1976 was passed to take the country limitation on tribal individuality, and, henceforth, the list of STs was made applicable to all countries in a province. ConseA­quently, STs began to intend, for all practical intents, “ tribal population ” of the state. Troubles, of class, remained due, inter alia, to “ the changing definition of a folk, by alterations to the list of officially recognised folks, by qualitative lacks in demographic informations, administrative alterations to India ‘s parts and by the reclassification of folks as castes ” ( Wiercinski, 1996 ) . But these possible defects of nose count informations have non normally been so serious as to kill the discernable differentiations in demographic characteristics and parametric quantities between the tribal and mainstream populations.

The readying of agendas for tribal and lower caste people had occurred at the same time. Although there might hold been some anomalousnesss in the official recording of these two societal individualities, this does non prevent the possibility of fruitful and inventive usage of nose count information ( at least ) for some specific intents. In fact, nose count informations do frequently picture contrasting demographic patterns/outcomes between these two societal groups. UnsurprisA­ingly, these two groups do non look historically to hold been much different in footings of economic degrees and termss, but they have been reasonably distinguishable socioculturally. Therefore, it should be lighting if tribal demographic forms and tendencies are examined in comparing with those of the SC population.

Understanding folks in the visible radiation of their demographic tendencies, forms, and results should supply utile penetrations into the development of the impression of folks and their comparative societal place.

Demographic Patterns and Trends of Indian Tribes

Table 1: Long-run Tendencies in Population and Its Growth, and Sex-Ratio, Total and Tribal Populations, India ( 1881-2001 )


Entire Population

Tribal Population

Decadal Growth Rate ( % )

Sex-Ratio ( Female Per 1,000 Males )





















































38,89,97,955 ( a )

87,91,354 ( B )






Independent India






















1981 ( degree Celsius )





30.6 @



1991 ( vitamin D )
















( a ) Includes 23,31,332 individuals in North-West Frontier Province non enumerated by faith, but believed to be Muslim.

( B ) In position of a alteration in categorization in the 1941 Census, this is an estimation – made for the intent of accomplishing comparison with the figures of tribal population identified as Animists till 1931 or as people rehearsing tribal faith in 1931 Census – of tribal population in 1941, derived after accommodations to the enumerated population of “ tribal beginning ” . See Davis ( 1951 ) , Appendix J for accommodations and premises involved in obtaining this estimation.

( degree Celsius ) Excludes Assam. The decadal growing rate during 1971-81 has been calculated by excepting the population of Assam.

( vitamin D ) Excludes Jammu and Kashmir. The decadal growing rate during 1981-91 has been calculated excepting population of both Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.

* See note 1below ; + for India and Pakistan together ( Visaria 1968, Table 2.9 ) ;

@ This has been calculated on the footing of revised estimation of tribal population for 1971 ( which is 3,94,89,232 excepting Assam ) after taking history of the abolishment of hitherto imposed country limitation for most folks by an act of Parliament in 1976, which resulted in larger population of several folks in many provinces harmonizing to 1971 Census than were really enumerated ( see Sinha 1986, Tables 4.1, 4.2, and Appendix ) . In fact, the office of the registrar general worked the revised population of tribals for provinces where the alteration was necessary ( see commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes 1977 ; and besides Sinha 1993 ) .

( 1 ) In 1951 Census the tribal population was for the first clip enumerated harmonizing to a statutory list of scheduled folks notified by the president under Article 342 of the Constitution, which was enlarged through alteration as per order in 1956. Harmonizing to the 1956 Modification order the tribal population for the 1951 Census was revised upward as being 2, 25, 11, 584, with the revised per centum lifting to 6.23. Since tribal population in 1961 was enumerated harmonizing to the 1956 Modification list of scheduled folks, the decadal growing rate of tribal population during 1951-61 has been calculated on the footing of this revised tribal population for 1951.

Beginning: For the British India figures, Davis ( 1951 ) , Table 77, p 179 ; and Mamoria ( 1958 ) , p 26 ; Natarajan ( 1971 ) , p 9. For post-independence period, see Census Reports, Nag ( 1984 ) , 15-16 ; Bose ( 1996 ) , Government of India ( 2004 ) .

We now examine the wide characteristics of long-run growing of the tribal population since the late nineteenth century, in comparing with the entire population ( Table 1 ) . Except for three decennaries, viz. , 1891-1901, 1911-21 and 1921-31, the sum tribal population did registry additions. For illustration, during 1881-91, the enumerA­ated entire population increased by approximately 12 % , while the addition recorded for the tribal population was three and half times larger. This could be due to betterments in numbering coverA­age of tribal peoples in remote and stray terrains. However, over the undermentioned decennary of 1891-1901, the tribal population had experienced a significant diminution in its absolute figure vis-a-vis an addition in the entire population. This ( arguably ) reA­flects a greater mortality toll among the former in the two large-scale dearths of 1896-97 and 1899-1900. But in the undermentioned decennary, 1901-11, the enumerated tribal population had increased much faster than the general population. This could be due to a diminished badness of dearths in footings of frequence, graduated table and coverage, and besides ( presumptively ) due to quicker recovery in the post-famine old ages ( vitamin E g, through higher than normal degrees of birthrate ) of the tribal population, which had suffered a greater ( proportionate ) population loss in the predating major dearths ( Maharatna, 1996 ) .

Growth of entire population was negligible during 1911-21 within which occurred the great influenza pandemic of 1918, doing a heavy toll of human lives including even considerable depopulation among tribals. Again, during 1921-31, Indian folk appear to hold experienced a diminution in aggregative population, while there had been an addition in the entire population. This differential seems attributable to the heightened political relations over spiritual divisions around the 1931 Census, with, for illustration, an active political force per unit area mounting on the governments to return “ everyone of dubious position as Hindu ” ( Davis, 1951 ) .

Furthermore, the displacement of standard from spiritual association to “ tribal beginning ” as the footing of tribal numbering in the Census 1941 was ( at least partially ) responsible for a record of their comA­paratively slower addition in 1931-41 ( Table 1 ) . Except for the draA­matic effects of dearths and epidemics, the enumerated tribal population up to 1921 was turning at rates no lupus erythematosus ( or may, so, be sometimes higher ) than those for the entire population. The slightly sulky recorded additions of the tribal populaA­tion over the three decennaries predating independency could partially be an artefact of societal and political convulsion on spiritual lines.

Another notable characteristic of pre-independence tribal populaA­tion growing is the slightly stability of its proportion to the toA­tal since the late nineteenth century, as against secular diminutions in the proportion of the Hindus. While the former ranged between 2.26 % and 3.26 % during 1881-1941, the latter dropped from 75.1 % to 69.5 % ( Davis, 1951 ) . This derived function, harmonizing to Kingsley Davis, was due to the higher birthrate of tribal population than that of the Hindus. But there could be other possibilities as good. For illustration, as we argue subsequently, this stability of the tribal proportion could hold resulted from its comparatively lower mortality, non from higher birthrate vis-a-vis those of the Hindu population.

In the first nose count of independent India in 1951, the enumerA­ated figure of tribal people turned out to be more than twice its size in the predating nose count, despite the Partition of India in 1947. This might hold been partially because the parts ( e g, north-western parts and eastern Bengal ) that were carved out from former India were historically of low tribal concentration. However, this can barely be a full account, particularly when entire population of the state declined by about 7 % in 1941-51. The hint lies in the fact that numbering of tribal and lower caste people was made for the first clip on the footing of several statutory agendas prepared and approved by the authorities.

Many individuals non considered as “ tribals ” on the standard of their spiritual association and/or otherwise before independency, could happen themselves so identified in the 1951 Census. Thus, with the decadal growing of enumerated tribal population being higher than that of the entire population in the post-independence period, the former ‘s proportion rose from 5 % in 1951 to more than 8 % in 2001 ( Table 1 ) . Note, nevertheless, that the spread in these two recorded growing rates has been the highest during the 1951-61 decennary, and it narrowed down over the undermentioned decennaries ( possibly with the exclusion for the 1971-81 decennary ) . This comparative rising prices of ST population in the post-independence period does partially reflect enlargement of ST list. As Beteille ( 1986 ) observes, “ paradoxically, the figure of communities deemed to be tribes has increased with the modernisation of India between 1950 and 1976 ” .

However reasonably rapid expansion of the list of STs, particularly up to the late seventiess and early 1980s, every bit good as the remotion of the country limitation in 1976, history for the extent of the recorded rushs in tribal population that took topographic point simply through reclassification, and, therefore, of redistribution of the bing population. But there is the reasonably strong grounds proposing a higher existent natural growing of the tribal than that of the entire population. While the estimated growing of the “ matched populations of STs ” between 1961 and 1971 turned out to be merely approximately 1 % point lower ( 25.3 % ) than that ( 26.2 % ) based on unadjusted figures, the former happened to be 1 % point higher than that of the entire population, confirming a higher natural growing rate among tribes vis-a-vis general population in the post-independence period ( Sinha, 1986 ) .

The comparatively high growing of tribal population in the freshly independent state could be related to the new development and modernisation enterprises, which via alterations in life styles, imposts, values, and some material betterments with small prevalence of modern contraceptive method, could bring on rises in birthrate ( alleged “ pre-transition rise of birthrate ” , one vitamin E, rises of birthrate merely prior to the beginning of its secular diminution ) . In fact, such pre-transition birthrate rise has likely been relativity delayed, prolonged, and pronounced among the ST population vis-a-vis SCs, as the former have arguably lagged the latter in the procedures of modernization/Sanskritization.

What emerges, on the whole ( disregarding periods of dramatic losingss of population during dearths, epidemics and the similar ) , is a image of the tribal population holding grown – much like the general population – at really moderate rates during pre-independence decennaries, but at much higher rates, thenceforth partially because of inclusion of new tribal individualities and partially because of late happening of their “ pre-transition rise ” of birthrate. However, like entire population, the indicant of the oncoming of a worsening tendency in the growing of tribal population in more recent decennaries seems good discernable.

A wide regional form of India ‘s tribal population – viz. , folks being concentrated ( in falling order ) in cardinal, eastern ( including north-eastern ) and western parts ( these together representing approximately 90 % of entire tribal population ) – has remained mostly unchanged.

However, there has been a distinguishable diminution of tribal portion of eastern provinces ( peculiarly Bihar and Orissa ) in the post-independence period. Notwithstanding possible numbering prejudices ( e g, over numbering of tribals in southern and western parts most conspicuously up to 1981 ) , the big portion of the account for the altering form of regional composing of the tribal population lies in the interstate differences in existent demographic procedures, vitamin E g, birth, decease rates and their tendencies, forms of spacial mobility and motions of tribal people ( Maharatna, 2005 ) .

Table 2: Growth of Population and Growth of Numerically Large Tribes, India ( 1941-91 )


Regions of Habitation


Average Annual Growth Rate ( % )

1941 #







No. ( % )

No. ( % )

No. ( % )

No. ( % )


Gujarat, MP and Rajasthan

23,30,270 ( 9.2 )

38,36,308 ( 12.8 )

51,82,625 ( 13.6 )

73,92,983 ( 14.3 )





MP, Orissa, AP and Maharashtra

32,01,004 ( 12.6 )

39,91,767 ( 13.4 )

48,09,165 ( 12.7 )

73,87,376 ( 14.3 )





Bihar, Orissa, WB and Tripura

27,32,266 ( 10.7 )

31,54,107 ( 10.5 )

36,33,459 ( 9.6 )

42,60,842 ( 8.3 )





Bihar, MP, Orissa and WB

11,22,926 ( 4.4 )

14,47,429 ( 4.8 )

17,06,091 ( 4.5 )

18,65,779 ( 3.6 )






11,55,916 ( 3.9 )

15,33,513 ( 4.0 )

20,86,692 ( 4.0 )




Bihar, Orissa, WB, MP

7,06,869 ( 2.8 )

10,19,098 ( 3.4 )

11,63,338 ( 4.0 )

14,22,830 ( 2.8 )





AP, Orissa

7,44,904 ( 2.9 )

8,45,981 ( 2.8 )

9,11,835 ( 2.4 )



Boro @

Assam, WB, Tripura


( 2.3 )





** ( Roy Burman 1993: 199 ) ; the per centum portions have been calculated by the present writer on the entire tribal population of India ( sole of Assam ) . AP – Andhra Pradesh ; MP – Madhya Pradesh ; WB – West Bengal.

@ Borokacharis ;

# These are 1941 Census numberings of specific folks on the standard of “ tribal beginning ” ( instead than tribal faith used in 1931 and before ) . Therefore, the several portions of tribal groups have been calculated on entire enumerated tribal population of 25, 441,548, which is much larger than adjusted figure of 87,91,354 as presented in Table 1.

Beginning: Roy Burman ( 1993: 199 ) ; Government of India ( 1961 ) , Report of the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission,

Vol 1, 1960-1961, p 7 ; Sinha ( 1986 ) , Table 4.3, p 47.

Despite the figure of STs holding already exceeded 500, it is merely a few major tribal groups that constitute a big majority of the sum tribal population of the state. For illustration, as Table 2 shows, approximately nine major tribal groups constitute about half of state ‘s entire tribal population, and they are concentrated largely in the cardinal, western and eastern parts. The tribe-composition has remained loosely unchanged over the post-independence period, notwithstanding proliferation of new tribal subgroups. For illustration, comparative portions of Bhil and Gond populations have risen, true marginally, with a meager decrease in the portion of Munda population ( Table 2 ) .

There are rather a few tribal groups – each constituting ( e g, as per 1971 Census count ) somewhat more than 1 % of entire tribal population, viz. , Ho ( 1.42 % ) in eastern India, Naga ( 1.23 % ) in north-eastern provinces ( Sinha, 1986 ) . Apart from them, there are legion smaller tribal groups dispersed across the state. In fact, there are some “ little ” and alleged crude folk of which enumerated populations range from every bit low as 20. Many of such little folks are, so, on their manner towards extinction. However, the phenomenon of alleged “ vanishing ” folks, if at all, is highly localised, and so, specific to really little groups situated in really particular fortunes. These most vulnerable tribal groups, who presently figure around 75, representing about 2 % of entire tribal population, include Onges, Shompens, the Greater Andamanese, Rajjis Didayis, Hill Korwas and Bondas. An acute nutrient want and utmost exposure to decease and disease have by and large been held responsible for decline of some little tribal groups in specific locations ( Bhagwan, 1997 ) .

The “ vanishing folks ” phenomenon, of class, deserves an attending and an effectual public action in its ain right, but it is of import to maintain in head that the former does non stand for the sum tribal state of affairs in India. In fact, the major tribal groups ( except some little vanishing 1s ) are non sing a unvarying positive rate of population growing. While Bhil and Gond – dominant cardinal and western folks – have had speed uping population growing since the early 1960s, Santals, Mina and Munda – largely eastern tribes – have fared far less in footings of population addition ( Table 2 ) . For illustration, the populations of Katkari, an originally mobile folk of Konkan part of Maharashtra, have been about stationary during 1961-71 in the face of about 2.3 % mean one-year growing rate of sum tribal population in the province ( Kulkarni 2002 ) . While this could good be related to acute material want, other possibilities ( e g, consequence of remotion of country limitation ) can non be ruled out. For illustration, among the major folks of cardinal and western provinces ( e g, Bhil, Gond, Mina ) , growing of population has been above the national norm and even accelerated in the post-independence period, at least up to the eightiess. This rapid growing of tribal population, particularly over several decennaries since independency, seems to hold caused inter alia by a comparatively late happening of modern betterments in mortality of tribal population, and ( slightly related ) by “ pre-transition birthrate rises ” consequent upon by and large sulky gait of modernisation across tribal communities.

In contrast, the major folks of eastern India ( e g, Santal, Orao, Munda, Khond ) have registered much smaller population addition vis-a-vis both general population in this part and folk of western and cardinal India. A comparatively larger underenumeration of tribal people in this part, particularly in the late seventiess, could be a factor, since official acknowledgment of tribal individuality on the footing of “ country limitations ” continued here for some clip even after latter ‘s formal abrogation in 1976 ( Burman, 1993 ) . But this can non represent a complete account. A comparative mortality disadvantage and relatively low birthrate among these folks ( vis-a-vis those of cardinal and western India ) are besides likely to hold been subscribers – particularly over the recent yesteryear. Furthermore, specific historical factors might hold made major East Indian tribes comparatively prone to long distance migration and motion ( Burman, 1993 ) .

In amount: three major tribal groups, viz. , Bhil, Santal, Gond constitute about 40 % of the state ‘s entire tribal population, and this numeral laterality of merely a few major folks amidst 100s of bantam groups and subgroups has been go oning for a long clip past, go forthing aggregate analysis of India ‘s tribal population utile and believable.

Possibly the most blazing difference between tribal and general populations lies in the sex ratio, I vitamin E, female-male ratio ( FMR afterlife ) ( Table 1 ) . In distinguishable contrast to India ‘s overall FMR being unfavorable to females, it has been comparatively balanced among folks.

In fact, females outnumber males in the full western universe and in many developing states outside Asia and North Africa. Such extra female scenario derives both from females ‘ biological border over males in natural endurance opportunities every bit good as from their comparative mortality advantage in wars, accidents and life styles. Therefore, a immense lack of females, as indicated by low FMR in general population, reflects inauspicious societal influences outweighing females ‘ intrinsic ( biological ) advantage in endurance.

There have been several efforts at gauging what Amartya Sen famously coined “ losing adult females ” in states with lower than a “ benchmark ” FMR, which by and large obtains in the absence of anti-female societal environment. The estimated figure of about 37 million losing adult females in India, gettable from the usage of sub-Saharan FMR of 1.022 as a benchmark, provides a wide sense of how many more females could stay alive if anti-female societal environment were absent.

A long-run deteriorating tendency in FMR among India ‘s general population since the early twentieth century ( see Table 1 ) has been a beginning of concern in academic and official circles likewise. After several decennaries of treatments and research, a few stark facts have emerged about indisputably in the Indian context:

( a ) that low overall FMR in entire population is mostly related to a female mortality disadvantage ( vis-a-vis males ) , particularly in babyhood and immature childhood ;

( B ) that this comparative female disadvantage is a manifestation of familial favoritism and neglect largely against misss in regard of distribution of resources, particularly medical attending and health care ;

( degree Celsius ) apart from declining comparative portion of females in the distribution of benefits of modern betterments in wellness and medical installations, there are indicants of intensification – along with overall development and a large-scale passage to lower birthrate government – of anti- female prejudices, frequently more selectively against higher para girls born already or abortion of high para female fetus.

Finally, the above anti-female results are by and large traced to a permeant civilization of “ son penchant ” or a gender prejudice ( one vitamin E, penchant for boies over girls ) , which is a outstanding look of cardinal Asiatic cultural, and patriarchal values in which female position and liberty is comparatively low.

Against these disquieting ( and even possibly turning ) instabilities in FMR of India ‘s general population, the tribal record of a more balanced sex-ratio is of considerable involvement ( Table 1 ) . This implies, following our predating treatment, a much lesser anti-female favoritism ( particularly, against female babies and kids ) in tribal societies vis-a-vis those – an deduction which is frequently supported by related research and grounds ( Agnihotri, 2000 ) . Besides, there exists a significant anthropological grounds clarifying comparatively small ( or possibly about entire absence of gender prejudice in traditional tribal society and civilization. In this context, a 10-point bead of tribal FMR from 983 to 972 during 1981-91 decennary is peculiarly notable, indicating to the plausibleness of tribal tendency in the way of the mainstream form of turning shortage of females.

With all this as background, we now turn to a comparative rating of India ‘s aggregative tribes vis-a-vis non-tribal groups in footings of wide socio-economic and sociocultural indexs every bit good as some cardinal demographic results and behavior over a long clip span.

Socio-Economic and Sociocultural Features and Demographic Outcomes/Behaviour

Table 3: Long-run Tendencies in Select Socio-economic, Demographic and Sociocultural Indicators, Tribal and Non-Tribal Populations, India ( Early 1900s to Early 2000s )

Socio-economic indexs

Scheduled Tribes

Scheduled Castes


Early on

( 1901-21 )

Early on 1970s

Early on 1990s

Early on 2000s

Early on

( 1901-21 )

Early on 1970s

Early on


Early on 2000s

Early on

( 1901-21 )

Early on


Early on 1990s

Early on 2000s

% portion in population ( rural ) ( NSS )









% portion in land ( NSS ) ( rural )










Area owned per family ( hour angle ) ( rural )







% of farm laborers to entire chief workers







— 2




% of landless families









Per capita ingestion outgo ( rural ) ( Rs )










% below poorness line ( rural )










( % portion to entire rural hapless )

[ 10.8 ]

[ 16.9 ]

[ 27.7 ]

[ 27.7 ]

[ 44.7 ]

[ 41.5 ]

% literate ( 5+ old ages )










Demographic Indexs

TFR ( mean kids born to adult females aged 40-49 old ages )

40 @ ( CBR )


3.6 [ 4.8 ]

3.1 [ 4.6 ]


3.9 [ 5.4 ]

2.9 [ 4.5 ]

50 @ #

( CBR )


3.3 [ 4.8 ]

2.5 [ 3.8 ]

Crude Death Rate

38.6 @





44.5 @ #



6.4? , a

IMR ( survival ratio of kids ) $

[ 790 ] $ ^







[ 612 ] $ ^ #




Gender-relations/female liberty Sex ratio ( f/m )








960* #




Female Age at matrimony ( old ages )








13.4 #




Number single per 1,000 adult females aged 40-45




11.0* #


@ Estimated by indirect methods by the writer ( Maharatna 2005 ; # Hindu ; $ figure of kids lasting per 1,000 Born to households with completed birthrate in 1921 ;

^ Central Provinces/Berar ; * 1911-21 ; a‚¬ 1982 ; I± early 1980s ; I? Hindu Non-ST/SC ; I? 1978 ; ? all ; a 2008 ; CBR= crude birth rate per 1,000 ; IMR= Infant Mortality Rate per 1,000 births ; ** 1987-88 ; Literacy rate relates to age 7+ ; Unmarried adult females relates to age 50+ ;

Beginnings: World Facts Book ; Census of India 2001, Marital Status and Age at Marriage ; Census of India 2001, Social and Cultural Tables: C-8, SC and ST, Government of India 2008. New Delhi NSS 55th Round, July-June 2004-05 ; NSS 59th Round, January-December 2003 ; ; GOI, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India 2008 ; Central Statistical Organisation, Statistical Abstract of India 2005-2006 ; CSO 2006, Selected Socio-economic Statisticss of India, 2006, Government of India, New Delhi ; Census of India 2001, Marital Status and Age at Marriage, An Analysis of 2001 Census Data ; Census of India 2001, Social and Cultural Tables, C-8, SC and ST ; K Sundaram and S D Tendulkar, “ Poverty among Social and Economic Groups in India in the 1990s ” , Working Paper 118, Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics ; International Institute for Population Sciences, National Family Health Survey, 1992-93, 1998-99 ; Thorat ( 2006 ) ; Das ( 2010 ) .

While a significant organic structure of empirical and ethnographical literature on the sociocultural characteristics of India ‘s diverse tribal peoples exists, the undertaking of collating and stylizing the former ‘s influences on demographic results has comparatively seldom been taken up. In this context, Table 3 nowadayss drumhead information on socio-economic, sociocultural, demographic characteristics individually for STs, SCs and others at all-India degree at four points of clip crossing over a century since the early 1900s.

Unfortunately, information on socio-economic parametric quantities individually for societal groups is unavailable for the early 1900s. During the 1970s, the ST and SC groups do non look to hold been immensely different in footings of socio-economic terms defined by such indexs as income, ingestion, plus ownerships, poorness and business ( Table 3 ) . In fact, the ST population appear to have larger land per family than the SC opposite numbers do on the whole ; while the proportion of entire land owned by STs is reasonably close to their comparative portion in entire population, the portion of land belonging to the SCs is far less than their comparative population size. However, the more balanced land-man ratio among the overall folk does non interpret needfully into their comparatively higher agricultural incomes vis-a-vis SCs, since the former belong frequently to infertile, semi-arid, hilly, and forested terrains with highly low agricultural productiveness. Notably, per capita ingestion outgos of these two groups – though both being much lower than that of the non-SC/ST group – have non been enormously different. Likewise, the STs, harmonizing to large-scale sample study consequences until late ( at least up to the mid-1970s ) , do non look immensely more inflicted by income-poverty than the latter.

However, more recently, the gait of poorness decrease has been clearly slower among the STs vis-a-vis SCs and others, reflecting a systematic ( comparative ) disadvantage of tribal people in harvesting the benefits from the poverty-elevation programmes ( e g, employment warrant strategies ) ( Mukhopadhyay and Rajaraman, 2007 ) .

More specifically, on the affair of two cardinal human demands, viz. , wellness and instruction, tribals appear clearly most disadvantaged, with their highly limited entree to infirmaries, medical physicians, medical specialties, and schools in comparing with even aggregate SC population ( Table 3 ) , ( Maharatna, 2005 ) .

What appear in this context instead dramatic is relatively lower mortality degrees among the folks vis-a-vis Hindu mainstream population in the historical yesteryear ( e g, in the early twentieth century ) ( Table 3 ) . ( As the quality of informations every bit back as early twentieth century is hard to judge, appropriate cautiousness is warranted in their readings. ) However, the hint to the above historic derived function, though it may sound strange in the contemporary context, is non really far to seek. Several considerations and related historical grounds do impart support to the plausibleness of a comparative mortality and wellness advantage of the folks ( peculiarly in babyhood and childhood ages ) in the yesteryear. For illustration, prolonged breast-feeding and early start of nutrient addendum for babies – both of which are now widely known to be favorable to infant and early childhood endurance – have been outstanding traditional patterns in tribal communities.

A few other relatively good characteristics associating to infant and childcare patterns in tribal civilizations vis-a-vis mainstream ( non-tribal ) include the usage of keeping babies and kids vertically while awake and a close physical contact with female parents ( Konner, 1976 ) .

Furthermore, tribal females historically used to get married on mean about four old ages subsequently than the Hindu opposite numbers ( Table 3 ) . In fact, since kid matrimony is non practised in traditional tribal communities, this could hold been a subscriber to the comparative, mortality advantage of tribal babies, as babies of really immature female parents run a higher hazard of decease. Relatively greater liberty and bid of tribal females over intra-household resources might hold contributed to a comparatively better nutritionary degrees of tribal kids vis-a-vis non-tribal opposite numbers historically.

Indeed, planetary grounds ( particularly prior to the age of large-scale usage of antibodies and vaccinums ) shows that communities, which used to populate in less crowded colonies and in great familiarity with natural environments ( e g, woods and hills ) , fared comparatively better in mortality footings ( Wirsing, 1985 ) . This might hold been true of India ‘s tribal people excessively in the yesteryear when their chief colonies were non merely in cragged, hilly and forested piece of lands, but their privy fortunes left them with lesser opportunities of exposure to taint and disease transmittal.

Similarly, plausible is their comparative efficiency/advantage in utilizing effectual autochthonal herbs/medicines for unwellness intervention ( vis-a-vis non-tribal mainstream ) in the pre-modern period of epidemiology and medical scientific disciplines. Besides, tribal people – partially because of these healthy facets of their habitation, and partially due to their isolation from mainstream population – were possibly less badly inflicted by epidemics. For illustration, the mortality consequence of the great influenza pandemic of 1918 was found comparatively less marked among pigmies and Bushmans, as compared to other populations of the Kalahari desert ( Dornan, 1975 ) . The lift of tribal mortality through taint and disease transmittal from the mainstream is frequently seen as one negative result of their turning contact, assimilation, and integrating ( Mamoria, 1958 ) .

A few more grounds can be adduced for explicating comparative mortality advantage of India ‘s tribal population in the yesteryear. For illustration, the malaria, which had remained about the largest slayer, peculiarly prior to the Second World War, might hold been slightly less in tribal habitations in high height with comparative waterlessness. Tribals ‘ greater dependance on spring Waterss, lesser denseness and crowding might hold exerted mitigating influences on the incidence of diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases among them. Indeed, this historical grounds of comparative mortality advantage of India ‘s tribal babies and kids runs with what is frequently observed for foraging/tribal communities globally: “ scrounging societies experience comparatively low degrees of baby and kid mortality due to interactive effects of nutritionary forms giving equal growth and care demands and a comparatively low incidence of infective disease ” ( Handwrker, 1983 ) . In any instance, it is of involvement as to whether the historical high quality of some facets of tribal demographic government waned over clip along with modernisation, development, integrating and cultural assimilation.

As was noted earlier, tribes as a whole – in consonant rhyme with many of their sociocultural characteristics being kindred to comparatively balanced gender dealingss – have historically evinced far more balanced FMR vis-a-vis general population. This is farther corroborated by the relevant information provided in Table 3. For case, tribal females ‘ bridal characteristics in the past – viz. , get marrieding ( comparatively ) tardily and merely after “ adulthood ” and largely, on self-chosen footing, freedom to disassociate, remarry and stay continent – are moderately dependable arrow to a comparatively high position and liberty that tribal adult females had enjoyed historically.

While this ( with its deduction for lower or negligible grade of “ son penchant ” ) should hold bred a motive for relatively low tribal birthrate in the historical yesteryear, the latter could hold been achieved, more straight, by tribals ‘ several fertility-inhibiting sociocultural patterns and tabu ( such as comparatively long continuances of breastfeeding and child-spacing, postpartum sexual abstention, autochthonal methods of abortion and contraceptive method ) .

While, as shown by recent research, a big ball of historical/aboriginal populations across the Earth has historically evolved assorted institutional and cultural mechanisms towards guaranting long-run counterbalancing ( or alleged homeostatic ) effects on “ limitless ” childbirth and population size ( Cleland, 2001 ; Wilson and Airey, 1999 ; Davis, 1986 ) , their efficaciousness frequently called for relatively high degrees of female liberty and gender equity. A more patriarchal society is widely known to be comparatively favorable to high birthrate, as adult females lack both liberty in birthrate decision/control and economic security. Women ‘s disincentive/cost of frequent childbearing remains suppressed under blunt patriarchate. Indeed, empirical surveies frequently confirm an opposite relationship between female liberty and birthrate – albeit largely for mainstream society ( Dharmalingam and Morgan, 1996 ; Morgan and Niraula, 1995 ; Malhotra et Al, 1995 ; and Basu, 1992 ) . Although comparative surveies of folks are unusually rare, there is distinguishable grounds – particularly up to the early 1990s – proposing lower degree of overall birthrate in aggregative ST population than that of the non-tribal opposite numbers, peculiarly SC people ( Table 3 ) .

However, the more recent scenario of the overall tribal demographic government appears more complicated and varied owing to the mounting complexnesss of being and related exposures. For illustration, a clear slowing in birthrate diminutions among folks of late has made tribal birthrate bend to be higher than even the SC ‘s degree ( Table 3 ) . This higher comparative tribal birthrate ( vis-a-vis SC ) might hold resulted partially from fertility-enhancing effects of former ‘s go oning decrease of asepsis and venereal diseases, together with waning of traditional fertility-suppressing sociocultural patterns and norms among tribal societies ( e g, decrease of suckling continuance, autochthonal prophylactic methods and abstention ) .

Furthermore, what were of tribal societies akin, in some cardinal respects, to the European matrimony forms, have been replaced – in changing gait across folks and parts – by the traditional Hindu patterns, viz. , early female ( or kid ) matrimony, negotiated colony with dowry payments ( as opposed to the consensual choice/love between the spouses ) . This alleged Sanskritization procedure might hold, in many instances, pushed up tribal birthrate or has impeded its gait of passage.

Apropos mortality, the yesteryear ( comparative ) high quality of overall tribal population ( peculiarly in childhood old ages ) has been later eroded, and so, even reversed in the recent yesteryear ( Maharatna, 2000, 2005 ) . For illustration, as per the National Family Health Survey ( NFHS ) – 3, 2005-06 information, childhood ( one-four old ages ) mortality turns out to be the highest among STs vis-a-vis SCs and others, although tribal comparative advantage in infant mortality vis-a-vis SCs still shows up ( Das et al, 2010 ) . This reflects that in so far as the endurance of an baby in a hapless family can be ensured by slightly healthy traditions of child care patterns and related cultural norms ( as noted already ; e g, breastfeeding, ablactating, solid nutrient addendum ) , tribes still show leftovers of their historic border – albeit declining instead fast soon. As survival opportunities of kids aged one-four old ages begin to switch progressively on the handiness of nutrient, quality imbibing H2O, medical installations, such other stuff ingredients, the determination of highest kid ( one-four old ages ) mortality among tribes reflects clearly latter ‘s increasingly acute ( comparative ) want and exposure in support and well-being, peculiarly in child nutrition and health care installations. In some parts such as Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, STs appear to hold experienced even additions in mortality degrees of late. Indeed, folks have been dawdling behind SCs and others in footings of handiness to modern-day mortality betterments triggered by enlargement and promotion of wellness and medical substructure.

Although overall tendency in mortality degrees for ST population, like others, is one of diminution, the gait of diminution is slower, reflecting accentuation of comparative want in nutrition and health care installations among folks and their turning insecurity of support caused by long-persistent invasion, development, and supplanting in many tribal countries. This seems dry in position of their comparative mortality advantage in the yesteryear when adaptability with natural environment was relatively of import determiner of mortality.

No less ironically, tribal people have historically shown singular resiliency in defying hardships meted out by dominant mainstream. For illustration, tribals in the face of hurt, catastrophes and breaks used to fall back to migration comparatively more readily than non-tribals. Notwithstanding motions and migrations being frequently a sheer endurance response to hurt, it is difficult to deny the comparative flexibleness and liberalism of overall tribal sociocultural moorages, mores and administrations that facilitate this procedure. For case, our instance survey of Santhals in parts of West Bengal illustrates a great potency of tribal seasonal mobility for bettering their stuff and societal standing, and thereby, accomplishing significant promotion in demographic passage ( Maharatna, 2005 ) . As a corollary, the more balanced gender dealingss, as is by and large observed among tribal societies, do non look to turn automatically contributing to fertility passage unless new thoughts, attitudes, and information sing birthrate control and methods are percolated among them. This calls for the spread of female instruction and availability/campaign for voluntary/temporary methods of birthrate control in tribal belts.

In this context, no less badgering is the modern-day forces towards a reversal of the traditionally ( and historically ) higher degrees of gender equity and gender balance among the overall tribal society. In consonant rhyme with the recent diminutions of tribal FMR, there is mounting grounds of assorted disadvantages that the tribal females have been undergoing along with enlargement of developmental activities and integrating ( via, for illustration, dislocation of traditional forest-based tribal economic system, environment, and switching cultivation every bit good as via go oning or turning supplanting and forced migration ) . Apart from the anti-female nature of altering production administration in tribal economic system and its resource base, direct grounds of female favoritism at the family degree ( e g, sex-differential in mortality, nutritionary position, and medical attending ) seems to be already come uping in tribal communities – of class, in changing gait across diverse locations ( Subhadra and Rahul, 1997 ) . This is clearly a manifestation of modern-day forces determining the tribal tendencies of taking progressively to the mainstream ( Hindu ) sociocultural traditions in the gender role/relations and sometimes to the conservative Christian influences ( Xaxa, 2004 ) . A recent survey, observing this “ crisp ” bead in tribal FMR, comments, “ the patriarchal norms of the higher castes, and Sanskritization and detribalization are likewise absorbing tribal people into a national civilization of favoritism against misss and adult females ” ( Atkins et Al, 2000 ) . Similarly, Berreman describes the effects of Sanskritization as being

… particularly damaging to females because it encourages and enforces patriliny ( in both descent and heritage ) , patrilocality, early matrimony and widow celibacy, restriction of divorce to male inaugural, dowry matrimony, penchant for and favouring of male kids, male ownership of virtually all belongings ( particularly, productive belongings ) , low precedence to female instruction, literacy and even wellness, gaining power restricted to males, isolation of societal and physical mobility mostly to males, and entire economic, political and societal dependance of females on males ( Berreman 1993: 388 ) .

Therefore, it is non that anti-female branchings of the socialization processes for tribal societies escaped attending of old research workers, but our present aggregate analysis of demographic tendencies and characteristics of overall folks, in concurrence with their wide sociocultural underpinnings, has reaffirmed or instead established this connexion on a firmer terms.


In the surveies of Indian folks, there has been, for long, a singular deficiency of an interdisciplinary attack. For case, a major ball of Indian anthropology is devoted to punctilious categorizations of virtually countless folks of India – a tradition that was inaugurated by the British colonial regulation and its cortege of civil retainers ( Fuchs, 1973 ; Bayly, 1999 ) . Although the drawn-out arguments and treatments on the notion/definition of folk or tribal individuality since the colonial times are now widely agreed to hold been, on balance, “ unproductive ” and “ unfertile ” ( Agrawal, 1977 ; Misra, 1977 ) , the British nose count attack of following a working definition of folk has been instrumental to the accretion of monolithic demographic information Handy for set abouting utile research towards a deeper apprehension about them. This is vindicated both by the distinguishable overall tribal characteristics of human ecology vis-a-vis the aggregative caste population, and besides by the fact that a smattering of major folks constitute the majority of the entire tribal population of the state within comparatively limited geographical countries of their habitation.

For illustration, the long-run tendency of growing has non been unusually different between tribal and general populations, except for periods of historically contingent events ( vitamin E g, dearths and epidemics ) . Notwithstanding the phenomenon of a shriveling population ( and impending extinction ) of some select and little folks, the overall image of the tribal population is one of a steady addition. While the lifting portion of the tribal population in the first few decennaries after independency was partially due to enlargement of the ST list, and, therefore, was a consequence of redistribution of the enumerated people, some existent demographic procedure, viz. , a pretransition birthrate rise can non be ruled out. Tribal trends, like those of the general population, have shown the marks of a lag – albeit slightly belated – of population growing and demographic passage.

What distinguishes the sum tribal population historically from the mainstream is its more balanced sex composing, and, by deduction, a lesser grade of gender favoritism and/or a higher degree of female position and liberty, which are borne out richly by their traditional sociocultural characteristics including female matrimonies merely after the age of adulthood, tolerance of widow remarriage, consensual/choice-based matrimony without dowery, freedom to disassociate – the characteristics which are otherwise universally epitomised as “ advanced ” or “ ideal ” or more rhetorically talking, “ beautiful ” . As C Farer-Haimendorf writes on the Nagas in 1933: Many adult females in most civilized parts of India may good envy the adult females of the Naga Hills, their high position and their free happy life and if you measure the cultural degree of the people by the societal place and personal freedom of its adult females you will believe twice before looking down on the Nagas as barbarians ( Xaxa, 2004 ) .

As our foregoing analysis has shown, these beautiful sociocultural traditions of tribal peoples have produced admirable demographic behavior and results such as lower degrees of birthrate and baby and child mortality. ( Notably plenty, every bit late as 2005-06, as per the information of the NFHS-3 at the all-India degree, the infant mortality rate is were found to be lower among the STs as a whole ( 43.8 per 1,000 unrecorded births ) as compared to that for the SCs ( 50.7 ) . ) From this point of view, it is clearly dry that tribes are typically branded as if they were non “ civilized ” or were outside civilization. No less upseting in this connexion is the fact of a recent reversal towards turning instabilities of tribal sex-ratios, which reflect – in changing gait across parts – a longstanding dribbling down of the blunt gender unfairnesss and related sociocultural patterns and imposts of the mainstream. This can non but be unfortunate, and it therefore calls for punctilious research and policy response. Indeed, it is the continuity of deep-rooted gender equity in India ‘s tribal civilization that possibly could come to comfort the permanent malaise and digesting stigma of the state ‘s mainstream ( dominant ) sociocultural moorages, marked by blunt gender prejudices, intense “ son penchant ” , and their turning pervasiveness with lifting degrees of instruction and income. While India ‘s aggregative ST population still shows a entire absence of sex-selective abortion vis-a-vis its incidence of approximately 10 % -11 % among the SCs and others ( Krishnamoorthy 2003 ) , there would, possibly tragically, be non really few for whom this tribal record would intend a mere reassertion of their “ retardation ” in its catching up with our mainstream “ civilization ” !

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