Albel Kachhap
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Tribal Development means the establishment of Tribal Self Reliant Villages”

By A.Kachhap
Friday, July 21, 2006

  The following writing is primarily a reflection of my long stay in the plan/policy formulation of the Backward Classes and disadvantaged sections of the population. This is an opportunity for me to express my hopes and concerns regarding the future of the tribal people. Nevertheless, this is also a reflection of my own journey being a tribal man that helped me to retain my faith in humanity and reinforced my conviction to continue the struggle for a society based on tribal values and aspirations.

      At the outset, let me clarify my definition of “a tribal”. In the dominant discourse, the tribals are the “ Backward” people in India who are labelled as scheduled tribes, part of other backward classes, janjati and banwasi. Contrary to such class and racist construction I perceive tribal as Indigenous people, still retaining their values that existed in the early age, before the emergence of civilizations such as slavery, feudalism and capitalism. In India, tribals are the people who were and still are resisting the invasion of caste, class, patriarchal values and social practices.

     There is no doubt that most of the tribals are living in an disadvantaged situation, weak in political expression, economically poor and not yet able to escape oppressive structures and social exclusion. However, the tribal way of sustainable economic practice, egalitarian and participatory political systems, social and spiritual life, caring and sharing tradition is something valuable not only for tribal themselves but also for non-tribal societies. Such tribal values, practices, experiences could be offered to get rid from the contemporary social, economic and moral spiritual crises. Indian culture is generally considered a caring culture but it is not found to be caring in respect of dignity, self-respect and development of tribal forces.  Tribals are not treated on par with the mainstream Indians.  The Indian people are generally not concerned with the tribals. 

     Tribal approach for development is a viable alternative to the Modernization” development paradigm. It is not romanticizing the tribal reality but certain practices, perceptions and aspirations about life, environment and spirituality still remain practical examples of alternative way of living. As a concept, tribal development means the establishment of “ tribal self rule”.

     In a tribal community, many people do not know how to read and write and talking of the development for these people requires special commitment and care.  To start any development programmes for the tribals and expect benefit from the development efforts, we have to change our policies.  Tribals have bleak future, but now there is a hope that change is possible through Participatory Action Research (PAR) on Tribal Self Rule (TSR). TSR is an endeavour to revitalize peoples’ organizations and villages to become main actors for socio-political, economic and cultural empowerment.  PAR is a research, which involves all relevant people actively examining together the problematic situation of the tribal village in order to change and improve it. 

     This research can be undertaken by critically reflecting on the historical, political, cultural, economic, geographic and all other aspects which make sense.  PAR may be done to find out solutions of the problems, the results of such research, however, if carried out systematically and consistently, will enhance the knowledge for solving the problems.  Factors and forces responsible for the problems of tribals, can be identified as the external & internal factors & forces. They are the following:

External Factors & Forces

Religious conversion and religious leaders are spreading conflicts and division among tribals. The tribals are deprived by the Government system and cheated by the non-tribals. Destructive habits, like excessive alcohol consumption.

Internal Factors & Forces

Tribals are abandoning, neglecting & ignoring their own cultural traditions, festivals, languages and customs; Western culture/mainstream Indian culture is catching up them.
How to address these problems;



Food insecurity

Diseases (Fever, malaria, nutritional deficiencies etc.)

Acute unemployment

Land disputes

Lack of safe drinking water

No community help (caring & sharing)

Insufficient rain or irrigation facilities for agriculture

Scarcity of traditional fuel (the wood)


Communication inability, lack of basic infrastructure

Simple crop pattern

Lack of bread, insufficient clothing & poor shelter

Rampant migration

Bonded labour problem





Poor health delivery system

Weak Public Distribution System.


Change of attitude

Change in system is needed

Society without value is dead.

Analyze why Acts, & programmes are not working

Mind set requires change

     The action oriented participatory research needs to be implemented in the tribal villages, especially to facilitate the developmental activities in the traditional tribal villages.  It may be based on the analysis of the self-governance system of the tribals.

     The self-governance system of tribals is constitutionally recognized in the form of Panchayat Extension of Scheduled Area Act, 1996 (PESA Act), however, implementation of this Act so far has been ineffective.  Though, once revitalized it will become an important agent of development for the villagers and bring about positive changes into the devastating live situation of the tribals. 

     All the projects in the tribal areas need to be designed to ensure active participation of all the villagers of the tribal villages. It is conceptualised as PAR, with the understanding that it would set a practical example of "self-governance" for other tribal communities as well as non-tribals to follow. The self-rule approach would bring the tribals or non-tribals, back into the centre of activity as actors of their own development, rather than recipients of development agencies’ services.

     Tribal people always believed in strengthening and/or building peoples organizations as primary means of their re-empowerment. Accordingly, a series of awareness generation training programmes/workshops on various issues need to be organized by different organizations and institutions. Through these institutional efforts for awareness generation on different aspects are already visible in the tribal areas.  The traditional institutions such as Manjhi-Pargana’ in  Santal Parganas (Jharkhand), Dhumkudiya amongst Oraons in Jahrkhand and Chhatisgarh aimed at reviving the system - the traditional institutions of the tribals.   Infact, gradually the traditional system is getting weak. There is a need to revive the traditional system, build critical consciousness, as this is the basis for re-empowerment of the tribal.

     Now the time has come to know ourselves. What is our social, economic and political status; how to survive, lead a comfortable and sustainable life, protect our environment and forests, find a place in the implementation of PESA Act, etc.  Now we have to involve ourselves for self-discovery of our own contemporary political, historical, cultural, economic, environmental & legal aspects.  If we involved ourselves in self- assessment (PAR), this will help us in the process and further lead to capacity enhancement of the villagers, organizational building, formulating their strategic plans and implementing them. In the tribal society, there are no permanent solutions available, as tribal people have been exploited for decades

     For any development programme, its vision should be to make tribal self-reliant villages, where there is sufficient food, clothing, shelter and medicine, agricultural facilities, work for all and tribal values like gender equality, justice, unity, collective enjoyment, caring, sharing, consensus, collective decision making, respecting each other, community feeling, equal participation of all in all the activities are prevailing.

     Thus, its objective is to transform the political, economic and cultural system by strengthening the self-rule system.

     The steps of village intervention are summarized as:

Undertaking participatory (Bench Mark Survey) BMS, collecting data, information and facts,

Facilitating the critical analysis of the problems, critical issues by the villagers,

Building people’s organizations: Strengthening the local system, facilitating different committees for youth, elderly people, women, etc.

Facilitating the People’s participatory strategic Planning

Implementation of the Plan by the villagers,

Facilitate the village evaluation of activities and achievements.

     Thus, based on the findings of the research or evaluation, process may be started all over again until the aspired societal situation is reached.  The Participatory Action Research on tribal Self-Rule (PAR on TSR) needs to be implemented in all the tribal villages in tribal areas.

     In this context, two major aspects need to be undertaken for empowering tribals and their villages;

Development of any model of self-reliant tribal villages in tribal areas is to be achieved through strengthening the tribal grass-root/village institutions of self-governance by adopting the PAR process. The model villages would be examples for the re-empowerment of the tribal and even non- tribal villages.

Documentation is another important component. Hence, all the experiences, learning and implementation process needs to be documented. These experiences are to be shared with other civil society organizations (NGOs, movement groups, foundations, religious organizations, media etc.), govt. organizations, policy planners, implementers and International Development and Human rights organizations etc. First of all we have to conduct a village survey on our own.  In this case we have to look deeper into the community and look for reasons to the present problems. It might be necessary to have comprehensive survey. It means we put all facts and figures about life and living conditions of our community. Those carrying out the survey of the village should talk to all the people, find out their situation with regard to education, health, economy, land, employment, income and so on. Investigator should, together with the families, try to identify the present problems of the village and also discuss their ideas about the future.

  The proposed Tribal self Rule/ Model Village should be managed by the local resources available (land, labour, natural resources) to implement programmes, inputs from outside (like trainers, advisers, capital and equipment), however, can be obtained. It is therefore, commonsense that programmes or projects look around for partners that can help provide such inputs.  Tribal community of the proposed model villages can invite the partners to assist in the endeavour. How can the other partners come forward to help? What should they do? Obviously there must be an agreement on how the projects/ programmes should be organized, who should do what and when. The tribal people must make sure that the programmes are just right for them, exactly what they need and want, they must say what they want to achieve, which work they are prepared to carry out, and when they will do it.

     What will the people think about the activities of the survey? Will they collaborate and contribute by talking openly about every thing? May be the customs and traditions (tribal traditions) in the tribal community imply that elderly leaders do all the talking? It may be difficult for the younger people or the women to speak out freely. If so, the investigator or survey personnel may have problems in collecting all the relevant information.

     In fact, to carry out the survey in the identified model village or traditional tribal village would rather be difficult, and a big job. But people can be trained to do it properly. Therefore, there is a need to have training for capacitating them for carrying out the Base Line Survey (BLS) of the village by the tribals themselves.

     If the survey team does a good job, then the tribals certainly enjoy in the participation of everybody in the community, leaders, men and women and youngsters alike. This is then a very good start to a possible project or programme, because everybody will start thinking about their situation in a creative way, they will feel that they have a role in the development of their own society, they will increase their knowledge about problems around them and evolve possible ways of solving them, and will generally become interested in the development matters. As of now, they are ignorant and treated as a commodity and the dominant society utilizes them.

     After this, the survey team must not forget to consult  and seek the advice from the local organizations which are active in the area, such as the church, NGOs, local government authorities, cooperatives, self-help groups etc. The findings of the survey will reveal the shortcomings in the community.

     Now we have to see what needs to be done for the proposed model village. Survey may open our eyes to several problems which may or may not be related to each other, for example:

     Suppose that the general opinion in the community is that the major problem is high unemployment, but other problems have also been indicated in the survey. Therefore, we have to make up the list of  problems.

  • Lack of employment opportunities

  • Lack of funds (credit) which prevents expansion of  farming activities

  • Land problems, confusion about ownership of ancestral land

  • Low level of literacy, especially among women

  • None of the women earn any cash income

  • Poor sanitation and health, etc

     Some of these problems may be related to each other. Some problems may be more urgent to solve than others. If we start a scheme or project, which problems should be dealt with first? May be we should have a separate project at a later stage for some specific problem? Therefore, there is a need to set priorities. Every one in the community should participate in identifying the problems during the survey or data collection and setting the priorities afterwards.  A priority list will help them to concentrate on the major and most important problems, rather than wasting time on discussing everything in general.

     There is a need to have a summary of the survey, then to plan for the future course of action collectively. Let the community decide and generate idea about possible project, it may come up with while discussion. People may have different ideas about the possible projects. Some people may still not see the need for any development, no need for any change. Some may get afraid of outside interference. Fears may be justified therefore; this may be discussed by every body and not just by the tribal leaders. While discussing in the community, the following matters need to be included:

     Development programmes are supposed to bring “change” in the society. New ways and methods need to be introduced. But at the same time, our rich culture and tradition and practices must be protected against change.

     Most outsiders know very little about tribal culture; hence right persons/ organizations need to be selected.

     Try to inculcate Down to Top Planning and avoid Top- Down Planning

     People need to be associated from the beginning of the project design, planning and implementation. It does not mean only the leaders or village heads would decide on behalf of every body else, but all those involved, or who will be affected by the project, should have a say in how it should be designed. The tribal community should be the active partner in the writing of the project. In this way we can make sure what is the aim of the project, what work will be done, who will work and so on.

     We may also ensure the needs and interests of the women at the beginning of the project planning and design stage.

     We must gather and analyze information on different roles and needs of women and men, and use it in the development project

     Women must be involved in the formulation and implementation stages

     We should analyse the impact of the project on women and men during the monitoring and evaluation stages and take appropriate action.

     Every one involved in the project should feel responsible for the promotion of equal opportunities between men and women. If there is an unequal distribution of benefits, this is required to be assessed.

     People participation would be most important factor in the programme implementation.

     To achieve the tribal model village, a community has to work out a plan and ensure that how all the matters would be regulated.

     To translate the vision of the tribal self-rule, self-reliant tribal villages and to establish tribal model villages, capacity building/enhancement of the project personnel’s, the villagers (men, women, youths, the marginalized) through contextual analysis, cause analysis, etc is required to be done seriously.  At the same time, Organizational building/strengthening of the people’s organizations are also needed.

     To implement the suggested strategy, we have to formulate Peoples Participatory Strategic Planning, resource mobilization and management to execute the peoples plans and finally plan for people’s participating approach for change.

     Till today, all the development plans and schemes have been formulated and generally implemented by the 'non-tribal' 'experts' on top; thus have been adopting top-down approach for development. However, it should be down to top. PAR on Tribal Self-governance is probably the first initiative wherein tribal themselves would actively be involved in doing their own 'research/discovery' about their own historical, cultural, political and economic situations; and in the process they enhance their analytical capacities in diverse spheres. There may be three different approaches to initiate change in the proposed model tribal village. There are organizations or individuals who think what is best for the people and to impose it on people. In this case, external agency/actors may come forward to hold. There are people who think they are in favour of people and they should take initiative on behalf of poor and marginalized people should follow them because they know the best interest of the people.  Social activists think that only they themselves could bring change if they received solidarity.  These people role is not to tell people what to do, or not imposing one’s dream on people but facilitate process so that people initiative process for change and development” this would be the people centered approached.  The question comes that approach would be appropriate which suits to tribal value, perhaps the most suitable approach would be that people participation, pro-people approach” otherwise change is not possible.

Deputy Adviser (Social Planning)
Planning Commission
New Delhi

TRIBALZONE is a place for all Chotanagpur tribals , regardless of blood quantum, to "gather" and to heal, and share their unique cultures, artistic talents and rich heritage.